Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: Indigenes Demand State Status for Abuja

The Original Inhabitants Development Association of Abuja, OIDA, a group representing all the indigenous people of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, has called for a state status for the nation's capital.

OIDA President, Pastor Danladi Jeji, said in Abuja, that the original settlers had been unfairly treated by the federation, having been turned into a people without constitutional right of state of origin and denied land ownership.

His words, "as a people let down by the Nigerian federation with our basic constitutional/fundamental rights to citizenship of a state and ownership of land usurped, we are grateful that other Nigerians are beginning to see the light that Late General Murtala Mohammed was sold a BIG lie and misled by the Justice Akinnola Aguda Panel that the entire 8,000 square kilometres landmass known as the FCT was "Virgin" with no indigenous people.

"We beg to ask that if the FCT did not have indigenous persons as the constitution may want Nigerians to believe, then why was there a resettlement policy which the Federal Government has consistently remained inconsistent in its implementation thereby leading to the policy being discarded and replaced with an integration policy?"

Pastor Jeji said that more than 90 per cent of Abuja indigenes are yet to be resettled, a situation he said has made life extremely difficult to the rural poor whose farm land are being taken away from them by estate developers.

"The people of FCT whose major preoccupation is farming have had their farmlands and homes taken over by the Nigerian Government thereby leaving us without any adequate means of livelihood which would have been taken care of if we were initially compensated FULLY and at our own terms as enshrined in Chapter IV, Section 44, Sub-section (1b) of the 1999 Constitution.

"Contrary to speculations in the media, mischief making by some politicians and arm-chair critics, the Federal Government of Nigeria is yet to fully compensate over ninety (90) per cent of the original inhabitants whose lands were forcefully taken for the establishment of the Federal Capital Territory. We stand to be corrected by any documentary evidence either by the government or any group", he insisted.

In a memorandum sent to the National Assembly, according the OIDA president, specific prayers of the indigenes asked that a Federal Capital City be carved out of the current FCT and the remaining part declared a state.

"Since the Federal Government has not fully compensated the over 1.5 million original inhabitants spread in 858 villages and towns within the territory, and due to a couple of court judgments which say "the Federal Government cannot claim ownership of lands in the FCT which have not been duly compensated to the original inhabitants in line with the customary title deeds of land ownership," we the indigenous people of the Federal Capital Territory will like to put the country on notice in the following areas:

"That while we shall still concede the 1,600 square kilometres of the Federal Capital City as drawn out in the Abuja Masterplan to Nigeria as the capital city of the nation, we are asking for the remaining 6,400 square kilometres of the larger Federal Capital Territory to be declared a state status for the original inhabitants of the territory.

"When done, this will be in tandem with what was done for Lagos in 1967 where General Yakubu Gowon (rtd) declared the entire Lagos Island and surrounding environs as the nation's capital while Lagos Mainland was carved out and declared a state with the capital located in Ikeja, after being merged with certain parts of the old Western Region.

"That after being given a state status, none of our original inhabitants of Abuja will claim ownership of the Federal Capital City, FCC as all indigenous people will be located in the new state which we have tentatively named GBAKKA State, an acronym formed from the first letters of the present six Area Councils in the territory.

"That by having a state status, the Nigerian government would have restored our constitutional and fundamental rights as citizens of a particular state of the federation instead of our present level of "statelessness." All citizens other than the original inhabitants of the FCT are already enjoying their citizenship and its benefits in the Nigerian nation", he said.

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