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Advocating for Indigenous Rights at the UN: Presentation at the Expert Mechanism Session

Presentation at the 17th session of the Expert Mechanism for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples at the Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland on Monday, July 9, 2024

Madam Chair, esteemed members of the panel, and distinguished participants,

1. I am Dr Ibrahim M. Zikirullahi, Executive Director of Resource Centre for Human Rights & Civic Education (CHRICED) . We are honored to be here, thanks to the generous support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

2. On July 18, 2023, we presented the case of over 2.5 million indigenous people, known as Abuja Original Inhabitants (OIs) of Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory (FCT), consisting of nine tribes and seventeen chiefdoms, who are facing challenges of landlessness, statelessness, and the extinction of their culture. We stressed that without rectifying the injustice done to them, their future remains very bleak.

3. Following that event, there have been some positive developments, including the appointment of an Abuja native as a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (for the first time), the appointment of a native youth as a Mandate Secretary for Area Council Secretariat, the establishment of FCT Civil Service Commission, and the creation of FCT Women Affairs Secretariat.

4. While we acknowledge the progress made, it is disheartening to note that almost all the principal officers of the new governance structures created are non-natives and therefore may not represent the interests of the Abuja indigenous people.

5. Also, it is unfortunate that, to this day, most of the indigenous people whose land was taken by Military Decree 6 of 1976 for the establishment of the new capital territory have not been compensated or resettled. Instead, the demolition of their settlements has intensified, leading to increased homelessness in the name of development expansion. The Nigerian government has failed to uphold its commitments to respect and protect the rights of the Abuja indigenous people.

6. Presently, many indigenous communities in Abuja still lack access to essential health and educational facilities, as well as basic infrastructure such as roads, clean water, and sanitation.

7. Unlike other Nigerian citizens who have the right to vote for a Governor and a State House of Assembly, the indigenous people of Abuja are still denied this political right, despite being citizens of their own country. The Nigerian government has ignored the pleas of the Abuja natives regarding the discrimination and injustices they face, even disregarding Supreme Court rulings in their favor.

8. As if the injustice done to the Abuja indigenous people by their own government was not enough, the Switzerland Embassy has again added to their pains by consistent refusal to grant visa appointment for them to attend the EMRIP event. Despite receiving registration approval late in May 2024 from the EMRIP Secretariat, the Swiss Government should have shown understanding due to the significance of this UN annual event. We hold that the refusal is not only against the principles of free movement for indigenous people as guaranteed by the United Nations, but also hinders the opportunity for the Abuja natives to showcase their culture and artefacts on a global platform. It is important for the EMRIP Secretariat to address this issue diplomatically with the Swiss government.

9. We urge this body to amplify the voices and struggles of the indigenous people in Abuja, Nigeria through diplomatic intervention. We demand a STOP to the violation of their rights to belonging, history and legacy.

10. Nigeria must be held accountable to fulfill its constitutional and international human rights obligations promptly to address the challenges faced by the Abuja natives.

Thank you.


Comrade Ibrahim M. Zikirullahi
Executive Director

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