Second tier of government will solve FCT’s problems – Kwali

Dr. Daniel Aliyu Kwali, an architect, is the Commissioner for FCT at the National Population Commission. He told AWAAL GATA, among other things, that creation of the second tier of government in the FCT will put an end to the challenges that the original inhabitants of the territory have been facing

Original inhabitants of the FCT have been decrying marginalization, displacement and violation of human rights; as an original inhabitant, what is your view?

I have to start by saying that the problem of the original inhabitants of the FCT is a historical one in the sense that all around the world the same problem has been sprouting. You have the challenge of the Australian aborigines, American-Indians; the indigenous American-Indians.

We also have a similar problem in Palestine; the Palestinians and Israelites. Here in Nigeria, it is an extension of the same problem. We have the problem of the Niger Delta and the rest of the country. And now we have the problem of the original inhabitants of the FCT and the rest of the country. The two challenges are similar, because they are all related to resource acquisition and resource-management. Before oil was discovered in the Niger Delta, the region did not face the kind of challenges that they are facing today.

They could do their fishing; they could do their farming in a very healthy climate. They could perform their economic activities without any hindrance. The moment oil was discovered, problem started to emerge in the sense that other Nigerians got interested in the oil. Nothing is wrong with that, but when you are taking a resource from an environment, you should also give consideration for those who inhabit that environment.

The development of one person should not hinder the development of another person. Justice and equity demand that when you are developing, when you are taking a resource from a place for development, you should also give consideration to the people there. So today we are facing the challenge of the Niger Delta which started in the 1950s, and up till now they are not being successfully tackled. We had expected that the lesson from the Niger Delta would have informed the decisions of the government in the activities of the FCT.

The complaints of the original inhabitants are mainly on resource utilization, resource exploitation and resource management. Land is a resource. If you take land from a people you have denied them the opportunity to conduct their economic activities. If you take land from a people, you have denied them their wellbeing; you have denied them their culture, their heritage. That is what has happened in the

FCT. The federal government under the Military just made a declaration that eight thousand square kilometers in the centre of Nigeria equidistant from all the four corners of the country has become the Federal Capital and emphasized  that the whole population, at that time about four hundred and eighty thousand people, would be evacuated from this land to make space for other Nigerians to come and reside here, to make space for the government to carry out its administrative activities that would be befitting to a growing regional power and Nigeria. Nothing is wrong with that. I share in that vision.

Nigeria should have a capital that befits it, but I want to believe that before even thinking of beginning a capital, you build your technology, build your people, and build your human resource.

However, that was the decision of the Military government. And as you know the characteristics of the military government, nobody was consulted; we were not consulted before that decision was taken. We were ready to be evacuated. Census enumeration was conducted by consultants from university of Ibadan and a population was established. But, of course, if you are taking land from someone, there is the issue of compensation. It is an international issue which is a global practice.

You cannot take land compulsorily from someone without paying the person adequate compensation that would be agreeable to the two parties. If you are taking my house, you pay me a value that would be agreeable to me. If you are taking my land, you pay me an amount that would be agreeable to me. That is the norm in our constitution. It is clearly spelt out in the 1999 constitution as amended.

They calculated about N2.8 billion as the compensation at that time, and that time the Naira was stronger than dollar, and the federal government, in its own wisdom, decided that that amount was too much to be spent on the local people of the FCT. That that money would rather be used to provide infrastructure for the FCT, and that was the turning point in the whole concept of the development of Abuja. That created the challenges that confront both the indigenes and the government today. So if the original inhabitants are complaining, that is the foundation.

What has these caused them?
The last time I red in the newspapers, the Minister of FCT estimated about N486 billion, or there about, that is outstanding to be paid as compensation to the original inhabitants whose lands were acquired and already developed. That is in arrears now; more has accumulated. He complained that each time they go for budget defense; there is no enough money to give to FCT for compensation.

Therefore, he has decided to come up with another policy. In other words, the same problem that caused the abortion of the policy of total evacuation in 1978, which is funds, is rearing its head again. At that time, we were talking of N2.8 billion now we are talking of about N486 billion. So if you go round the city, you will see the villages that have been surrounded by development. Gishiri is still there. Kado-Kuchi is still there. There are still many settlements surrounded by development. Now, these people are farmers, peasant farmers; their farmlands have been taken away, and they do not understand any other economic activity apart from framing.

They have been denied the right to conduct their economic activity as enshrined in the constitution of the country. Meanwhile, they have not being compensated. They have not being given any alternative… their children those who managed to go to school graduated and cannot secure jobs because of the way the Nigerian system has being structured. You and I know that to get a job in Nigeria, you need somebody in the Ministry who will help you. If you don’t have anybody anywhere, you go to the FCDA, there are very few original inhabitants there occupying offices, so, a villager; how does he go to the FCTA to look for a job?

We all know these challenges. The last time, I think, the FCDA wanted to employ I don’t know how many vacancies there were for our people, maybe 100 or there about for over 2000 of our youths that applied. Now how do you expect the son of a peasant farmer to get a job in such a system when you have children of Ministers, former Presidents, senators and others competing for the same job? This can pass for economic genocide. The original inhabitants are gradually being exterminated through economic genocide.

That creation of second tier of government could put an end to some of these challenges, do you believe that?
Of course I don’t only believe in that, I have been propagating it. The FCT is in a geo-political unit; therefore, I dare say FCT is a state for the constitution recognizes the FCT as a state. Section 297 of the constitution says FCT shall be treated as if it were one of the states in the federation, that section also calls the President as the Governor of the FCT and the Vice President as the Deputy Governor of the FCT.

This is what is contained in the constitution, now in the practical application; there have been a lot of challenges. Challenges in the sense that the National Assembly is very busy with national and international issues to the extent that it cannot find time to deal with local issues that concern the FCT. There is a publication where the FCT Minister for State stated that since 1999 to date, the National Assembly has not been able to pass any bill on the FCT because they are too busy.

Just recently, the committee set up by the FCT Minister on the upcoming National Conference, also recognized the fact that the National Assembly is having challenges in dealing with the issues of the FCT, and they recommended that there should be a House of Assembly for the territory like other states have.

If you go round the FCT you will see that there are so many local communities.
Of course it is not possible for the National Assembly to legislate for such communities. We have worked with the constitution from 1999 to date and we have seen that it is not possible. So, what we are saying, and it is not only original inhabitants, there is need for us to create a legislative arm of government for the FCT.

And what would that enhance?
It would enhance legislation. It would enhance democracy. The legislative arm is like a think-tank because it is responsible for lawmaking. As it is now nobody is making laws for the FCT. So, the creation of the second tier of government will, to an extent, put an end to all the challenges we are talking about. Now let’s come to the executive; Mr. President is the Governor. Because he is too busy with the country’s affairs, he now assigned a Minister to perform his duties; we are in democracy. You cannot have an appointed official superintending over democratic activities in a geopolitical unit. It is not done.

Is it unconstitutional?
I will not say it is unconstitutional, but I will say it is undemocratic. What I am saying is that, there is a need for a second tier democratically established administration in the FCT. Already, there is a second tier, but it is not democratic. The Minister is appointed, he is not elected; therefore when people are electing their governors in other states we sit down in the FCT with no election. It is abnormal in democracy. It infringes on our rights as citizens of the country.

The constitutions says that no Nigerian should be denied his rights on the basis of his place of birth, but we are denied the right to elect someone who will govern us as the people of the FCT; as far as I am concerned, it is a violation of a constitutional provision, and I think even the National Assembly recognizes that because recently there was a move to create a mayoralty but was defeated becuse, there was lack of understanding among the lawmakers.

And, we all know that in the 1983 constitution, there was a provision for the creation of mayoralty in the FCT and, indeed, primary elections were conducted, candidates emerged but the Military government annulled that election, and so the government itself has recognized the need for the creation of democratic second tier of government in the FCT.

As an architect, I am sure you know a lot about land swap policy. As it is a contentious policy in the FCT, what is your view about it?
Again you have to go to the root. That is why I gave you a background of what has happened when the whole thing started. I told you that there are about N486 billion arrears that the federal government owes us for taking over our land. The constitution is clear about compensation and resettlement.

The constitution says that you cannot compulsorily evacuate people from their land without paying them compensation. So, there is a loss of confidence between the original inhabitants and the government, and I don’t blame Senator Bala Mohammed because he inherited these problems. But, of course, there is continuity in government, In other words, if you come in as Mrs. President and meet a problem on the ground, you should continue in solving the problem. IF it were contracts, they would have paid, but because somebody does not want this money to get to the original inhabitants and somebody does not want the economic prosperity of our people, everything is moving from brink to brink. So, for me, the way forward is that the arrears should be paid.

At the backdrop of the challenges we had earlier discussed, some of you people are questioning their citizenship of the country; should they do that?
Definitely, they should. For example, it is being said that we are all equal as citizens of this country and how so eminently qualified an original inhabitant of the FCT is, he or she can never be made a governor, or even a president; now you want me to believe that there is equality among Nigeria citizens?  Again, other states have representatives at the Federal Executive Council, FCT does not have, are we Nigerians? Why are we treated thus?

Education appears to be backward in the FCT; what would you say about it?
Well, am not an educationist but education has to be backward among the original inhabitants of the FCT, because going back to history, our education sector was totally down.

When this place was declared as the country’s capital, it had very few educational institutions, and no further development in the area of development because government thought that we were all moving out and there was no reason to build education institution or spend money on our education. So, for like 15 years, there was no investment on education of our children.

Then after the change in policy, the investment started and that is what is creating the gap till date. In the same line, education is very expensive.

You know that the ordinary farmer will find it difficult to pay for education of his children. There are government schools which, to the average person, the cost look reasonable but to the downtrodden, the cost is unaffordable. That is why in other states of the federation, especially in the northern states, you find state governments investing heavily in education. it is not so in the FCT because of its cosmopolitan nature.

This has made it difficult to convince the government to give free education to FCT indigenes. So, affordability is one of the causes of our education backwardness.
Secondly, securing admission into a tertiary institution in this country is very difficult. It is being done through what they call quota system, and FCT does not have a quota. Even if you are qualified as an indigene of the FCT, the system wouldn’t let you secure admission, so why won’t we be backward educationally?