Filed in Politics by on July 14, 2009

FCT marginalised, says Senator Ali

The Senator representing the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Senator Sidi Ali has landed heavily on the federal government for what he described as “unending betrayal and neglect of the rights of the original inhabitants of the territory”, warning that the government action was breeding animosity likely to become a time-bomb.

In an exclusive interview with Daily Sun, Senator Ali noted that before Abuja was chosen to be the Federal Capital Territory in 1976, several ethnic nationalities that had inhabited the length and breath of the administrative area now called the FCT had nowhere else to call their homes.

“Since the 33 years of its existence, the Federal Capital Territory has received contingents of Nigerian indigenes arriving here (Abuja) and mingling with the original inhabitants, namely the Gbagis, Koros, Gades, Igalas, Igbirras and even Yorubas who had stayed in parts of Abaji for over fifty years and Hausas who came there about seventy years ago and government is using the daily influx of new arrivals to deny the natives their rights”
Provisions were made for these aborigines of the FCT for relocation to convenient areas of their choices in order to continue their lives as bona fide members of Nigerian society, but till today, not even 5% of these provisions have been fulfilled, despite complaints from those affected and pledges by those responsible in subsequent governments.

Journalist-turned-politician, Senator Sidi Ali, the incumbent and only Senator from the nation’s Capital, raged with disappointment and exasperation that “various governments have frustrated, molested, betrayed and almost destroyed the lives of the people who were met as the original occupants of the FCT which is the most massively rushed and developing city in the world.

He reassured, however that if anybody is to be happy with the constitutional amendment, it must be the FCT indigenes and this is because all over the world, Abuja is the only federating unit that receives all Nigerians who come in on daily basis with the aim of staying permanently, to earn a living, secure jobs and establish their homes. “You are talking of the federating unit which was initially established to contain only 350,000-400,000 people from all over the country.

“So you can see even that alone can jumble up everything provided for the FCT in the constitution. Again, the FCT was meant to be maintained and administered by Mr. President with the status of a state with all the political structures of a state provided here. But when you come to political appointments FCT is not represented and that is why we don’t have any representation in the federal executive council. That is why today Mr. President cannot tell us that he appointed one person from FCT as Special Assistant or Personal Assistant or anything from the political class of the FCT: not one! All this is because of the wrong notion that there were no people in FCT when they established it and that is very unfortunate!

What we are doing?
We must go back to the drawing board of providing laws to the government to recognize Abuja the way it has recognized other states, just like it recognized Lagos State even when the federal seat of power was in Lagos. Some of these are constitutional issues and the constitution must be tempered with in order to make justice to FCT and everybody including the President agrees with this, except that nobody seems to be serious in according FCT the right position it deserves in the constitution. That is why we are bent on making the legislature perform its responsibility in providing the legal frame work for the FCT to secure it’s rightful place in the scheme of things.

Three senators for FCT?
Of course if there is any reason at all in making Akwa Ibom to have three senators, to make Kano and Lagos (highly populated) to have three senators and to Bayelsa and Jigawa (very thinly populated) having less population than FCT, then I see no reason why three senators should not come from the FCT. What we are saying simply, is that the current socio-economic situation obtained in Abuja has completely changed the idea perceived and meant by the initiators of what Abuja should be. So, we have look at the reality on the ground to face the issue in Abuja to avoid the growing problem.

Therefore, talking about the constitution review, I know that currently, the Senate is starting to move ahead with the constitutional amendment with the aim of tackling thorny issues such as obtained in the FCT and very soon the setting up of a Constitutional Review Committee will come into effect and we hope the House of Representatives will also take the same bold step along that line.

Uwais review committee blinded
As for the Electoral Reform Committee, as far as I am concerned, I am reading the situation carefully to understand the recommendations of that committee, and I think with due respect to members of the Uwais Committee, I believe they’ve done a nice job. But in some areas, they were carried away by their hopes and aspirations from seeing a clean, clear electoral process, so much so that they have actually taken for granted that the constitution can be amended easily, and so they made major recommendations that have to do the amendment of the constitution.

Look at the political party Registration Commission, almost 90% of the recommendations in it have to do with the responsibilities of INEC. In other words, it is impossible for these recommendations to be workable without amending the constitution. So, while it is a nice job and good for Nigeria , but most cannot see light of the day till after at least three to four years. And mark you, the process of amending the constitution requires a team work, in which case the National Assembly alone cannot amend the constitution.

But all in all, I am of the view that the Electoral Review should look at the areas abused and anybody found to have contravened electoral procedures should be punished accordingly. We must start from somewhere. Any politician, any stakeholder who decided to violate the law of this land during elections should be dealt with appropriately. If we can do that: one, two three, I can assure you, it will go a long way in making our electoral reform work well.


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