Harnessing Successes and Mitigating Challenges Arising from Participation of FCT Original Inhabitants in the Public Hearings on Review of the 1999 Constitution
Welcome Statement by Dr. Ibrahim M. Zikirullahi, Executive Director, Resource Centre for Human Rights & Civic Education (CHRICED) at Stakeholders Debriefing Meeting on Participation of FCT Original Inhabitants in the Public Hearings on Review of the 1999 Constitution held on Saturday, June 12, 2021 at Trenchard Hall, Top Rank Hotel Galaxy, POW Mafemi Crescent, Jabi, FCT Abuja.
Distinguished FCT stakeholders, Original Inhabitant groups and organizations, invited guests, ladies, and gentlemen of the Press.
Once again, it is a great privileged to welcome you to yet another event aimed at amplifying the voices and concerns of FCT Original Inhabitants in the democratic and governance process in Nigeria.
I am glad that a broad spectrum of FCT Original Inhabitant communities, interest groups and activists are here as active participants in the struggle for justice and fairness. Today’s meeting, which incidentally is taking place on Democracy Day, June 12, has the cardinal objective of providing the opportunity for all FCT stakeholders to look back at what transpired during the recent public hearings on the review of the 1999 Constitution.
This debriefing meeting therefore presents a veritable opportunity to reflect on, review, and assess the participation of FCT Original Inhabitants in the Public Hearings by the Senate and House of Representatives Committees on the Review of the 1999 Constitution. As a strategic civil society ally of the Original Inhabitants of the FCT, we strongly believe that beyond the presentations made at the public hearings, there are other steps, which have to be taken to ensure the issue of the FCT original Inhabitants does not fade in the minds and memories of those in a position to influence decisions. For CHRICED, it is no just enough to make the key demands, it is important to begin some sort of power mapping to ensure the key issues remain in the forefront of the public discourse.
However, it is clear that if we do not take proper stock of where we are coming from, there may be bigger challenges in arriving at our desired destination. It is with this spirit that we have decided to come together to collectively look at what worked well, and what did not work well with specific reference to the participation of FCT Original Inhabitant groups in the constitution review process. Our reflection will then be a basis for future planning to realise the objective we all desire, which is justice and the freedom of FCT Original Inhabitants from marginalisation, oppression and deprivation. It is equally pertinent to stress that now that the Original Inhabitants of the FCT have peacefully advocated for amendments, which would make their lives better politically, economically and culturally, the implementers of law and policies in Nigeria must not ignore the cries of the people.
The Original Inhabitants have done their part by pointing out the key issues in the 1999 Constitution, which continue to assail their quest for political emancipation. CHRICED calls on the Nigerian State not to undermine or frustrate these demands. We call on government to show for once that it has the capacity to listen to the plight of the people and do something about it. Specifically, the anomaly of the statelessness of the Original Inhabitants of the FCT ought to be addressed immediately.
CHRICED unequivocally makes the point that amongst all the agitations for state creation all through the period of the constitution review, the case of the FCT remains the most compelling and justifiable. To redress the injustice wherein millions of FCT Original Inhabitants have been rendered stateless in their own ancestral homelands, the National Assembly urgently needs to tweak Section 299 of the 1999 Constitution as amended, which states that the “provisions of this Constitution shall apply to the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja as if it were one of the states of the Federation.”
CHRICED calls for the removal of the “if” which has rendered the State status for the Original Inhabitants of the FCT inchoate for so many years. And as we wait for the outcome of National Assembly amendment to the 1999 Constitution, we call on the Minister of FCT to take urgent steps to address the economic impacts, which have deepened poverty, inequalities and the general state of despondency in the FCT Original Inhabitants communities.
We affirm that Nigeria can no longer be seen to be trampling on the political, civil, and cultural rights of FCT Original Inhabitants. CHRICED calls on the rest of Nigeria to actively lend their voice to the cause of the Original Inhabitants whose ancestral lands plays host to the capital city of Nigeria. CHRICED further calls on all Nigerians to stand in solidarity with Original Inhabitants by condemning their maltreatment, and marginalization. To do this is the duty of all lovers of justice, equity and fairness; and it is service to God and humanity. Importantly too, as we reflect on and learn about how to harness the opportunities, while mitigating the challenges from the participation in the National Assembly public hearings on the review of 1999 constitution, all stakeholders must join hands to carry on this struggle, as we cannot afford to go back and rest on our oars. We must raise the tempo of the cooperation, collaboration, synergy and partnership to realise the set goal. Now that the public hearings are done, CHRICED is leaving no stone unturned in driving the action points from all the advocacies and engagements done to raise national awareness about the unacceptable treatment of the Original Inhabitants of the FCT.
CHRICED has no doubt that with the right approach, resilience, consistency and commitment, justice will be done and the Original Inhabitants of the FCT will be fully emancipated from the shackles of injustice and repression.
Distinguished stakeholders, let me now express our unreserved thanks to the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation for their unalloyed support. We look forward to working with the Foundation to realise the goal of a just and verdant world for the Original Inhabitants of the FCT.
Finally, in the context of this struggle, I leave you with the sagely words of Nelson Mandela: “It always seems impossible, until it is done.”
Thank you for your kind attention.
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