Being a speech by the president, Original Inhabitants Development Association of Abuja (OIDA), Pastor Danladi Jeji, at the Townhall meeting by FCT natives on calls for restructuring of Nigeria, delivered at Apo, Abuja, on July 15, 2017
Dear FCT natives and residents, we thank you for this audience granted to the Original Inhabitants Development Association of Abuja (OIDA) to hear your views on the ongoing calls for restructuring of Nigeria alongside other vocal calls for extremist measures such as secession and expulsion by some agitated Nigerians.
OIDA is an umbrella group of several natives associations seeking the improvement of the educational, socio-political and economic well-being of the original inhabitants of the FCT. As a representative of major associations and groups in all the 858 communities and towns in the FCT, we welcome you to this FCT Townhall meeting where we hope to jaw-jaw rather than war-war in finding lasting solutions to challenges affecting the Nigerian federation.
Let me start this gathering by saying that OIDA stands for unity of Nigeria. However, that unity is situated in the belief that we can as a nation correct the systemic paralysis that has stunted the growth of the country hence recent calls for dismemberment of the country. Our stand for unity is not to be taken for weakness but we do this in the belief that peace costs nothing but buys everything hence Nigerians can gain more through dialogue rather than an insurrection or armed struggle against the state.
The Abuja question continues for forty one years now with natives of the territory being used for several resettlement and relocation experiments by the Nigerian government all with no headway due to policy inconsistencies, constitutional lacunas, corruption, nepotism, administrative incompentence and state-sanctioned injustices that have witnessed a huge quest for land-grab and abandonment of our people for the construction of a soul-less national capital that continues to lack a human face till date.
The failure of the federal government to resettle, relocate and compensate our people at the initial cost of N2.8 billion naira in 1978 has led to several policy summersault but despite all the challenges, we are still here and we are not prepared to go anywhere, for we own the land.
Restructuring or No-Restructuring?
As natives, we have often complained about the huge dose of injustices meted out on us as contained in the 1999 Constitution (as amended) starting from being statute-barred from producing a minister as contained in Section 147, disenfranchised to elect a governor or second-tier government to the usurpation of our lands by Section 297 and a feeble administrative and contradictory governance system situated in Sections 299, 300, 301, 302, 303 and 304 of the grund norm.
How can you say the President is the governor of FCT and yet ask him to appoint a Minister to discharge the responsibility of a governor only for him to discharge the responsibilities of a minister? How do you assign huge powers to the National Assembly to serve as the House of Assembly of the FCT natives and residents when the national legislature is saddled with so much national issues to the extent that it hardly has times to legislate on FCT issues. Moreover, why should a national parliament legislate on municipal issues? Why is the FCT judiciary not fully operational as a state judiciary as its powers are meant to be?
The courts have ruled (see OKOYODE vs FCDA) that indeed the Federal Capital Territory is “a state” like the other thirty six states of the federation as captured in Section 299 of the 1999 Constitution, yet we are surprised that the Federal Government only gives it the interpretations of the court only when it comes to accessing monies from the federation account but when it comes to governance and political structure, Mr. President will refuse to devolve his powers or recognize the court rulings and interpretation.
OIDA believes that FCT is a state, in accordance with court rulings. We have therefore canvassed and would continue to canvass for Mr. President to surrender his powers to a democratically elected Governor of FCT while he focuses on more critical national issues. We also want the National Assembly to hands off its legislative duties to an FCT House of Assembly as it is apparent to all discerning Nigerians that it cannot continue to play a dual function of legislating on national and municipal issues at the same time. FCT judiciary must also fall in line by being handed to a state-like judicial structure and administration.
Dear FCT natives and residents, OIDA holds the view that if we have the opportunity of electing our own Governor (or howsoever called), electing our own FCT House of Assembly or parliament, have more representatives such as additional Senators, House of Representatives Members and more local councils; there would be more accountability, more of our people would be willing to pay taxes that can be accounted for, there would be democratization of governance and Abuja would witness rapid development of city, suburban and rural infrastructures. When this happens, the infrastructural development of Abuja city center would grow simultaneously with that of satellite towns and rural areas so as to discourage the influx of people and businesses into the city.
This is our own idea of restructuring. A restructuring based on devolution of governmental powers from federal authorities to Abuja city authorities is what we ask for. We no longer want the present military contraption where a minister is appointed to run the Federal Capital Territory like a barrack or cantonment. We no longer want a city-centred minister that focuses on developing elite districts while satellite towns and rural areas suffer. To do this, we must change the Constitution to reflect our wishes for a modern and cosmopolitan capital city. Thus, OIDA and other like-minded groups have submitted memoranda to the constitution review committees of the National Assembly asking for these powers to be immediately transferred to Abuja natives and residents, if indeed we practise democracy.
Also, the citizenship rights of being given jobs, admissions, quota systems and other perquisites available to other Nigerians must not be denied Abuja natives again. We must never be laughed at again whenever we announce FCT as our state of origin among fellow citizens. A new Nigeria demands a new attitude, tolerance, justice and accommodation.
We also want the creation of an Abuja Original Inhabitants Development Commission (AOIDC) to cater for specific issues of land compensation, relocation and resettlement of our people in areas where land is needed for national or other public uses, so as to prevent constant clashes and hostilities between them, city authorities and private developers.
In summary, while we join the struggle for the emerging new Nigeria through a constitutional amendment, we have made it clear that we do not want a division of the country. Neither are we threatening secession or asking non-natives and other residents to leave our territory.
We however warn that should the country be split into groups, the natives of the area will seek an independent status by asking the United Nations to govern the 8,000sq. kilometres territory through a transitional arrangement until it can become an autonomous city-state with socio-political and economic sovereignty. Those who are already eyeing Abuja to be annexed to their regions should be prepared for a surprise as we are neither going North nor South. This is our view, and we stand by it
Finally, OIDA promises to sustain the struggle for FCT natives’ emancipation through constitutional amendments at the National Assembly while same time supporting all constituted authorities temporarily responsible for governing FCT, Abuja at the moment.
As we all gather here to deliberate, we urge all invited groups and guests to open up their hearts and minds by providing solutions that will help to move FCT-Abuja and Nigeria forward.
We look forward to a fruitful deliberation that would be codified for onward transmission for implementation to the National Assembly or any constitutional or national conference summoned again.