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April 18, 2024

Olanrewaju, Hunponu-Wusu, Adeniji-Adele to NASS: Amend ’99 Constitution on indigenous rights

Olanrewaju, Hunponu-Wusu, Adeniji-Adele to NASS: Amend ’99 Constitution on indigenous rights

By Dapo Akinrefon

NOTABLE Lagos indigenes, including former Communications Minister, Maj.-Gen. Tajudeen Olanrewaju (retd); a former Administrative Judge of the Lagos State Judiciary, Justice Solomon Olusola Hunponu-Wusu (retd); Professor Adele Jinadu, Maj.-Gen. Leo Ajiborisha (retd), and Prince Adelani Adeniji-Adele, yesterday, urged the National Assembly to strengthen the rights of indigenous peoples, stressing that NASS should amend the Constitution to reflect the privileges of locals.

Speaking under the auspices of the De Renaissance Patriots Foundation of Lagos State, the leaders called for the introduction of a new section that defines indigenous peoples by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, UNDRIP.

The group stated this in a memorandum by its steering committee, including Professor Adele Jinadu, Maj. Gen. Olanrewaju (retd), Maj. Gen. Leo Ajiborisha (retd), Justice Solomon Olusola Hunponu-Wusu (retd), Dr Wasiu Tiwalade Odofin, Mr Akin Martins, Mr Gbadebo Dallas and Prince Adelani Adeniji-Adele.

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 The memorandum titled ‘On Indigeneship and Residency: A Memorandum Submitted for the 2024 Review’, was submitted to the Constitution Review Committee of the National Assembly.

It reads: “The constitution outlines how Nigerian citizenship can be obtained but it falls short of clearly defining what constitutes indigeneship. It does not have an indigenous or residency provision in it and only stops at citizenship.

“The Establishment Act cap 2004 on Federal Character Commission, FCC, defines and enforces indigenes status more succinctly. The FCC in the implementation of its mandates further describes ‘indigenous status’ in its Establishment Act Part 2. Lagos State is a metropolis that epitomizes Nigeria’s ethnic diversity; economic aspirations and the historical and cultural significance of her indigenes face unprecedented challenges in the wake of rapid urbanization.

“This dynamic, if allowed to continue, threatens to completely erode the cultural and historical fabric of indigenous communities. Allocation of resources and political representation, which, when not attuned to the principle of indigeneship, risks sidelining indigenous voices and needs in the governance process. The Federal Character principle is not merely a guideline but a well-articulated support for the prioritization of individuals with deep-rooted community ties for governance roles.

“In such instances, where the opposite of this becomes the convention, it triggers a cascade of moral and ethical dilemmas, eroding trust and mutual respect that bind our communities. For government and governance to be effective and legitimate, there is an irrefutable requirement for an intimate understanding of the local challenges, opportunities, and cultural nuances. Land rights, accentuated in the bustling metropolis of Lagos, highlight a broader national dilemma. The need to reconcile economic development with the imperative to safeguard the cultural and spiritual legacies embedded in our ancestral lands is a must.

“Also the intent behind the division of Nigeria into constituent states, each with its government was not an arbitrary decision but a calculated move towards achieving national integration while preserving local identities. This system acknowledges that the strength of Nigeria lies in its diversity. Focus on indigeneship is therefore crucial for rectifying historical injustices and socio-political disparities that have marginalized the indigenous people of Lagos.

“In the diverse and dynamic setting of Lagos, fostering strong, cohesive communities is essential for peacebuilding and conflict resolution.

“We know of imposters, those with the garb of indigeneity and we believe that one cannot be used as a substitute for the other. Our current legal and policy framework, while nominally recognising the rights of all citizens, did not provide the needed protections and considerations for indigenes. It fosters a sense of disenfranchisement among indigenous populations.

“A comprehensive review of the constitution and subsequent amendment of the framework will ensure that they accurately reflect the complexities and nuances of indigeneship. Such amendments should aim to explicitly recognize the rights of indigenes to their ancestral lands and all other benefits accruing therefrom.”