Lawyers, journalists form network to protect Abuja indigenous peoples
Two groups, Network of Journalists on Indigenous Issues and Lawyers Network for the Protection of the Rights of Abuja Original Peoples have been established in Abuja to promote and defend the rights of original inhabitants in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The indigenous peoples, who were the first to settle in the FCT, some 1,000 years ago, complain of exclusion, repression and loss of their ancestral values, occasioned by movement of the Federal Capital from Lagos to Abuja in 1976 by the then military regime and the subsequent loss of most of their land.
They lament the displacement and evictions they have been facing and denial of access to the ancient land of which they have physical and spiritual attachment.
The original inhabitants in Abuja are about two million people. The formation of the networks was part of resolution at the end of a weeklong training and workshop dedicated to dealing with the plight of Abuja original inhabitants, mainly Gwari, Nupe, Ganagana, Koro, Ebira, Bassa and others that make up the nine aboriginal ethnic groups. The events also led to the establishment of the first Working Group on Indigenous Peoples in Nigeria.
The event was organised by the Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED) with support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
CHRICED dedicated the first two days to the training of journalists, in collaboration with Journalists for Democratic Rights, (JODER) and the International Press Centre (IPC), while another two days were set aside for expert summit on access to justice.
CHRICED has continued to sustain its reputation as the country’s foremost human rights groups with distinguished career in promoting sustainable development in Africa.
The organisers said the summits are timely interventions to prevent conflict and ensure peace building in the FCT. The event saw extensive training of journalists on indigenous issues and a peer review by legal luminaries on various laws that favour or marginalise the original inhabitants.
They observed that there is a need to review all statutory provisions to ensure any future constitutional review is inclusive of the rights of Abuja original inhabitants.
Participants urged the Nigerian Government to, as a matter of urgent importance, create the necessary atmosphere to address the challenges of indigenous peoples, especially the original inhabitants of Abuja, who wish to live in peace in a just and equitable country.
Participants were drawn from the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Nigerian Union of Journalists, (NUJ), the physically challenged, university communities, the judiciary, civil society, labour and government institutions.
Speaking at the conference, Executive Director of CHRICED, Mr. Zikirullahi Ibrahim, said original inhabitants in Abuja are enraged against historic injustices, adding that it was important to provide a democratic platform for them to express their views in a peaceful manner, to avoid conflict or people taking the law into their hands.
He said dialogue around original inhabitants will aid stability and prosperity of the country. He said also that resolutions at the end of the event would be made available to relevant authorities for prompt action.