President Mohammadu Buhari and the National Assembly have been asked to put in place the legal framework that will lead to the recognition and integration of indigenous peoples in the Federal Capital Territory, (FCT). The indigenous peoples also plan to engage the various Presidential aspirants to ask them what they have in stock for them.
The nine indigenous peoples who own the ancestral land speaking under the coalition, FCT Original Inhabitants said since 1976 when the Federal Capital was moved from Lagos to Abuja, the indigenous peoples have been subjected to cultural, economic and political exclusion.
The representatives of Bassa, Koro, Ebira, Gbwari, Ganagana, Nupe and other indigenous peoples spoke at the event marking of the United Nations World Indigenous Peoples organised by Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civil Education, (CHRICED), Original Inhabitants With Disabilities Multipurpose Cooperative Society, (FCT), other civil society groups with the support of MacArthur Foundation. The event was attended by experts from across Nigeria and abroad.
‘We call on President Mohammadu Buhari, the National Assembly and the Federal Capital Development Authority, (FCT) to listen to our cries. We have been neglected by various governments. It is time to pay attention to the needs of the indigenous peoples in Abuja’, the participants stated in the communiqué issued at the three-day event.
The conference was convened to keep stakeholders abreast of the socio-economic and cultural issues affecting the Original Peoples of the FCT. Attended by over 100 people, traditional rulers, Government Officials, the media, labour, peasants, several representatives of indigenous peoples, Diplomats including but not limited to association of Original Inhabitants, Environmental Rights Action, (ERA), Green Peoples Environmental Network, (GREPNET), FCT Original Inhabitant and Secretary, Garki Chiefdom among many others.
The communiqué signed by the Executive Director, CHRICED, Ibrahim Zikirullahi, Dr Lazarus Nyalolo of the FCT Original Inhabitants, Journalists for Democratic Rights, (JODER) and many other leaders of rights groups said indigenous peoples are distinguished by their ancestral land, their distinct language, culture and time honoured values which are treasured and have been preserved for centuries.
‘Aware that the Original Peoples of the Federal Capital Territory, (FCT) are indigenous to their territories, their ancestral land which they have lived for centuries. That they own the land; the land is their livelihood, their dignity and pride. They have cultivated the land which is their greatest material and spiritual assets’the participants said.
They observed that in 1976, the history of Original People of FCT was deconstructed with the movement of the Federal Capital from Lagos to Abuja by the military government. The movement led to dramatic changes in the sociology, the land ownership, control and management effected through the military Decree 6, all of which affect the past, present and future of FCT indigenous peoples’ they said. They noted further that the indigenous peoples in the FCT are nine ethnic groups with their own culture and civilisations that continue to face existential threats from various dimensions.
Some of the recommendations at the end of the event sent to stakeholders including the National Assembly are that the rights of indigenous people in the FCT should be viewed in the context of the National Question which demands immediate resolution;
‘The original peoples of the FCT should be integrated into local and National framework of economic, political and social development. Participants resolved to develop a National Network of Indigenous Peoples with a plan of action driven by peaceful demands for the resolution of grew areas that undermine the rights of indigenous peoples in the FCT and in Nigeria;
They said that the indigenous peoples want integration and not resettlement and call for corporate responsibility on the part of the Government and other economic stakeholders on indigenous territories
Participants called on the Nigerian Government to return all occupied Spiritual cites or pay compensation where necessary.