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Relocation of council headquarters sparks off uproar

By Suzan Edeh, Bauchi
Tafawa Balewa, a local government in Bauchi State, is  located about 83 kilometres away from Bauchi metropolis on its southern part and majority of the inhabitants in that town are Jarawa, Fulani, Hausa, Sayawa, kanuri,Tapshinawa (angas) and other tribes. The town has been a hot-bed of communal crises that have lingered for over 50 years.

The area has been plagued by crises as witnessed in 1948, 1959,1977,1991,1995,2001,2005,2010, 2011 and 2012, with hundreds of lives lost and property worth millions of Naira destroyed. The bone of contention of the frequent clashes in the area has to do with the chieftaincy and ownership of Tafawa Balewa town. As part of its efforts to find a lasting solution to the recurrent ethno-religious crises in the area, the Bauchi State House of Assembly last year relocated Tafawa Balewa headquarters to Bununu town.

*School block being used as temporary local government office. INSET: Bukata Zhadi

Prior to the relocation of Tafawa Balewa to Bununu town, the state government set up a judicial commission of inquiry charged with addressing the problems associated with the crisis.  The desire of the state government in putting an end to the problem also led to the creation of Bogoro District and  the Sayawa chiefdom. But sadly, all these efforts failed to resolve the crisis.  As a last option, the state government through the House of Assembly finally resolved to relocate the headquarters of the local government to Bununu town.

Why the council headquarters was relocated: Concerned that the crisis might escalate and eventually spread to other areas of the state, thereby creating a security breach, the Bauchi State House of Assembly, according to one of its members, Abdulmumini Hassan Ningi,  resolved that it will relocate the council headquarter to a safer area where local government workers can work for the development of the state.

He added that the House also relocated the palace of the district head of Tafawa Balewa to Zwall. The lawmaker further stated that the area has remained under-developed because of  the  decade-long crises, adding that all the attempts by government to rebuild the area were being frustrated by some individuals who have accorded themselves the right to decide who lives in the area and who should not.

Insecurity in the area

According to him: “Every activity of that local government is being carried out with fear because of the rate of insecurity in the area. The insecurity has made the act of governance impossible in Tafawa Balewa town since civil servants have no access to their offices in the local government headquarters. All the communities in the area are now affected in one way or the other to the extent that no tangible services are delivered to the community”.

Mixed reactions trail relocation: The House resolution that

relocated the headquarters of the local government immediately attracted mixed reactions. Some of the communities saw the relocation as against the 1999 Constitution, while others felt that the headquarters of the council should be sited either in Lere , Bula or Dajin instead of Bununu.

The Sayawa community in Bauchi State, for instance, opposed the relocation of the local government headquarters and the relocation of the District head’s palace from Tafawa Balewa to Zwall.  But the Hausa Fulani communities and other tribes in the area supported the relocation of the council to Bununu.

The Secretary of the Sayawa Council of Elders Barrister Bukata Zhadi said: “There is a conspiracy in what the government did in the relocation of Tafawa Balewa town.  I feel it is totally unfair and it shows that Yuguda has violated his oath of office by which he pledged to carry all along without discrimination.

The Governor has no right to relocate the council headquarters from the area because it is against the 1999 Constitution. His Anthony General and the law makers in the state House of Assembly did not give him an honest advice because you can’t go against the Constitution.

In his own reaction, the spokesman of the Hausa Fulani Community, Aminu Mohammed Tukur, said that what the law makers did was a welcome development because according to him, it will bring a lasting solution to the problem.

Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Yahaya Mohammed Miya, said the action of the House is backed by due recognition of the sanctity of the fundamental human rights as contained in chapter 5 of the 1999 Constitution as amended. Pertaining to the issues of protection of lives and property and the right of every citizen to move freely and reside anywhere in Nigeria, he said section 4 of the Bauchi State By law 2007 stated that it is possible to relocate a state local government council if there is persistent security breach in that local government.

Miya said: “The state government has made tangible efforts at ensuring peaceful coexistence among the people and what we did was not against the Constitution. What we did is in accordance  with the 1999 Constitution and Bauchi State  bylaws .We only relocated the headquarters of the LG but the name of the LG remains Tafawa Balewa as contained in the 1999 Constitution”.

Challenges of settlement: When Vanguard Metro visited the newly created headquarters of the local government, many of people residing in the area were seen fetching water from boreholes and wells as there was no water flowing from government provided taps. For now, hospital and school premises are being used as temporary offices for staff in the local government to operate from before a new secretariat is built.

One of the residents of the area, Alhaji Umar Munkaila, commended the state government for relocating the headquarters of the local government and urged it to hasten the construction of a local government secretariat and provide social amenities that will attract people to invest in the area.

Munkaila said since the genesis of recurrent clashes in Tafawa Balewa borders on chieftaincy tussle, there is  need for government to upgrade Bununu town to District status as well as upgrade the hamlets surrounding Bununu to villages in order to bring speedy development in the area.

Another staff of the local government, Musa Abudullahi, lamented over the manner in which people had to suffer to meet some of their daily needs. He said: “Presently, as you can see, the town is still developing and there are inadequate social amenities out here. Sometimes we have to go to other local government areas of the state to get some things that we are lacking here”.

Bauchi  State Government defends the relocation: The State Deputy Governor Sagir Aminu Saleh said the decision of government to relocate the headquarters of the Tafawa Balewa local government from the crises-prone area of Tafawa Balewa to Bununu town was made in good faith and was aimed at providing lasting peace  and development in the area and the state as well.

He promised that the state government will ensure that all the necessary infrastructures are put in place for this purpose.

Major problem: But the major question now trailing  the relocation is: Will the Hausa Fulani community and other tribes go back and claim their land in Tafawa Balewa or they will forfeit it to the Sayawa community who are now presently the only tribe left inside the town.


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