Nine civil society organizations (CSOs) have protested the National Assembly’s rejection of proposed mayoral status in the FCT.
They also condemned the rejection of nomination of a Minister from the FCT, and allocation of a specific number of seats in the National Assembly to women, in the constitution review process.
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The CSOs are Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED), Abuja Original Inhabitants Youth Empowerment Organization, Association of FCT Traditional Rulers Wives, Mairo Women Foundation, Helpline Foundation for the Needy, Abiodun Essiet Initiative for Girls, Centre for Environmental Sustainability and Development Awareness, Socio Economic Research and Development Centre, Centre for Transparency Advocacy, and HipCity Innovation Centre.
The Executive Director of the CHRICED Dr. Ibrahim M. Zikirullahi, who led a discussion on the development at a media round table on Thursday in Abuja, said that the rejection of mayoral status for FCT is legitimizing exploitation and marginalization of the original inhabitants of the FCT.
He said that such action would create an impression that those who pursue peaceful and non-violent means of self-determination will be ignored and that the failure of these relevant amendments was a demonstration of a dysfunctional state of democracy in the country.
“Unfortunately, as a result of the outcomes of the vote on the proposed amendment, some issues that are critical to the welfare and well-being of Original Inhabitants and the larger population of Nigerians did not pass.
“Three such pertinent issues are the creation of an Office of the Mayor of the FCT, the nomination of a Minister from the FCT to the Federal Executive Council, and the allocation of a specific number of seats in the National Assembly to women.
“So, if issues strongly advocated by people at the grassroots are unable to see the light of day in the constitution review process, what is the point of junketing and wasting scarce resources across the country in the name of constitution review hearings?” he said.
He also lamented that if the National Assembly is unable to meet the people’s demands and implement what they truly require, it should abandon its pretentious posture of holding public hearings to hear the people’s wishes and aspirations.
“We believe that the people are being used in this way to legitimize the political class’s preconceived agenda. This is why, over the years, CHRICED has advocated for the option of a people-centered referendum, in which the people themselves can vote on policies, programs, and provisions that will govern their lives.
“While CHRICED applauds lawmakers who voted in favor of these critical amendments, it is clear that the idea of a few people in the National Assembly thwarting Nigerians’ wishes is no longer tenable. Democracy thrives and is nurtured when the wishes and aspirations of the people, particularly those who have been neglected for many years, are reflected in key legislative and governance processes.
“In other words, the natives of the FCT who gave up their ancestral land so that Nigeria could have its ‘Centre of Unity’ have been rebuffed once again and bluntly told that they are second-class citizens in their own country,” he said.
He also said that the irony of these amendments failing is that the hardships, political marginalization, and economic deprivation experienced by FCT Original Inhabitants and women across the country will continue.