The Unresolved Issue of
Resettlement in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja: An Exploration
The creation of the Federal Capital Territory for Nigeria in Abuja has led to some unresolved issues. Principal among these is the issue of resettlement of the indigenous people who inhabited the area long before the creation of the Federal Capital Territory. Lack of proper implementation of resettlement policy has led to a number of demands by the indigenous people which negates the philosophy and principle of the Federal Capital Territory as a ‘no man’s land’ where Nigerians from all over the country will have equal opportunities. These demands by the indigenous people of recent include: the creation of an FCT State with a house of assembly, creation of more area councils, and three senatorial districts as is obtainable in other states of the federation.
In short the indigenous people are calling for the creation of a state bureaucracy that will cater for the needs of their people. Furthermore, the lack of proper implementation of the resettlement programmes had also led to the creation of illegal institutions such as the FCT council of chiefs and the proliferation of traditional institutions in the Federal Capital Territory.
This chapter attempts to examine resettlement in the Federal Capital Territory and how it has led to agitations by the indigenous groups. The chapter is divided into four parts.
Part one which is the introduction, part two dwells on the indigenous people, part three will treat the establishment of the Federal Capital and the Resettlement Policy. The final part will be a summary, conclusion and recommendations.
The Indigenous Groups
The Abuja area is located in central Nigeria. The region is commonly referred to by art historians and archaeologists as the Nok culture. The culture’s physical presence is characterized by the terra-cotta figures first found in the village of Nok in Jaba Local Government Council of Kaduna State (Zoaka, 2001:90). Archaeological discovery has shown clearly that the area was long inhabited by people. Isichei (1984:43) has shown that studies of Taruga have yielded the earliest known iron smelting technology in the region with radiocarbon dates from the 5th to 3rd centuries B.C. Taruga is about 35 kilometres south-east of Abuja. The material culture of the people also point to an early existence of pottery tradition that has been developed and popularized by the Late Dr. Ladi Kwali. Also important is a large cave site at Dutsen Alhaji estimated to be capable of accommodating about two hundred people (200) at the time. According Ukwedeh (1993:6) some royal tombs have been discovered at the pre-colonial walled settlements of old Karshi. Another clear example of long habitation in the Federal Capital Territory could be traced to the figurine found in 1958 in a simple pit in the banks of the river Makobolo at Bwari some 26 kilometres from Abuja by workmen prospecting for tin and columbite for the mining firm of Messrs. Brandfire and Health through whom it was presented to the Jos Museum. While sending the photograph, Mr. Bernard Fagg director of antiquities wrote as noted by Hassan and Naibi (1962:91) that:
The terra-cotta figurine of a kneeling man richly ornamental with strings of beads and pendant is identified in style with terra-cotta figurine of Nok which now dated to a period of about 400 BC and 200 AD.
These evidence of human existence demonstrated clearly that man had inhabited the area several millennia in the past. During this period of continuous existence the various cultural groups of the Gbagyi, Bassa, Koro, Gade, Ganagana etc. had the opportunity of cementing intergroup relationship through the consolidation of both their material and non-material aspects of culture. This might have led to the rise of different states in the area before the creation of FCT. The fertility of the land, the natural defensive rocks and hills in the open savannah and the many rivers and streams have all contributed to early and conducive human settlement (Jude, 1996:3).
Most of the villages in the Federal Capital Territory are either entirely Gbagyi (Gwari) or about 80 percent Gbagyi. There are however other ethnic groups such as Gade, Koro and Gwandara. In some of the large settlements such as Abaji, Nuku, Gwagwalada, Karu, Karshi and Rubochi some Hausa, Fulani, Tiv Yoruba and Igbo together with some groups may be found. However, because of the massive movement of people into the FCT, this ethnic composition has changed. This is noticeable in Gwagwalada, Karu, Nyanya, Gwagwa, Kubwa, Zuba, Deidei whose population have doubled since 1977. In line with the dreams of the establishment of the FCT, the daily movement of population is made up of the people who are the original inhabitants of the area and a large number of civil servants, businessmen and construction company workers who have been affected either by the relocation of ministries from Lagos to Abuja and construction workers whose companies are engaged in one type of construction work or the other. In the next section we will dwell on the creation of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The Search for a New Federal Capital
The government of General Yakubu Gowon was overthrown on 27 July 1975 in a bloodless coup. Thereafter General Murtala
Ramat assumed the leadership of the country. He was known to be a bold soldier, his administration was brief and eventful. He decided to handle the issue of relocating the seat of Federal Government from Lagos. He appointed a nine-man committee headed by the Late Jurist Dr. Akinola Aguda. Other members of the committee were Dr. Tai Solarin, Colonel Monsignor Pedro Martins, Chief Owen Feibai, Dr. Ajato Gandonu, Prof. O.K. Ogan and Alhaji Musa Isma as secretary. The committee’s terms of reference were as follows:
- to examine the dual role of Lagos as a state and federal capital and advice on the desirability or otherwise of the city retaining that role,
- if the committee finds that Lagos is unsuitable for the dual role, it should recommend which of the two governments should move to a new capital,
- if the committee finds that the Federal Governmentshould move out of Lagos, it should recommend alternative locations, having regard to the need for easy accessibility to and from every part of the country.
To enable it achieve its aims the committee toured Nigeria and visited other countries. It received memoranda from experts as well as from the general public. At the end of the exercise the committee submitted its report in December 1975 with the following findings and recommendations:
- that Lagos was incapable of performing a dual role as a federal and state capital due to the problems of
inadequate space for development commensurate with its status;
- that the city of Lagos was identified with predominantly one ethnic group and by implications did not provide equal access to Nigeria’s great diversity of cultural groups;
- that a new capital was desirable that would be secured, ethnically neutral, centrally accessible, comfortable and healthy. Also the area should have adequate land and natural resources to provide a promising base for urban development; and
- that a new capital was needed as a symbol of Nigeria’saspirations for unity and progress (Abumere, 1983:45).
In line with recommendation number (iii) above, the panel set up in earnest the process of selecting a new federal capital territory from the memoranda received, the panel ended up with thirty-three sites. In order to compare the sites for suitability, a weighing system consisting of 13 criteria was introduced see table below.
The weighing system criteria for selecting the New Federal Capital Territory in Nigeria
|S/N.||Weighing criteria system||Weighing %|
|1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.
10. 11. 12.
Health and climate
Land availability and use
Existence of building materials locally
Low population density
Physical planning convenience
Source : Report of the Committee on the Relocation of the Federal Capital of Nigeria.
The panel after careful consideration of all the criteria recommended an area of land to be designed as the Federal Capital Territory. The panel was unanimous in particular area and the question of suggesting alternative location did not arise. According to the panel and as Abumere (1993:23) noted, the area recommended which is also stipulated in the Federal Capital Territory decree No. 6 of 1976 is as follows:
Starting from the village called Izom on 7’E longitude and 90
15’ latitude project a straight line westwards to a point just
North of Lehu on the Kemi River. Then project a line along 60
471/ 2’E southwards passing close to the villages called Semasu
Zui and Bassa down to a place a little west of Abaji in Kwara State; hence project a line along parallel 8’271/ 2 N latitude to Ahunza village 706E (on the Kanama River) thence project a straight line to Buga village on 8030 latitude and 7, 20’E longitude, thence draw a line northwards joining the villages of Odu, Karshi and Karu, thence the line should proceed along the boundary between north-central and North-Western states upto a point just north of Bwari village and then straight to Izom.
It was this geographical area that became the Federal Capital Territory.
As a result of the carving out of the Federal Capital Territory from Niger, Plateau and Kwara states via decree 6 of 1976, it became clear that several villages and household would be d isplaced . The Fed eral Government set in motion the resettlement of such displaced persons and the amount of compensation to be paid to them. This position was made clear in the broadcast to the nation proclaiming the Federal Capital Territory on 3 February 1976 when the Head of State General Murtala Ramat Mohammed declared thus:
The Federal Capital Territory will belong to all Nigerians. The few local inhabitants in the area who need to be moved out of the Territory for planning purposes will be resettled outside the area in places of their choice at government expense. In order to avoid land speculation in the area, a decree is being promulgated immediately to rest all land in the Federal Territory in the Federal Government.
The FCT d ecree is also clear on the question of compensation for immovable assets such as buildings and economic groups. The decree outlined that payment should be on:
Building on such land for the amount of the actual construction of the building and crops on such land for an amount equal to the fair market value of such crops (official gazette extraordinary No.7 Vo. 63. Feb. 1976 P.A. 17).
The initial policy was to pay compensation to and resettle all the inhabitants of all 845 villages in the F.C.T. outside the territory. This initial policy of evacuation was thought necessary so that all Nigerians could have equal access to land and other opportunities in the Federal Capital Territory without anybody enforcing, imposing or invoking ancestral and primordial sentiments.
In order to execute this policy of evacuation, funds were disbursed to the states where the FCT was carved out as follows:
|Name of State||amount|
|1. Niger State||N4 Million|
|2. Plateau State||N1.5 Million|
|3. Kwara State||N 1 million
(later refunded to the federal Government because the project did not commence)
The funds collected by the states were used for land acquisition and land preparation in anticipation of mass resettlement. The resettlement policy was initially carried out, of the over 300,000 people who were located within the area that was carved into the F.C.T. 20,619 opted to stay in the F.C.T. while 5412 households opted to move out of the FCT (Abumere, 1983:106).
The initial plan of the Federal Capital Development Authority was to evacuate all the 845 villages in the FCT who will be paid compensation and resettled outside the territory in their states of origin. This was considered necessary so that Nigerians irrespective of their state of origin could have equal access to land and other opportunities in the Federal Capital Territory without anybody being able to insist on ancestral and primordial rights. However, with time, it became clear that to move out everybody from the F.C.T. would involve an enormous sum of money of over N2 billion at that time (Benna 1989:269).
A review of the resettlement policy became necessary for at least two reasons:
- i) There was the high cost of moving everybody out which might leave the authority with much less fund for building the city. ii) A vast proportion of the 8,000 square kilometer of the territory may never be required for city construction and expansion. To move everybody out meant that this vast land will become uninhabited waste land.
In view of the above, the Federal Government under the leadership of then General Olusegun Obasanjo in 1978 decided to change this policy. Resettlement was restricted to those displaced from the areas actually needed for the building of the city. The rest of the territory outside the priority area was to retain its population and to form part of the territory’s administration.
The change in the policy of resettlement had far-reaching consequences in the political development of the Federal Capital Territory. First and foremost majority of the people were not compensated. They continue to lay claim to Abuja as their ancestral homeland. This negates the principle of Abuja being a place where Nigerians would have access to land without any hindrance.
Secondly, the indigenous people continue to agitate for their separate rights within the Federal Capital Territory. In recent times, there has been calls for the creation of the office of a governor and a House of Assembly for the indigenous people.
Thirdly, policies in the Federal Capital Territory have favoured the indigenous people. This is because they constitute the majority. This is also a negation of the principle that Abuja will be a land of equal opportunities for all Nigerians.
Summary, Conclusion and Recommendations
This chapter has highlighted the vexed issues of resettlement in the Federal Capital Territory. The chapter examined the peoples of the area, the creation of the federal capital and the resettlement policy embarked by the government through the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA). The lack of proper handling of the compensation issue led to a number of problems as earlier pointed out. The indigenous people were not compensated. They continue to regard the federal capital territory as their ancestral land.
To resolve this problem in the Federal Capital Territory, we venture to make the following recommendations:
- i) The indigenous people should be adequately compensated. It is only after that has been done, that they will no longer lay claim to the federal capital territory as their ancestral land. ii) The creation of traditional institutions in the Federal Capital Territory should be discontinued and those in existence abolished. Their continued presence negates the concept of the Federal Capital Territory as a land belonging to all Nigerians with equal opportunities.
iii) Massive infrastructures should be provided in the FCT for all Nigerians at affordable price. This will make Abuja a land for all Nigerians irrespective of their status.
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