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Resettlement saga: A ticking time bomb (II)

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ABUJA DIARY with Josephine Ella

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A fundamental criterion that determines a good leadership is sensitivity to the needs and welfare of the masses. As such, what is expected of the FCT administration is to pay attention to the barrage of complaints of the indigenous populations rather than turning deaf ears to their welling calls for justice.
One would have thought, judging from the costly mistakes by the federal government in such matters, specifically its poor handling of the Niger Delta issue which it would pay dearly for, that the FCT administration would learn a lesson from this.
It is surprising that the administration has turned its back on these indigenes, a clear indication that it is taking things for granted.
So far, there have been warnings by keen observers suggesting what is likely to be the unpleasant outcome of the injustice being done to this indigenous people
Even the indigenes themselves have threatened to replicate in the FCT what happened in Niger Delta not too long ago.
The latest of the warnings came barely a week ago from the legal counsel to the Gosa people, who are also alleging abuse of their rights by the FCT administration, during  an interview session with journalists.
"What is happening in Niger Delta will someday be a small thing whenever it happens too here in the FCT because in Niger Delta the indigenes still have the land in their hands; they control the land but what they are agitating for is control of the oil from the land.
"But these people (FCT indigenes), their lands have been taken away without resettlement and compensation".
Notwithstanding this, nobody seems to pay attention to this sensitive issue that every right thinking person, knows should be handled with care.
The Gbagyis and other indigenous peoples of the FCT, ordinarily, are not known for violence, but like the adage, "a goat ordinarily does not bite, but when it is pushed to the wall, it will bite", it would appear their patience is being over-stretched.
Underestimating these people is the last thing to do because an angry man has no restraint.
The weeklong onslaught, launched against residents of Apo resettlement estate phase 11, earlier in February this year, by angry indigenes, speaks volume to this effect.
The aggrieved Gbagyi youth, in their hundreds, had besieged the newly established developing area in the Apo resettlement area, which the FCT administration had initially earmarked for the resettlement of three communities, attacking everyone in sight and destroying properties as they demanded to have their farm land back.
As it is, the major grouse of the people with the government is the alleged deviation from the agreement entered into some 35 years ago with their fathers, when Abuja was conceived to be the seat of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
One issue that is quite clear in the complaints of the indigenes is that of their displacement from their residential plots without due compensation or they being resettled.
Many of these indigenous groups have alleged that their farmlands were taken from them without alternative provided for them, thereby plunging them into financial hardship since farming remained their major source of livelihood.
In the same vein, the indigenes (Garki indigenes in this case), are dissatisfied with the houses  that have so far been built for their Resettlement at the Apo resettlement Site.
According to some of them, the basic social amenities needed for their comfort are not adequately provided.
At the core of the matter, is their dissatisfaction with the sizes of the houses, which cannot accommodate their families, while a greater number of other indigenes are still awaiting their resettlement.
Giving an insight into the plight of his people recently, the Etsu of Jabi, Alhaji Yakubu Auta,  thus lamented: "They(government) promised to compensate us for taking our lands but they have not done so till date. We are caged here, yet, our families are expanding.
"They said they have built a housing estate for us at Dei-Dei. But for the past ten years it has not been given to us. Even when we build here, the government demolishes it, where will our grown-ups and newly married youths stay?
This piece is in no way, an attempt to incite the indigenous people against the Federal Government or the FCT administration, but to add voice to the calls for justice.
It is also rather, to draw the attention of the FG, FCT administration and security agencies to the implications of neglecting the people.
For the sake of peace and security, the FCT administration ought to resolve this issue once and for all.
Ex-Senator Ali Sidi, representing the FCT while indicting the FG for an "unending betrayal and neglect of the rights of the original inhabitants of the territory" recently in an interview with a national daily,  had warned  that government's action towards the FCT indigenes was breeding animosity likely to boomerang in not so distant future.
Other commentators have also expressed fears that the issue of compensation and resettlement of FCT indigenes if not properly handled may in future result to the kind of insurgence by some Niger Delta youths.
All said, the FCT administration is aware of the demands of these indigenous settlers and equally knows the right thing to do to appease them.
Wisdom calls for proper handling of  all these issues affecting these indigenes because a 'stitch in time they say, saves nine'.
It may not be today, tomorrow or even in the next 10 years to come but, if the FCT administration continues to be adamant to the plights of the indigenous settlers,  chances are that the fears of many observers in the territory, may be confirmed in the  very nearest future.

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