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Abuja Natives And The Struggle For Representation



In this piece, TARKAA DAVID writes on the struggle for a ministerial slot by the natives of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT)

Abuja, Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory (FCT) is one of the planned cities in Africa. Construction work at the territory started in the 1980’s after the pronouncement by late Gen Murtala Mohammed.  It was the Decree No 5 of 1976 that gave birth to the territory, because the then capital city Lagos had a population explosion that outweighed the facilities. The city officially became the Federal Capital Territory on the 12th day of December 1991, replacing Lagos state. The territory shares boundary with Kogi, Kaduna, Niger and Nasarawa states.

The indigenous inhabitants of the FCT comprise the Gwari (Gbagyi), Koro, Gwandara, Ganagana, Afo and Bassa ethnic groups. Abuja is divided into six area councils, namely, Abuja Municipal, Gwagwalada, Abaji, Kuje, Bwari and Kwali.

Though every state has three senators at the national assembly, the FCT has just one and no ministerial representative at the Federal Executive Council, even when the constitution demands they have.

In a chat with a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and a indigene of the FCT, Dr. Aboki Zhawa, disclosed that the FCT indigenes lack ministerial slot, because some persons have taken advantage of the constitutional lacuna. Zhawa noted that there are structures on ground, regarding the administration of the FCT, but frowned that people have just ignored its implementation for selfish gains.

He explained that though the 1999 Constitution, as amended, which provided for the appointment of ministers from the 36 states, did not mention and the FCT, but added that section 299 of the same constitution, provides for the appointment of a minister from the FCT. Zhawa however, regretted that there are people who do not like the FCT indigenes and take advantage of the constitutional loopholes to add more ministers to their states. “I think there is a mischief somewhere, there are people who don’t like the indigenes, there are people who want to take advantage of the provisions to add more ministers to their state, so they bring extra ministers to impose on us,” he said.

He further expressed worry that even though the national assembly is looking at the issue of FCT,  they are not looking into the administration of the FCT, adding that the best thing to do is to establish an administrative system for the territory.

He continued: “There is nothing new in 1981-1983. There was an administration for the Federal Capital Territory called FCTA. There was a sole administrator and at a point we also had deputy mayors in preparation for the election of a Mayor. There have always been structures on ground but people just don’t want to implement it,” he said.

It is on the basis of his argument that Barr Musa Baba Panya sought the intervention of the Appeal Court (CA/A/412/2016) and secured an order for minister of FCT origin. Delivering the judgment on 15 January, 2018, Justice Komolafe (JCA) declared, “FCT natives are entitled to ministerial representation in the Federal Executive Council as provided by the combined provisions of sections 147, 299, 14(3) and 42 of the1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended.

“The the persistent denial and refusal of past and current presidents to so appoint an indigene of FCT as minister in the Federal Executive Council ( FEC) since May 1999 is tantamount to a gross violation of the said constitutional right against discrimination. “That the President should, with immediate effect, appoint FCT native as a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

Recently, the coalition of Federal Capital Territory indigenous association took to the streets and marched to the national assembly to prevail on the President to appoint a minister of FCT extract. A statement signed by Barr Dada Christopher said that the struggle and battle for political recognition is dated over four decades, but has yielded little or no result. He added that the last of such battle before the judicial victory was the move by their representatives at the national assembly to amend section 147 of the 1999 constitution as amended to make provision for ministerial slot for the good people of the original inhabitants of the federal capital territory but that was rejected by the lower chamber of the house having been passed by the upper chamber.

Christopher narrated that just when the original inhabitants were trying to figure out what step to take next then the court of appeal what he called ‘historic judgment and landslide victory’ against the federal government in a suit appealed by one of their senior lawyer Barr Baba Panya Musa having lost the suit at the Federal High Court. That victory arose hope in the fact that judiciary is the hope of the common man.

“We must say that the judiciary through the Court of Appeal, Abuja division have rekindled our hope and reaffirmed that judiciary is the last hope of the common man, the executive and the national assembly in the current and pass administration since the return of democracy in Nigeria having marginalised and violated our rights, especially the rights to be represented at the federal executive council,” he said

In lieu of the above, the original inhabitants urged President Muhammadu Buhari and the Attorney General to obey the court and implement the judgment, adding that failure to do so would amount to a mockery to democracy and lack of respect for the rule of law. The original inhabitants further noted that they would stop at nothing to involve the international bodies to which Nigeria signatory to to ensure that they get their rightful place in government. While appealing to the national assembly to invoke their legislative power to ensure that this judgment is implemented by the president,

The coordinator, FCT Coalition of Indigenous Association, Kamal Adamu Shuaibu and his deputy, Ezekiel Dalhatu said the natives have suffered political marginalisation for over four decades. The duo averred that several judgments have been passed in favour of the natives but it is taking too long for such to be implemented.

“We have being urging the government to at least have a representation at the federal executive council for the past 40 years, we do not have anybody at the federal executive council meeting which is the highest decision making body in the country, it then means that some people will go and decide our fate. We see that as injustice.”

The coordinator added that the original inhabitants loving people but queried why the authorities do not want them to know what transpires at the federal executive council. He warned that the natives should not be pushed the wall to resort to other avenues to express their grievances

Receiving the letter on behalf of the Senate President, Bukola Sarki, Senator Shehu Sani, representing Kaduna Central and Theodore Orji, representing Abia Central pledged to ensure that the natives get their constitutional rights. Sani lamented that it is unfair for FCT natives, who have given their land for the establishment of the Federal Capital Territory not to be given a voice at the Federal Executive Council.

He noted that the senate would prevail on the president to ensure that the next list of nominee for ministerial appointment will have a native of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), adding that the national assembly is in tandem with the request and wishes of the original inhabitants of the FCT. “The Federal Capital Territory is the host of government. It is unfair and unjust that for over four decades the people of the FCT after being displaced of their land are denied a voice and a place in government,” he said.

Senator Sani added, “Your demand is just, right and in the spirit of reason. It is unfair for the people of the FCT not to have a representation at the Federal Executive Council. To have a government without your representation is gross injustice.”

The senator commended the natives for their approach to the struggle, saying there is no better way for them to express their gross than the national assembly.

He assured the natives that the Senate is inhabited by men of conscience and would do everything their constitutional powers to advance the course of the federal capital territory original inhabitants. He further said that the despite the fact that the original inhabitants host the federal capital territory, they should not be punished for voluntarily handing over their land for the country to have a capital

“The fact that you host the Federal Capital Territory does not mean you should be punished. You should not be punished for voluntarily giving us your land for us to have the federal capital territory (FCT). We have seen marginalisation, deprivation and the impoverishment of the federal capital territory people. We will urge and call on the President to ensure that in the next list of appointment, the federal capital territory is considered, “he said.

However, the promises, one can only hope that the long battle for political recognition by the original inhabitants of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) comes to an end considering the brazen disregard to court orders by the present administration.