Yunusa Ahmadu Yusuf, the Secretary General of Abuja Original Inhabitants Youths & Women Empowerment Organization, cannot but imagine why ever since the movement of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) from Lagos to Abuja in 1976, his people still have no access to sustainable life. In this interview with Stanley Onyekwere, he insists that the mere resettlement of his people without means to a sustainable lifestyle would only be adding to their plight.
As a youth leader what would you say are the real issues agitating the Abuja original inhabitants?
Over the time, we have been having issues bordering on resettlement and compensation of our people. As we all know, a lot of people have accused our forefathers for selling our land or giving it out to the government when it actually moved down to Abuja, in the 1976. But since then, none of the resettlement or compensation plan that the government had promised our people that has ever succeeded. We have the Wasa, Maitama-Kubwa, and the Apo resettlement site among others, all these cases are still pending in the court, and none of them have succeeded. And our people are not happy about it; our people feel cheated and neglected; because it is as if the moving of the FCT to Abuja was to just come and take over our lands, and go away with it, leaving us with no place to farm on.
Also, when we see other people from the various states share allocation on education like scholarship; we see other states send over 500 students to universities overseas, whereas our students here cannot have access to such scholarship. This is because the little funds that they have set aside for scholarship is less than a hundred million naira, which cannot even meet up with the needs of the ones already captured for scholarship, not even to talk of admitting new ones. So we are very concerned about the issues affecting our people.
We have issues about land racketeering especially in the area councils, and nobody is asking questions about it at the council levels. We low access to basic social amenities. Our area councils are operating on their own, they are just operating at the level that we the citizens feel very much cheated; that we are happy even voting again in the future. Also, we have some pressing issues with our traditional rulers. Most times when a developer comes into our land, to take over our land, and then at the end of the day, we realized that it is one traditional ruler or the other who had gone at the back to negotiate on behalve of the families or people that own the land. And this has been causing crisis in our communities. And our people are not comfortable with it, as it portends greater security challenges in the nearest future if it is not tackled.
Again, we have another issue, which has to do with ensuring a sustainable lifestyle of our people. Ever since the inception of the FCT from Lagos to Abuja in 1976, we have no access to sustainable lifestyle; and our people live among the rich, yet we are the poorest people in the FCT. We have no access to proper education; we have no access to employment slots from all the corporate organizations in the FCT. And the corporate organizations in the Territory have played deaf ears to their social-corporate responsibility, which is supposed to be their primary to us, as host communities in FCT. They have refused to give us employment, they have refused to grant us empowerment opportunities; they have refused to sponsor our youth, and they refused to look at whatever that is happening to the original inhabitants of the FCT. But what we are saying is that our young generations are asking questions, and they are becoming a bit wiser than some of us, and I wonder what would happen to them. That would turn our country and the federal capital into something else if nothing was done to resolve a lot of pressing issues affecting the original inhabitants of the FCT. I can tell you now that if these issues are not tackled, Abuja is seating on a time-bomb, because our will ask questions that we might not give them answers to, and they might ask these questions at gun point. We are therefore calling on the federal government to address these issues, so that we can equal opportunities to sustainable lifestyle. Ever since the inception of Abuja, the original inhabitants of the Territory have never had a ministerial slot. We are asking that Mr. President (President Goodluck Jonathan), in his kindness to look at our people and grant us ministerial slot, for the very first time.
But recently, it was reported that Mr. President had promised to grant ministerial and Permanent Secretarial slots to FCT original inhabitants, what’s your take on this?
Yes, although, he (President Jonathan) had promised to do so, but we are scared and we have fears that a lot of people in the past had looked at us and gone away, nonetheless, we are so sure that Mr. President ( Goodluck Jonathan) this time around would fulfill his promise accordingly, including the permanent secretariat slot. Generally, our own is that we need the government to come in and look at how to bring the transformation agenda of Mr. President down to the grassroots.
What is wrong with the government focusing more on resettlement of FCT original inhabitants?
To me, the resettlement of the FCT original inhabitants without access to a sustainable lifestyle would mean nothing to them. The ordinary man when given a very big house without a way to having access to money to sustain him and his family, without means to pay electric and water bills, then it is like you are adding to his plight. And for the original inhabitants, who known for farming, now when you (government) have taken over all their farmlands, and you are only resettling or giving them compensation that would last for a period of one year or two years at most, what happens to the rest of their lifetime. And if a sustainable lifestyle has not been carved for them, then their children may have no other option than to turn into criminals; they may even become terrorists, hence the urgent need for the government to into resolving these pressing issues before it becomes too late.
Are you worried by the recent influx of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from some parts of the country into Abuja?
Yes, the issue of insecurity in the northeast is now extending to the FCT, because the IDPs from the region are having refugees camps that are now taking over the Territory. And it’s my candid opinion that the Hon. Minister of the FCT, Senator Bala Mohammed uses his good office to address this emerging issue. Because, very soon our people may begin to have communal clashes with the refugees over farmlands, as many of them are farmers like our people. They are farmers; they are not well-to-do people and they would like to start farming activities on some our available farmlands, which our people may give them out of sympathy, but if they continue to stay for longer period, there might be a lot of discrepancies arising from this situation. And we wouldn’t like a situation where our children will start fighting with these people, in an attempt to recover the farmlands, because they are our brothers and sisters. So, it is our opinion that the government should look at how best to handle this issue (IDPs ) most especially the lonely places where they are sited like the New Kuchigoro and other places within the Gwagwalada axis.
Have you suffered any travail in the course of championing the issues affecting the wellbeing of your people?
Over the time, I have been arrested severally;and just recent I was released from detention in the Kuje Prison, over the Gwarinpa protest against the controversial demolition of houses in Lungu village. Also, some few months ago, when the original inhabitants had staged a protest over some of their pressing issues, by blocking a major high way leading into the Abuja city, in spite of the risk involved. You can imagine if the people have such a guts not minding the threats from the security operatives as well as other risks involved therein, decided to lay down their lives on the centre of the busy expressway when they embarked on the massive protest of that kind, then you can imagine what will happen in the next few years if something was not done address their plight. So, we are saying that the federal government should begin to look at our issues affecting us, the original inhabitants, so as to make life comfortable for us.