By NBF News

FCT marginalised -Senator Ali
Thursday, March 04, 2010


Senator Adamu Sidi Ali, former broadcaster, administrator and businessman turned politician represents the Federal Capital Territory (FCT)( in the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly. Senator Ali had before getting to the Senate served as a member of the House of Representatives between 2003 and 2007, on the platform of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), which he dumped for the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

In this interview, Senator Ali who also served twice as Chairman of Abaji Area Council of the FCT is piqued that the present Chairmen of the Area Councils in the territory are engrossed in mismanagement and misappropriation of funds required to cater for the salaries of Primary Schools teachers at the expense of education thereby forcing the teachers to go on strike over pending remunerations.

Senator Sidi also revealed that in spite of the existence of Area Councils in the FCT for over 16years, the third tier of government in the Territory is not backed by law, adding that elections into the offices of the Chairmen and Councilors by the Independent National Electoral Commission are illegal.

My aspirations, hopes and wishes are still being pursued at the Senate. As you are aware that the FCT as it is today, has no adequate provisions in the Constitution that outlines, its clear administration of the Federal Capital Territory. This was done deliberately because the assumption at that time before the 1999 Constitution came into being, was correct. The feelings at that time were that Abuja will not be a reality until after 50 or 60 years. But that was not to be.

There was change and Abuja became a reality within a period of 20 years. Nigerians moved into the Federal Capital Territory to make it their home, which was the purpose of bringing the capital into a central part of the country for the purpose of unity. I believe that the intents and purposes of General Murtala Muhammed on Abuja has been achieved, and that is the unity of this country and a land where everybody can call his or her own. That has been achieved. But the problem we have now is management of the Federal Capital Territory. Nigerians have converged.

How do you manage them? One important factor that was left out, is the evacuation of the original inhabitants in this 8,000 square miles outside the territory, so that the place can remain as a football field and you share it the way you want to share it. That is missing. Hundreds and thousands of people that inhabit this place for hundreds of years are still where they are. So, the Federal Government was left with the option of integrating these people, instead of moving them out and bringing other Nigerians. It means you are moving Nigerians out and bringing other Nigerians. How do you integrate these people? I think General Obasanjo, then a military leader came with the idea of staying where you are. As the development gets to you, you will be resettled and integrated within the Federal Capital Territory because the idea of resettling them outside the territory to their former state had failed completely. We don't want to go into that.

So, I came to the Senate with this behind my mind. How do we integrate the original inhabitants? How do we administer Abuja so that every Nigerian can feel at home? How would you go about that? I came up with a clear view that there is no way we can do that without going back to the Constitution, because the Constitution was very clear on what Abuja should look like. The best thing is to make clear regulations on how to live in the FCT. After all, the territory itself is created by law. So, I strongly believe that we can only be comfortable when we have regulations here and there as Acts of the National Assembly in areas that were mentioned in the Constitution, so that we can have a peaceful FCT.

Having got there, the first thing I did towards the achievement of this is to look at the foundation, the basic administrative areas of the FCT, which is the Area Councils or Local Governments. I found out that the Local Governments were operating without any backup law. There is no law backing them because there is a Constitutional issue there. Section 7 of the Constitution says Local Governments or Area Councils are hereby guaranteed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

It went ahead to say that the establishment, finances, administration and structure of such Local Government and Area Council shall be determined by the State Assembly and in case of the Federal Capital Territory, by the National Assembly. As such, we in anyway don't have laws to fall back to guarantee the operations of our Area Councils. Agreed, an Act establishing FCT says in the absence of any law or in the event of a lacuna, we should fall back to Niger State. If you look at that law we are expecting to fall back to, it is the Local Government Transition law of 1978. That is the only existing law that we can fall back to. But we didn't fall back to that. We assumed that what is happening in the states should happen here and INEC went ahead to conduct elections into offices of Chairman, Vice Chairman, Councillors and so on. But the law we

are supposed to fall back on, was very clear that certain numbers will be elected, certain members will be appointed and two will be nominated by the Governor, in this case the Minister of FCT will appoint him as Chairman. It's from that group that you have Supervisory Councillors and the rest of them. So, you can see that it's a different system entirely. We didn't fall back to it. We assumed that what is happening in the states should happen here, and we went ahead to conduct elections, which is illegal, as far as I'm concerned. It's absolutely illegal.

Correcting the mistake
What I did was to present a bill to the National Assembly. I didn't go to court. I presented a bill to correct the mistake. This bill has gone for first and second readings. It has gone to the Committee. We are expecting the Committee to bring that bill back to the National Assembly. Within two months that I came, I presented the bill and within four, five months, my colleagues in the National Assembly considered the bill and sent it to the Committee on States and Local Governments. It is one year and two months today and that bill has not been brought back. But the Committee was asked to bring it back in two weeks. So, that is another issue entirely. We need to get this bill through, so that we can now start on a very legal formidable pace in our Area Councils.

If you come to the entire administration of the Federal Capital Territory, my second bill is on section 303, which says the administrative and political structure of the FCT shall be determined by the National Assembly. I'm exploring that position of the Constitution so that we can now bring up a certain structure. El-Rufai's regime looked like an accepted administration because it had the services provided in the FCT broken into departments like Education, Health, Social Services, Transport, Area Council Services and the rest of them and made it a mandate Secretariat with Secretaries heading these mandate Secretariats to be able to provide services for the Federal Capital Territor(FCT). But, as I'm talking to you, I don't think there is any Act backing that structure in FCT.

Anybody can come and change it. I remember it used to be five Mandate Secretariats. When former Minister Aliyu Modibbo came, he added one. Who says somebody else will not come and scrap them? We are trying to spread this provision of section 303 of the Constitution to make sure that we have also a clear administration of FCT. Other issues are Constitutional. For instance, the Constitution is very clear on our representation in the National Assembly.

Whatever criterion was used for that - probably population if you like - the population of FCT in 1980 cannot be the same in 2010. Luckily enough, the Population Commission is in place and has already counted the people assumed to be living in the Federal Capital Territory. We are contesting that in court because we don't agree with the figure. I think they gave a figure of 1.5 million people in FCT. Before El-Rufai left, he went to court on that. But all the same, even when using the figure as agreed by the Population Commission, you'll see that two representations in the National Assembly is quite inadequate. Interestingly, if you look at the political class today, almost all Nigerians who are living here are participating in the politics of FCT.

I think that is what Murtala had in mind; build a place where everybody can come without hindrance, the political class, business people, civil servants and the rest of them. If you look into the political class of FCT today, the participation is very encouraging because everybody that belongs to the political class, you find them in the over 50 parties you have in the FCT and most of them participate in the election in the Federal Capital Territory. So, you can see that the representation in the National Assembly is quite inadequate. We want to see that the amendment of the Constitution actually looks at this area.

If you look at national appointments which are being considered on State basis, FCT is not always included. For instance, every state of the federation is represented in the Federal Executive Council because the Constitution clearly stated that the President shall appoint Ministers from each State of the Federation, FCT is not included, and we are not represented in the Federal Executive Council. We want to be represented in the Federal Executive Council.

We are saying that section should be amended to say in each State and FCT.

If you look at membership of Commissions, it's spread all over the States. But FCT is not really represented. We feel that we should be members of Commissions. I think we are represented only in one or two and that is INEC and Code of Conduct. All other Commissions, we are saying that FCT should be considered as part of it.

This issue of Area Councils, which is on the population, based on the situation then, only Area Councils, was enshrined in the Constitution. Remember before then, it was 12. It was reduced to four, it later became 8 and now six. So, you can see the differences in the Area Councils. But we are looking at the population as it is today to recommend appropriately, since the review of the Constitution is expected to be done in 10 years. But with the reality on the ground today, we will look at the population with a view to increasing the number of these Area Councils, so that we can have proper administration of the FCT.

So, in a nutshell, I've gone into the Senate to ensure that we are properly placed in the FCT, both by Acts of the National Assembly, by regulation and by gazettes, rather than leaving it the way it is where anybody can come and change anything he wants. At the end of this Constitution amendment exercise, I hope that my aspirations and wishes of going to the Senate would have been achieved in some of these areas and capture in the review of the 1999 Constitution.