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2023 Governorship and State Assembly Elections: Remembering the Pain, Disillusionment and Betrayal of FCT-Abuja Original Inhabitants

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has set March 18, 2023 as the new date for Governorship and State Assembly polls across the 36 states of Nigeria. While governorship elections will be held in 28 States, the State Assembly polls will hold in 36 States of the federation. The Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED) urges citizens not to be discouraged by the irregularities observed in the February 25, 2023 Presidential and National Assembly elections, but to go out en-mass and exercise their inalienable right granted to them by the 1999 Constitution (as amended) to vote for candidates of their choice, particularly those they can trust with their future. CHRICED also urges citizens to refrain from engaging in any form of electoral malpractice or violence during the polls.

However, when Nigerians go to the polls on March 18, 2023 to elect governors and members of their State Houses of Assembly, the Abuja Original Inhabitants and all residents of the FCT will painfully sit back and watch the rest of the country exercise this inalienable political right, which they are brazenly denied.

The over 9,000 square kilometers of land owned by the Abuja Original Inhabitants were forcefully taken under Section 1 of Military Decree No.6 of 1976 (now Cap.503 of the Law of Federation), which named the area as the new capital of Nigeria. Over the last 40 years, consecutive governments have failed to keep their pledges to compensate the Original Inhabitants. By the stroke of Decree 6, the over 2 million Abuja Original Inhabitants were rendered homeless, stateless, landless, and forced to confront internal colonization and deprivation. Today, the Original Inhabitants are politically excluded, economically marginalized, and culturally emasculated. Many years of struggle by the Original Inhabitants to redress historical wrongs, to address the journey of deprivation, and a seemingly obliterated future have been stoutly rebuffed, and violently disregarded by successive governments in Nigeria.

Section 299 of the 1999 Constitution required that the FCT-Abuja be regarded as one of the Federation’s States. On January 15, 2018, in the case reported as BABA-PANYA vs. PRESIDENT, FRN (2018) 15 NWLR (pt. 1643)395; (2018) LPELR-44573(CA), the Appeal Court proclaimed Abuja to be one of the Federation’s states and directed that it be treated as such. On March 13, 2020, the Supreme Court issued a decision with noteworthy pronouncement on the legal standing of FCT-Abuja in the case of BAKARE vs. OGUNDIPE (2021) 5NWLR (pt. 1768) SC. 1., putting an end to any residual uncertainty or controversy. The lead judgment was delivered by retired eminent jurist OLABODE VIVOUR-RHODES JSC, who stated that ‘on the status of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja,’ it is so clear that Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria, has the status of a State by virtue of the provisions of Section 299 of the Constitution.

Surprisingly, the government declined to enforce the judicial decisions. Rather, President Buhari’s Government deemed the court decisions to be declaratory in nature and thus unenforceable. Furthermore, the necessary constitutional changes for the FCT to operationalize its Special State status have been repeatedly refused by the APC ruling party-dominated National Assembly during constitution review exercises. Curiously and paradoxically, now that certain political interests failed to garner the constitutionally mandated 25 percent of all votes cast in the Federal Capital Territory, they are declaring that the FCT is, in reality, Nigeria’s 37th state. It is disingenuous that a number of partisan actors, who now assert that the FCT is the 37th state, refused to accede to the demands of the Original Inhabitants over the years to give expression to the State status of the FCT, and to ensure that all the necessary paraphernalia are in place to practically confer such status on the territory.

The FCT-Abuja Original Inhabitants, and indeed the entire world, are keeping a careful eye on the 2023 presidential election dispute as it is hotly fought and determined in the courts. In any case, it serves as a reminder to those in positions of authority not to trample on the rights of harmless citizens, as the law of KARMA is always present to take its natural course.

While hoping that someday the FCT Abuja Original Inhabitants will be granted the right to vote for those who govern them, CHRICED wishes other Nigerians in the 36 states of federation, a peaceful election on March 18, 2023.

Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Comrade Dr. Ibrahim M. Zikirullahi
Executive Director

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