CSOs, foundation, others want govt to address alleged segregation of Abuja indigenes
Civil society groups across Nigeria, Africa and ancestral people of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) have called on the Federal Government to urgently address the alleged socio-economic exclusion of indigenous people in Abuja.
Rising from a conference, organised by Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civil Education (CHRICED) and MacArthur Foundation, to mark the United Nations World Day of Indigenous Peoples entitled: ‘Building resilience, fostering recovery: FCT original inhabitants and the struggle for social justice’ in Abuja, the stakeholders said the continued “exclusion of Abuja indigenous people is a time bomb that should be addressed without delay.”
In a communiqué issued at the end of the national stakeholders’ dialogue on rights of original inhabitants of FCT and signed by Dr. Ibrahim Zikirullahi and leaders of several civil society groups, the stakeholders said the bottled-up anger of the locals should be addressed to check potential outbursts.
They said indigenous peoples are distinguished by their ancestral land, distinct language, culture and time-honoured values treasured and preserved for centuries.
The participants pointed out that in Nigeria, the rights of indigenous peoples in the FCT remain a major challenge in the search for sustainable development, peace and stability.
While recognising other ethnic groups like Hausa and Fulani, who are in Abuja and have been there for several decades, the stakeholders explained that they are not asking them to leave, but to work with the other indigenous ethnic groups for peace and stability in the FCT.
The communiqué reads in part: “We are aware that the original peoples of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) are indigenous to their territories and ancestral land which they have lived for centuries. That they own the land, the land is their livelihood, dignity and pride. They have cultivated the land, which is their greatest material and spiritual asset.
“That the indigenous peoples in the FCT are about nine with their own culture and civilisations that continue to face existential threats from various dimensions.”
The document observed that in 1976, the history of the original people of FCT was deconstructed with the relocation of the federal capital from Lagos to Abuja by the then military government.
They stressed that the development led to dramatic changes in the sociology, land ownership, control and management effected through the military Decree 6, all of which affected the past, present and future of FCT indigenous people.
The communiqué also expressed displeasure over the way Abuja indigenes have been “consistently denied their right to land and capacity to own property in a territory that historically belongs to them.”
It added: “Other forms of discrimination and exclusion manifest through denial of access to ancestral land, lack of economic, political, cultural opportunities and identities, denial of statehood, denial of access to utilities like health, quality education and job opportunities.”