July 9, 2024

We’re still landless, stateless, voiceless – Abuja Natives cry out for justice


By Luminous Jannamike with Agency Report

ABUJA – The Resource Centre for Human Rights & Civic Education (CHRICED) has urged the international community to intervene in the long-standing plight of the indigenous people of Abuja, who face challenges related to land ownership, political representation, and cultural preservation.

Dr. Ibrahim Mualeem Zikirullahi, Executive Director of CHRICED, appealed on Tuesday at the 17th session of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.

He highlighted the struggles of the Abuja Original Inhabitants (OIs), consisting of nine tribes and seventeen chiefdoms, who face extinction due to landlessness, statelessness, and cultural erosion.

Despite some positive developments, including the appointment of an Abuja native as a Minister and the establishment of the FCT Civil Service Commission, CHRICED noted that the new governance structures lack representation from the indigenous people.

The organization also lamented the continued demolition of indigenous settlements, lack of access to basic infrastructure, and denial of political rights.

The Abuja indigenous people have been struggling for recognition and rights since the city was declared the capital in 1976. Despite court rulings in their favour, the authorities have failed to address their grievances.

Dr. Zikirullahi said, “We presented the case of over 2.5 million Indigenous people, known as the Abuja Original Inhabitants (OIs) of Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory (FCT), consisting of nine tribes and seventeen chiefdoms, who are facing challenges of landlessness, statelessness, and the extinction of their culture. We stressed that without rectifying the injustice done to them, their future remains very bleak.

“While we acknowledge the progress made, it is disheartening to note that almost all the principal officers of the new governance structures created are non-natives and therefore may not represent the interests of the Abuja indigenous people.

“The Nigerian government has failed to uphold its commitments to respect and protect the rights of the Abuja indigenous people. Presently, many indigenous communities in Abuja still lack access to essential health and educational facilities, as well as basic infrastructure such as roads, clean water, and sanitation.

“Unlike other Nigerian citizens, the indigenous people of Abuja are still denied the right to vote for a Governor and a State House of Assembly, despite being citizens of their own country. We urge this body to amplify the voices and struggles of the indigenous people in Abuja, Nigeria, through diplomatic intervention.

“We demand a stop to the violation of their rights to belonging, history, and legacy.”

Consequently, Zikirullahi urged the international community to pressure the government to address the long-standing issues and ensure justice for the Abuja indigenous people.