A brief of a memorandum submitted by Southern Kaduna in the Diaspora (SOKAD) to the National Conference
The call for a national conference could not have come at a more auspicious time. Southern Kaduna in the Diaspora (SOKAD) – United States of America and Canada, applauds President Goodluck for this bold initiative. It is our hope that the conference delegates will, with sincerity and good conscience, transcend personal, ethnic, religious, class, gender, and regional differences to proffer viable and long-lasting solutions to our national problems and issues.
Many issues must be discussed, but we have chosen to focus on a limited number, those that profoundly affect Nigerian ethnic minorities, particularly those of Southern Kaduna and other Middle Belt areas-which Nigerian Independence and state creation forgot. Through the discrimination against northern ethnic minorities, failure of post-independent Nigeria to recognize their rights, and unfair use of oil resources in the Niger Delta region, ethnic majorities have systematically attempted to erode the sovereignties and identities of northern ethnic minorities, rendering them irrelevant.
The following document contains our suggestions, our pleas, and our prayers.
The structure of Nigeria and the need for more states
We open our submission by declaring, in no uncertain words, that SOKAD supports the solidarity of Nigeria as one country and one nation united under one federal constitution; and as aptly put by one of our members at Nigeriavillagesquare.com:
The northern minorities (those in the middle belt and the pure Hausas breed- the maguzawa) don’t want to be part of a Hausa or Hausa Fulani nation; neither do the southern minorities want to be in a Yoruba nation, nor an Igbo nation. Nigerian minorities have fought against treble oppressions: colonialism, marginalization, and the effects of corruption. They do not see their liberation in breaking Nigeria into nations that will yoke them to their regional majorities. They prefer for the current spatial and geographical Nigeria. Their plight can be improved with the creation of states, but not balkanization or subdivision of the country.
SOKAD strongly supports the creation of more states. The subdivision of the spatial area now known as Nigeria has evolved over time. From its amalgamation in 1914, it became three regions, then four regions. It was further divided into 12 states in 1967, 19 in 1976, 21 in 1987, and 30 in 1992. Nigeria is now comprised of 36 states. These divisions have been beneficial and useful for economic development and modernization. Though not perfect, the creation of states has helped to maintain Nigeria’s solidarity and unity; it has brought some ethnic minorities closer to the seat of power and allowed them to forge ethnic identities. State creation has also reduced marginalization and helped solve some of the problems facing minorities in the western and eastern regions.
Ten more states should be created. This forum is not adequate for an elaboration regarding the 46-state structure we are proposing, but the conference should recommend this amendment to our constitution in order to easily assist with state creation and boundary adjustments toward the new state structure.
The suggestion for additional states is dear to all ethnic minorities, particularly northern ethnic minorities. The Southern Kaduna peoples are of special interest and concern, as they possess all the prerequisites for a viable state; however, because of their ethnicity and religion, they do not have a state. Creating another state from the present Kaduna state will reduce the persistent clashes in that part of the country.
Land tenure and land ownership
Ethnic identities are intimately tied to ancestral lands. The expressions, cultures, religions, and economies of native peoples cannot be decoupled from their lands. Since the majority of Nigerians are agrarian, land is the only asset that those in the poorest communities own they own. Theirs is a collective ownership of land by families, clans, and communities. The Land Use Act of 1978 threatens land ownership as well as the civilizations, histories, cultures, and identities of many ethnicities. The act invested ownership of all lands to the state government, and invariably, the governor, which in effect, divested the ownership of land from all previous owners. It also resulted in the creation of rogue governments and governors who might use the act to victimize political opponents and ethnic groups. Evidence has already shown that this act is being used by powerful groups and individuals to seize communal lands.
Nigeria is a member of civilized nations, the UN. It is incumbent on Nigeria to protect its indigenous peoples and abide by the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by protecting their rights to own land.
It is SOK’s prayer that the Land Use Act of 1978 be revisited and repealed in order to return the ownership and control of the land to the people. Land is their only asset, but the land Use Act of 1978 has made them mere tenants.
The unbridled terror of the Fulani herdsmen in the Middle Belt
For decades, the nomadic Fulani and farmers have lived in a symbiotic relationship, albeit with occasional clashes over farm crops. Recently, however, the Fulani have morphed into a violent ethnic group, eroding the long decade of peaceful coexistence they had once shared with the indigenous populations during their seasonal north-south nomadic migration. They have traded the herding stick for the machine gun and have killed and maimed the indigenous peoples of the Middle Belt, people whom they had once treated peacefully, as friends. Furthermore, they have allied with their Fulani kin from neighboring countries so that, together, they can drive indigenous farmers from their lands. They are, at this moment, committing these acts with impunity and brutality. Their atrocities are so gruesome and grisly that only a savage mind could bear to imagine them.
The Fulani activities are not only aimed at cleansing fertile lands of their ethnic owners, but at instilling Islamization. We believe Islamization is the reason that the Boko Haram power structure has been aiding the Fulani. It also explains why their acts of terrorism are receiving the Janus condemnation from the northern establishment.
The solution to the Fulani’s atrocities is not for government to seize land and set up grazing routes and reserves, as the National Assembly and the Vice-Presidency are attempting to do. Instead, the government should holistically examine the issue in its totality, sincerely and objectively, and then proffer a lasting solution. Seizure of land will not be tolerated; indeed, this act will be the last straw, testing the tolerance of ethnic groups whose ancestral lands are at stake.
One argument the Fulani and their supporters have made is that they constitute the meat basket of the country, and therefore, should be granted unbridled access to grazing lands. The Fulani are, in fact, the meat basket of Nigeria, but they cannot fulfil that function by depriving other ethnic groups of their lands. SOKAD suggests that the role of meat basket for the country be expanded and encouraged by local, state, and federal governments to include indigenous farmers who can practice mixed farming, including animal husbandry.
Meanwhile, only those Fulani of Nigerian origin who have interacted or lived with the indigenes for a certain number of years should be allowed to graze, with permission as has always been the case for decades, on indigene lands during their nomadic migrations. The indigenes can identity those Fulani, for the two groups had lived and interacted symbiotically for a long time, until outside forces infiltrated the areas.
Every ethnic group in Nigeria has a spatial place of origin. The Fulani also have a spatial origin in Nigeria. Most of them originated in the upper north. SOKAD reiterates a previous suggestion, that the fertile lands of the upper north be converted to grazing lands and the Fulani be encouraged to change their nomadic lifestyle.
Science and technology can be utilized to solve the problem regarding the nomadic Fulani. Here, we quote, at length, the suggestions from an article published in the Nigeriaworld at: http://nigeriaworld.com/articles/2013/oct/282.html:
“… it is not only Boko Haram that is the scourge of violence in the country, but also the nomadic Fulani who have been infiltrated by elements of Boko Haram, and Al-quada from Mali, Niger and Chad. They have been terrorizing, killing, and maiming farmers, especially in the middle belt states of Plateau, Benue, Nassarawa, and parts of Kaduna state in Southern Kaduna.
“We also need a five-year plan for solving the nomadic Fulani question. The root of the problem is their nomadic lifestyle. Serious consideration should be given to encouraging them to change their lifestyle. It is obsolete and incompatible with the twenty-first century world.
“With increases in population, global warming, and depletion of agricultural land, the country can no longer sustain the lifestyle. If their cousins could give up herding and become Hausa Fulani, they can do the same. But, if they don’t want to, then the federal and state governments would be allowed to subsidize modern animal husbandry for them. A group, SOKAD, has made a very useful proposal on this in its memo opposing the bill on the grazing reserves and routes for the Fulani herdsmen.
“This is not impossible. Many countries have done it. In America for example, each cattle ranger is only “nomadic” on a few thousand acres of land, and yet, they produce enough milk and beef to feed millions. American cattle farmers can produce enough beef and dairy products to feed more than half of the world, if not the whole world. We are no longer living in the nineteenth century. With science, most things, if not all things, are possible.
“The upper north has space and is fertile enough for science to convert the barren desert and semi- desert parts into arable fertile grazing reserves where they can become semi-nomadic and be the meat basket of the country. It is disheartening for nomadism to be politicized, such as in the case with the Fulani nomads in Nigeria. There is no doubt that there is an agenda behind the Fulani ethnic group continuing their nomadic lifestyle. They are being used as a smokescreen for internal colonization.
“The truth about the Fulani nomads is that their number is very few, perhaps just a few million, but yet, they have, in recent times, caused more death and destruction than any ethnic group. However, it needs to be noted that there is no group in Nigeria that has had it so good. The Fulani herdsmen are sacred cows, and not only that, the most privileged and pampered ethnic group. There is a special education for them: Nomadic Education, where schools have been built for them along their nomadic routes. There are ill-conceived and misguided bills in both houses of the National Assembly to create a new bureaucratic and money-siphoning structure called National Reserves and Grazing Routes.
“This special treatment for the Fulani herdsmen will not solve the nomadic Fulani question. There is no price that is too high to change the Fulani lifestyle, even if it means bringing water from the Niger and Benue rivers to the upper north location for pastoral agriculture. Nigeria should and can do it.”
SOKAD suggests that the brutalities committed by the Fulani herdsmen take precedence at the conference, because if the Middle Belt is in turmoil, Nigeria is in turmoil.
Northern minorities have become strangers in their own region
Responsible governments should promote equality of religion, ethnicity, gender, and class for its citizens. Unfortunately, the northern minorities suffer from a lack of equality in all of these aspects. There is no doubt that the northern minorities are a forgotten group; the marginalization of ethnic and religious northern minorities is both historic and current. These groups are in danger of losing their cultural and religious identities, as well as their lands and property. The conference should address, particularly, the following:
Religious discrimination. Northern ethnic minorities are mostly Christians who, together with other Christian minorities (Fulani, Hausa, Kanuri, southern Christians) living in the North, suffer from all forms of religious persecution not only by rogue groups, but also by the state governments that are aided by the federal government.
The federal government has been swayed to believe the ignorance of the misguided south, that the North is a monolithic Muslim and Hausa Fulani region and that it has begun using Nigerian resources to promote Islam over Christianity. Evidence abounds to support this assertion:
The federal government has allowed federal institutions, especially educational institutions, to be proliferated by mosques, to the exclusion of churches, temples, shrines, and so forth. At Ado Bayero University, for example, not a single church exists, and requests for land to build a church have been denied. In another federal institution, Ahmadu Bello University, although a mosque sits on almost every corner of the campus, only two churches are present. One of them was burned down. The remaining one resides in a state of perpetual terror due to the threat of being burned down.
In pandering to Islam, the federal government has established nomadic education and Almagiri education, while none has been offered for the countless non-Muslim youth roaming the streets of major cities in the north.
Sharia governments. Governments in the northern states have also promoted Islam over other religions. Excluding North African nations, there is no one region of Africa that promotes Islam as a state religion, as do several northern Nigerian states. This blatant promotion of one religion and marginalization of others conveys an arrogant disregard for our constitution:
Twelve states in the north are sharia or partial-sharia governments. This violation of the Nigerian Constitution has gone unchallenged, and it is one of the main contributing factors to the northern crisis. This “oversight” has emboldened Islamic fanatics to preach and disparage the “infidels,” and has led the Christians to assert their rights of citizenship and religion.
Most governments in the northern states are violating the Nigerian Constitution’s separation of state and religion with impunity. They are expending state resources to build Islamic schools while denying Christians even a certificate of permission to build theirs.
Muslims are allowed to build mosques in virtually every village and town in the north, while Christians are restricted to certain parts, and in many cases, denied the permission to build churches or Christian institutions.
In the north, a Christian-whether he or she is a Hausa, Fulani, Kanuri, Igbo, Yoruba, or an ethnic minority-is a highly marginalized citizen, due merely to his or her non-Muslim status. In fact, in most northern states, a Muslim from any part of the world has more rights than a northern Christian or a Nigerian.
State educational institutions are Muslim-based. In 1972, for example, the North Central State (now Kaduna state, in part) seized control of all Christian schools-from primary to post primary-and converted them to Muslim schools. These former Christian schools have all been renamed with Muslim and Islamic names. The Church buildings that had resided on the premises have now been walled off and gated from public view; they are no longer accessible by students from the school grounds. The less fortunate churches and their ministers’ houses were gutted. And hundreds of Christians were killed in the process and their property destroyed. On these formerly Christian school grounds, the government has built and is actively building mosques in public view, which are easily accessible by Muslim students from the schools grounds. They are neither walled nor gated, but treated as intrinsically part of the schools, both in conception and use.
SOKAD suggests that the conference insist on an adherence to our constitution regarding the prevention of government from promoting religion. Sharia should be abolished and all religions accorded equal state treatment. All mosques and churches should be removed from school premises; if they must remain, then other religions should also be allowed to build on school grounds, and be funded by the state. Equal permission should be granted to all religions to build their own institutions.
Our national question is, in part, one of citizenship. We should rethink the notion of citizenship. What does it mean to be a Nigerian? No one doubts that the more than 300 ethnic groups in Nigeria are all Nigerians. They are Nigerian citizens by custom, tradition, or birth. Other Nigerians are citizens by naturalization. The root of the ethnic conflicts in our country does not concern the status of being a Nigerian; this issue was settled by our Constitution long ago. Instead, the conflicts revolve around the claim of indigene status, which has been exacerbated by the policy of Federal Character.
The question of who is an indigene and who is a settler is far from settled. It may require a revision to our constitution, so that, as in the US, we would be Nigerian (national) citizens in the purest form of citizenship. We would not be indigenes of a particular geographical area; we would simply be Nigerians.
This task may be daunting because ethnic groups legitimately lay claim to ancestral lands whose ownership dates back to pre-British colonization and is contingent on origin, ancestry, birth, and generational residency. By way of illustration, the Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, Fulani, Berom, Efik, Ham, or Tiv are not in doubt of their places of indigene or the regions to which they claim ancestry. The claim and attachment to an indigene place is so powerful that many will go to war for it. In the north, Usman Dan Fodio Jihad and British colonialism did affect the Hausa claim and attachment, but it could not erode that of ethnic minorities. There has been an attempt since Post Jihad and post colonialism to delegitimize and decouple northern minorities’ claims to ownership of their indigene spaces and claims to land, as evidenced by internal colonizing, hausanizing, Islamizing policies of state, and to some extent, federal governments. As a result, the Middle Belt has witnessed an influx of immigrants from neighboring countries allowed to claim that they are Hausa or Fulani; these immigrants are being given political appointments, and some used in the violence and crisis in the north.
Thus, SOKAD is greatly concerned about the indigene-settler question, which indeed, has manifested itself in the brutal and unfortunate Nigerian civil war, the Tiv war, the Jos crisis, and the current crisis in Southern Kaduna and the Middle Belt.
The indigene-settler question is, invariably, one of residency status. We suggest that the sociological meaning of residency replace settler status and be adequately conceptualized and legitimized in our constitution. Thus, we should have in our lexicon, the terms citizenship, indigenship and residency. We will no longer use the term settler status.
The conference must tackle this indigene-settler issue because it transcends locality, state and region. How else can we emulate other nations by allowing Nigerians the freedom to live, work, and raise families in any part of the country? Fortunately, models are available to help Nigeria solve this issue. In the US, for example, an American is first and foremost a citizen, and secondly, a resident of a particular state. After living and paying taxes in one state for a duration of time (6 months to a year), an American becomes a resident of his or new state, with all the rights and privileges accorded to residents of that state. When he leaves and resides in another state, he forfeits those rights and privileges and adopts those of his new state. Because of this policy, Americans commonly experience several state indigenships (residencies) in a lifetime. It is also common for members of the same family to be indigenes (residents) of different states.
Nigeria is far from reaching the ideal situation that the US enjoys. Our constitution and policies have created the indigene-settler problem we now face, and ours is a different history. Appointments, recruitments into the armed forces, police and security organizations, admissions to schools, political representations, and resource distributions at the federal and state levels are all based on the Federal Character policy. Our lack of an effective immigration policy has opened the flood gates at our borders, especially the northern borders, to waves of aliens from Mali, Chad, Niger, and northern Cameron who are claiming not only Nigerian citizenship, but also indigenship. Ethnic and religious discrimination, insecurity, and lack of freedom to live and work in some parts of the country are so pervasive that some ethnic groups, especially ethnic minorities, are reluctant to attempt to live and work in other places.
Until every Nigerian is free and secure to live in any village, state, or region of their choice, the US model may be difficulty to emulate. For this reason, the indigene-settler issue will remain a national question. But the conference should initiate the process of adopting the U.S model
There should be a comprehensive re-examination of the Federal Character template regarding appointments, school admissions, distributions of resources, and so forth
There should a comprehensive immigration policy to determine citizenship and to admit only eligible aliens.
The rights of all ethnic groups to their ancestral lands should be guaranteed and protected
There should be an assurance of the equality of all people, regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender, and class, in all parts of Nigeria.
All sharia governments should be abolished
A conference of experts and stakeholders be held to examine the need to eradicate the concept of settler and replace it with residency with the view of adopting the U.S. example.
Security and the rule of law
The foundation of a functioning nation and an economically powerful nation is the security of lives and property. Security is contingent on the rule of law. The application of law and justice must be enacted fairly. Nigeria has worthy laws, but the application of them is skewed. Everyone-every ethnic group and every religion-must be equal before the law of the land. Consequently, the application of the law should transcend all social categories: class, religion, ethnicity, and status.
This transcendence can only occur if those in charge of investigation, administration, and punishment in our Criminal Justice System (CJS) and Security Services are men and women of integrity. The federated units that comprise our Criminal Justice System-police, courts, prisons-should be defined, structured, and funded to allow them to work semi-autonomously of each other. When working collectively, they should be devoid of politics, ethnicity, and religion.
SOKAD strongly believes that the application of the law and justice in Nigeria is skewed against ethnic and religious minorities, most so in the north, especially the far north. Nigeria must develop a trustworthy culture of the rule of law without which Nigeria can’t rid the country of its endemic culture of corruption. The should a restructuring of the nation’s Criminal Justice System.
This is the most corrupt of the three units. Three tiers should be established within our police force: federal, state, and local. They should be given four main functions, with explicit jurisdiction and boundaries for each: first response for emergencies, security, and safety situations; crime prevention; criminal investigation; and arrests.
Our judicial system is bloated and expensive. Moreover, having Sharia Court of Appeals is a discrimination against other religions. In general, the average Nigerian has no confidence or trust in our courts. The judges are perceived to be corrupt and highly biased. SOKAD feels that Nigeria should introduce the jury system of trial in order to reduce the power of the judges.
Most importantly, the court system needs to be restructured to eliminate a duplication of functions and jurisdiction and to curb administrative costs. Nigeria spends the greatest portion of its revenue on administration. Government waste could certainly be eliminated from this system. Therefore, SOKAD proposes a reduction from seven courts to five, in the following hierarchical order:
The Supreme Court
The Court of Appeal
The High Court (consisting of a federal court, one for each state)
The Religious Court of Appeal (merging the present two separate courts of Appeal-Sharia and Customary. It should also include an additional Religious Court of Appeal-a Canon Court of Appeal- to be established when necessary).
Lower Courts (consisting of magistrate courts, district courts, area courts, customary courts, sharia courts, and canon courts -the latter can be established when necessary).
This is the third arm of the CJS, and it seems to be the least corrupt. Although poorly funded, it does not pose religious or ethnic concerns for Nigerians. The prison system is a vital part of our national security climate, however, and must be modernized.
Our national question can be summarized thusly: How do we bring Nigeria to the twenty-first century and keep Nigeria united in the face of physical, economic, and social insecurity, as evidenced by the evils of Boko Haram, nomadic Fulani terrorism, political assassinations, and kidnapping, as well as official corruption? The above issues must be addressed by this conference.
The treatment of ethnic and religious minorities is most significant for Nigerian unity, security, and progress. Collectively, ethnic minorities constitute the largest Nigerian population, as they are spread all over the country. It is no wonder that the contemporary Nigerian crises are located in ethnic minorities’ localities. Although fragmented, these people are gradually developing a consciousness and are asserting their rights for political, economic, and cultural participation in the country. In their respective localities, they will no longer be bullied by the ethnic and religious majority. Those in the South are fighting for equitable use of the oil resources that God blessed them with. Those in the lush Savanah grassland of the Middle Belt are resisting land-grabs by the federal government, state governments, and Fulani herdsmen. Ethnic minorities are no longer tolerating discrimination and marginalization. They are up in arms.
This Conference should not ignore the plaints of ethnic and religious minorities. This problem cannot be solved without religious freedom, bringing ethnic nationalities to both local and national tables and respecting the rights of indigenous peoples.
Aminu Likita, MD, MPH, President, SOKAD
Freeman Kamuru, PhD, MD, Secretary- General, SOKAD
Ibrahim A. Maikori, M.Ed, Financial Secretary, SOKAD