“If Nigeria Breaks Up, Abuja Will Be A Separate Country” – Sumner Shagari Sambo

The Indigenous people of Nigeria’s Federal
Capital Territory, Abuja, have warned that
should the country eventually break up,
they will seek an independent status.

They said they would ask 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.
They however, declared their support for a
united Nigeria based on proper devolution
of governmental powers rather than
dismemberment of the nation as canvassed
by separatist groups.

Their resolution was contained in a
statement by the President of the Original
Inhabitants Development Association of
Abuja, OIDA, Pastor Danladi Jeji, and
signed by the Media Adviser, Sumner
Shagari Sambo.

According to OIDA, “We have watched with
dismay as federal authorities and security
agencies look on as separatist and
expulsionist groups have a field day calling
for dismemberment of Nigeria or giving
quit notices to fellow Nigerians. We
condemn all of these shady characters and
agitations in strong words.

“Nigeria is bigger than all of us but it is
also not non-negotiable as erroneously
believed in some quarters, especially by
those in power. Abuja natives believe that
we can re-negotiate the content of the
Nigerian constitution and structure of the
federation by devolving more powers to the
states and other constituent parts such as
the FCT.

“Abuja natives believe in correcting state-
sanctioned injustices in Nigeria through
peaceful, political, legislative or judicial
methods rather than unilateral declaration
of secession or expulsion of non-indigenes
through violent means hence our recent
approach to sue the federal government
last year at the ECOWAS Court of Justice for
forceful usurpation of our ancestral lands
and denial of several human and
democratic rights by the 1999 Constitution
(as amended). The judgment of which we
await.

“We have in years past canvassed for
decentralization of powers to natives and
residents so that we can freely elect our
own governor, have an FCT House of
Assembly, an FCT judiciary and expand the
democratic space through more
representatives in the National Assembly
rather than the present military
contraption in which a minister, who
knows half to nothing about the area, is
appointed to govern the Territory while the
1999 Constitution sametime refers to the
President as ‘Governor’ of FCT (see Section
299). This has often led to neglect of
satellite towns, suburbs and rural
communities in the territory as a result of
the activities of the city-centred minister
and decadent administrative structure. This
shows that Nigeria’s grundnorm is faulty
and needs urgent amendment.

“We are minorities consisting of nine tribes
and bourgeoning residents who have a
right to self-determination hence none of
the majority regions or ethnicities should
think that we will go with them. We urge
more peace and unity at the moment but
should the Nigerian federation be
dissolved, we shall have no choice than to
seek an independent status from the
northern or southern groups agitating for
separate countries at the moment. Like
Kosovo, we shall seek the United Nations’
administrative, civil and military support to
declare an autonomous status of self-
government.

“In our earlier memoranda to the National
Assembly and National Conference, we
asked for a constitutional amendment to
allow for more governmental structures,
proper interpretation and implementation
of Sections 147, 299, 300, 301 and 302 of
the 1999 Constitution (as amended) so that
FCT natives and residents can elect their
governor, have a minister, have three
senators, six House of Representative
Members, seventeen area councils and an
FCT House of Assembly among other
demands. Also, we demanded that the
demolition and confiscation of homes,
settlements and farmlands belonging to
original inhabitants of Abuja should be
stopped forthwith, unless where and when
compensation and resettlement is duly
undertaken in accordance with the
provisions of Sections 44 and 297 of the
1999 Constitution (as amended).”

The group also kicked against the recent
decision of the FCT Minister, Mohammed
Bello to close down all zonal land allocation
offices in the six area councils within the
FCT describing the action as callous and
non-consultative but with the capacity to
infuriate natives thereby leading to a
breach of public peace. We maintain that
these lands are within the purview of the
local councils and their chairmen.

It added, “We call for an immediate
reversal of the policy by the FCT
administration as it will be too burdensome
for our people to always be coming from
interior communities to Area eleven for
minor land disputes that should ordinarily
be settled by land officials at local levels.
Moreover, this action runs contrary to the
provisions of the Land Use Act of 1978 and
several judgments against the FCT
administration in the past.

“The Supreme Court has clearly stated in its
judgment that Customary Land Title has not
been abolished by the FCT Act via case
number SC/187/2000 filed by Abaji Area
Council against the Ministry of Federal
Capital Territory with judgment delivered
on 27th November 2000 by Justice SMA
Belgore. Hence, there is no justifiable
reason for closing down such zonal land
offices in the first instance.”

The group demanded that the Minister
include FCT natives in the FCT Land
Allocation Committee and advised him to
always consult with all relevant elected,
traditional and civil society organizations
like OIDA before taking such critical
decisions so as to prevent public disorder.
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