CONTROVERSY TRAILS SHIFT OF LG HQTRS IN BAUCHI
Recently, the Bauchi State House of Assembly adopted a motion relocating the headquarters of Tafawa Balewa Local Government area from Tafawa Balewa town to Bununu. The move was sequel to an amendment to the Bauchi State Local Government Law 2007 with the governor given the powers to relocate the headquarters of any of the 20 LGAs in the state.
The amendment, proposed by the executive received an unprecedented and accelerated attention at the State Assembly with the first, second and third readings of the bill taken at the same sitting. The law provides that the governor can at anytime relocate the headquarters of a local government especially where there is a protracted conflict
It was a unanimous decision by 30 out of 31 members of the House for the relocation of the Tafawa Balewa LG headquarters from Tafwa Baldewa to Bununu few months later. Approving the move, the lawmakers decried the lingering crisis that has engulfed Tafawa Balewa especially between the Hausa/Fulani and the Sayawa for over five decades making development to elude the town.
While the sleepy town is on the world map because the late Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, hailed from there, the town has become crisis-ridden. Bloodletting in form of attacks and counter-attacks between the Hausa/Fulani and Sayawa has become almost like a pastime. Whether the amendment of the State Assembly paving way for the relocation will stand the test of time or bring the much desired peace to Tafawa Balewa has continued to agitate the minds of citizens of the state.
Abdulmuminu Hassan Ningi (Ningi), who moved the motion felt the move was justified. He lamented that the crisis in Tafawa Balewa which started since the 1950s has lingered on, claiming thousands of lives and properties worth millions of naira: 'The crisis has lingered and defiled solution. There is trouble every time. Lives are being lost, people's property being destroyed, and there is no peace for those residing in Tafawa Balewa or those passing through the town.
'Steps have been taken by successive governments to find lasting solution to the problem and bring peace to Tafawa Balewa town to no avail. For instance, the Shehu Awak Commission of Inquiry was set up during the Dahiru Deba administration. Then we had the Justice Babalakin Commission of Inquiry set up during the military administration by Ibrahim Babangida.
We had the Justice Bala Umar's own set up during the Adamu Muazu administration, and we have the Shehu Tanko Dutse committee by the incumbent, Mallam Isa Yuguda.'All these committees and commissions of inquiry have all sat and worked tirelessly to find solution to the problem of Tafawa Balewa town, why are lives being wasted? You see the name Tafawa Balewa is Hausa word which means Black Stone taken from Fulani pronunciation. Black Stone in Sayawa Language means Fuji. The Hausa/Fulani and Sayawa are all laying claim to being the owners of Tafawa Balewa and that is the root of the crisis.
'All these commissions of inquiry and committees recommended that one of the solutions to the problem is to give the Sayawa people chiefdom. The Shehu Awak Committee recommended that Bogoro Local Government should be carved out from Tafawa Balewa LG. He recommended that some communities in Bogoro and Tapshi should be given Sayawa Chiefdom. Lere and Bula communities are Hausa communities.
But this did not solve the problem.
'Recently the state government compensated victims of Tafawa Balewa crisis. Houses destroyed were rebuilt but they were destroyed again. I took a careful look at it and realized the solution is to relocate the headquarters from Tafawa Balewa town. For the safety of the lives of the civil servants working there let the headquarters be moved from Tafawa Balewa. They will enjoy their work without fear of being killed or attacked. No work is going on in Tafawa Balewa because of the crisis.
'The constitution of the country has given us the right to exercise this power and the state law also. Section 4 subsection 6 and 7 of the Constitution of Nigeria and State law section 4 gave us the right in the interest of peace.'
However, Rifkatu Samson Danna (Bogoro), opposed the move to relocate the headquarters from Tafawa Balewa arguing that all stakeholders should be consulted: 'Frankly, I am not happy with the decision of the House. We need to consult widely before taking this step. We need to know their problems.
'I think the House should have called all the leaders of the different ethnic groups, religious leaders, in the area. The House should have called a meeting with all stakeholders to the crisis. It requires that all the shareholders in love should meet the same time to discuss, not meeting with one section and leaving the other section for another time. It is not possible for only one ethnic group or person to live in a place.'
Danna is a female lawmaker. Perhaps, her arguement did not go down well with her colleagues. Speaker Yahaya Miya asked her to tender an apology. She reacted: 'My colleagues did not listen to my views. I tried to explain my point but the Speaker stopped me. If I made a mistake, the House has every right to caution me.
'If they had listened to my views critically they would not have apportioned any fault to me. I raised my hand for an observation but the Speaker refused me to express my view. He even warned me that if I insist he would ask that I be removed from the House. But I am sure they had a meeting for the relocation of the headquarters from Tafawa Balewa to Bununu before coming to the floor of the House.
'Only God knows how this problem would be solved. I grew up to meet the problem and up till now there has been no solution to it. On the relocation, I have nothing to say other than to say the stakeholders should be consulted. I am only a representative.' Comrade Illiyasu Ibrahim Zwal (Lere/Bula), believes that the relocation of the local government headquarters from the troubled Tafawa Balewa to Bununu is in order as it would bring a lasting solution to the recurrent problem in Tafwa Balewa between Sayawa and Hausa Fulani:
'I am very happy with what the House did. I and my family members and the people I represent are living in fear. The crisis in Tafawa Balewa is affecting the state and the country in general. The crisis is more than 50 years old. The crisis is over the ownership of Tafawa Balewa. Why should we bother about the crisis others are having because of the name of a town? Instead of leaving it to continue to claim lives and property, I think this is something we need to do and it is the right thing to do.'
On the opposition by the Sayawa to the relocation of the council's headquarters, the lawmaker said: 'Honestly, they know what they are in, that is why they are opposing it. But 30 out of 31 of the members in the House are in support of the move. For 50 years we have been sitting on the same issue with several committees set up to no avail. 'Since the crisis started in 1948, it resulted in the creation of Bogoro district, it led to the creation of Bogoro Local Government, it led to the creation of Sayawa chiefdom, were all these not done for peace to reign? All these steps have not brought peace.
There are more than 13 ethnic groups in Tafawa Balewa, with the most populous being Jarawa, Fulani, Hausa, Sayawa and Ngas. We also have Bijim, Sigidawa, Jarawa Dutse, and many others. 'They did not come out to kick against the move of the House except the Sayawa people, this is food for thought. Every step for lasting peace is geared towards making the Sayawa people happy and see reason to give peace a chance if they are the only one now coming out to oppose it then we must think deep on their motive.'
However, Bukata Zyadi, secretary, Sayawa Council of Elders and Traditional Rulers, pooh-poohed the decision of the House saying it is un constitutional and done with a political agenda to perpetuate the domination of his people by the ruling Hausa/Fulani:
'In the first place, the issue of the relocation of Tafawa Balewa LG headquarters from Tafawa Balewa to Bununu is strictly under the power of the National Assembly to relocate, rename or create local governments in any parts of the country. Secondly, any law made with the aim to use such to dominate, persecute or cause disunity or breach the peace is not a law, it is illegal.
'What the Bauchi House of Assembly did is satanic and demonic. It is a shame and it is unfortunate and we the lawyers from Bauchi State are ashamed by the executive arm and the legislative. It was the executive that sent the bill. The bill emanated from the governor but will it bring the answer to the crisis in Tafawa Balewa? The answer is no. The Attorney General of the state is not advising the governor rightly because they have gone wrong. It is better for them to rescind the decision so that we are not made a laughing stock.'
Other legal practitioners in the state have also questioned the move. To advance his argument Tsuwa, who is the immediate past state chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) read Section 8 subsection 4 of the Amended 1999 Constitution which provides that 'An act of the National Assembly passed in accordance with this section shall make consequential provisions with respect to the names and headquarters of States or local governments as provided in section 3 of this Constitution and in Parts I and II of the First Schedule to this Constitution.'
Another legal practitioner, Farouk Sarki, throws more light on the issues: 'Though the House of Assembly may insist under the concurrent legislative list that it has powers in Section 7 of the Constitution to make laws 'for the establishment, structure, composition, finance and functions' of local governments, such laws are null and void if they are inconsistent with any Act of the National Assembly or the Constitution.'
Meanwhile, the Speaker, Minority Leader, Baba Suleiman, amongst other members have continued to speak in defence of the new amendment. They insisted that the law was not designed for Tafawa Balewa or any specific local government.