Now That The FCT Is A State!

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By Austin Maho PhD

If there is one take away from the recent judgment of the Presidential Election Petition Court, otherwise know as the, PEPC, is the recognition of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT as one of the States of the Federation not just an Administration Territory and an appendage of the President’s office.

Delivering judgement, the court ruled that the 25% votes requirement in the FCT, and the interpretation of section 134 (2) A & B by the Labour Party team of Lawyers is completely, “fallacious if not outrightly ludicrous”

The PEPC went further to state that the use of “and” doesn’t imply anything special as submitted by Peter Obi of the Labour Party. The court therefore affirmed that section 134 (2) A & B of the constitution only refers to the FCT as one of the 36 States of the federation.

The consequential effect of the judgement is that residents of the FCT are not superior to Nigerians that live in other parts of the country, just as residents of other parts of the country are not superior to those in the FCT.

The concept of equality of citizenship is the fundamental principle in the court’s decision. It is the basis upon which all other citizenship rights and obligations rest.

In giving vent to this concept of equality of citizens, residents of the FCT are therefore entitled to all rights and privileges especially democratic rights as enjoyed by other citizens in other parts of the country, including rights of equal representation and rights to choose their leaders through democratic means.

It is therefore logical that the FCT must have an elected Chief Executive as obtained in other parts of the country. Furthermore, allocating one senate seat and two house of representative seats to the FCT is discriminatory, an illegality that in no way reflects the concept of equality of citizenship.

Over the years residents of the Territory have canvassed a constitutional amendment for the Territory to have an elected Mayor, who will administer the FCT as the Chief Executive.

In 2021, a constitutional amendment was presented before the National Assembly to change the administrative structure of the Federal Capital Territory to be more reflective of the will of its indegenes and residents.

The bill, sponsored by Dachung Bagos (PDP, Plateau), was to remove the President as the Chief Executive Officer of the FCT and replace him with an elected Mayor, who will administer the FCT as the Chief Executive.

Mr Bagos’ bill was meant to delete sections 301 (a and c) and 302 and introduce a new part II into the constitution so that the FCT can have an elective Mayoralty seat.

However the bill failed to achieve concurence by both chambers of the National Assembly specifically the Senate.

Also vextious is that the legislative powers over Abuja are vested in the National Assembly, which means the power to make law for the FCT, is vested in the National Assembly. This means that outsiders who have no stake in the Territory make laws for residents of the territory. Clearly this is an absurdity. That is why the budget of the FCT is laid before the two chambers of the National Assembly.

Ironically the military administration of Ibrahim Babangida tried to rectify this abberation when he created an elective mayoral seat for the Federal Capital City, in 1989.

The 1989 constitution made this provision together with the powers of the president to superintend over the territory. Article 315 of that constitution provides that “a mayoralty comprising four area councils shall be created for the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, and the administration and structure thereof shall be as provided by an act of the National Assembly..”

Interestingly,an election was conducted into the office but was annulled by Ibrahim Babangida’s regime.

As noted earlier there were spirited efforts in the last constitutional alteration to amend sections 299, 301 and 302 to create the office of a Mayor, however, it was not successful.

There have been and still is strong resentment by the original inhabitants of the FCT and residents to the constitutional provision that makes the FCT a mere appendage of the office of the President, who in turn appoints a proxy to serve as minister.

Since the dawn of this republic the FCT has had seven ministers, none can be said to have represented the interest of residents of the Territory. Three went on to become governors of their respective home state. Ademu Aliero, Elrufai and Bala Mohammed, using their position as FCT minister to launch their political careers and boost their financial war chest. As a appointed administrators like others before and after them they can never hold their loyalty to residents of the Territory. Consequently, having an elected Mayor will be of significant value to all residents of the FCT.

If by virtue of section 299 of the constitution and the extant pronouncement of the PEPC, the FCT is one of the states of the federation, section section 301 which make provision for the president to serve as the administrator and section 302 which empowers him to administer by proxy in the name of a minister should be expunge from the constitution. This is because sections 301 and 302 contradicts the intention of section 299 as aptly demonstrated by the pronouncement of the judges of the PEPC.

Just as residents of the FCT cannot hold veto powers over other Nigerians or be treated specially, the constitution should not
deny residents of the FCT the privilege to elect their chief executive and a legislative assembly in line with their democratic rights and aspiration.

Dr Austin Maho is a public affairs analyst a lecturer and publisher of Daybreak Nigeria Newspaper

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