Ethnic and religious minorities participating in the ongoing National Conference have raised concern over what they described as continued marginalisation, oppression and subjugation by majority groups in their various domains in Nigeria.
In their comments on President Jonathan’s inaugural speech, yesterday, Dr Saleh Dauda, a university lecturer, representing northern minorities, Prof. Obini Ekpe, former Dean, Faculty of Physical Science, Ebonyi State University, representing Nigerian Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), and Dr Magdalene Mbazenda Dura, representing Benue state, decried long years of neglect and demanded for autonomy to minority groups.
Dauda said all the northern state governments in the region have declared war on minorities, saying that creation of separate zone and states for the minorities is the solution.
Dauda, who is from the North-east, alleged that the situation has gotten so bad that in one of the states in the North, “it is impossible for Christians to get a plot of land to build a church.”
In an interview with Blueprint shortly after the plenary, the professor said: “The problems of the minority in the North are many – issue of discrimination on the basis of ethnicity and religious belief, issue of government neglect in terms of development infrastructures, impunity on the part of the governments, problem of terrorist attacks on various communities like in Jos, Wase, southern Kaduna, southern Bauchi, southern Borno, forcing of district heads in some communities that are culturally and ethnically different; women are being killed before their parents; parents are being killed before their children.
“So, these are some of the problems the minorities face in northern Nigeria today.”
He, therefore, demanded that a separate zone for the minorities in the Middle Belt be created.
“We want also the creation of independent chiefdoms for the minorities to determine, manage and even mismanage their own affairs. We are also saying that a state should be created for the minorities in southern Borno.”
Also in his comment, Ekpe said the national conference should guarantee and recognise minority rights.
Using himself as an example, Ekpe said he is a proud Muslim as much as a proud Igbo. He decried his status as the only minority representing the Muslims of Igbo land, where there are so many Muslims, contrary to popular perception. He also demanded for minority autonomy.
He said: “We want government to give autonomy to minorities. By minorities, I mean those whose faith is not the dominant faith where they live or reside.
“For example, just as Ebonyi state will not give employment to Islamic teachers, Sokoto state will not give employment to CRK teachers. Therefore, we want federal government to make it a constitutional matter for states to grant autonomy to minority groups.”
In the same vein, Dura protested what she called relegation of the Tiv nation to the background through “arbitrary boundary demarcation that has balkanised us in different states of the country.”
She said Benue state, which is known as the ‘food basket of the nation’, has been turned to “blood basket,” adding that their men, children and women were being slaughtered on a daily basis.
Dura added: “In fact, the people who are killing us do not even respect the rules of war when there is no even war.
“Our women, children and the aged are being slaughtered. The most dehumanising part is that pregnant women are killed and their foetuses are removed and dumped on the women.
‘As a matter of fact, our people are being subjected to chemical and biological weapons. And we are asking, what have we done?
“When we are talking of unity, we must address the plight of the people who are gradually being extinguished from the Nigerian geographical map.
“We cannot have unity when a house is divided against itself; we demand that the Nigerian nation should supply answers to this genocide onslaught. It is in doing that that we shall have an inclusive, peaceful, prosperous and a united nation.”