FCT Original Inhabitants Have Been Marginalised – NGO

FCT Original Inhabitants Have Been Marginalised – NGO

Blessing Otobong-Gabriel

Non-Governmental Organisation, NGO, Abiodun Essiet Initiative for Girls said despite their enormous assets and contribution to the society, indigenous women still suffer from multiple discrimination.

According to the organisation, they are subjected to extreme poverty, trafficking, illiteracy, lack of access to ancestral lands, non-existent or poor health care and violence in the private and public sphere.

Executive Director of the NGO, Abiodun Essiet disclosed this to mark the International Day of World Indigenous Peoples with the theme ‘Issues Affecting Original Inhabitant Women of the FCT.’

Essiet stated that the marginalisation of the original inhabitants of the FCT is evident in their everyday life and even more among vulnerable groups.

“Aside area councils where the original inhabitants get most of the elective positions, they are sparsely represented in appointive positions in the Federal Capital Territory Administration and not even represented in the federal cabinet unlike other states of the federation. It is even worse for indigenous women as they are the minority of the minority in politics and governance,” she said.

According to her, this violence is exacerbated when indigenous communities find themselves in the midst of conflict and women become the target of violence with political motives when going about their daily work, fetching wood or water for the family.

She said indigenous women of Abuja have suffered socio-economic and political neglect since the capital of Nigeria was moved from Lagos to Abuja, and their ancestral lands, which were their major source of income, as they depend on farming to earn a living, were taken from them.

“These women had to bear the brunt of the pain of societal issues and gender bias, with vulnerability given the extent of statutory rights and other forms of discrimination that often apply in relation to gender. From the brunt of demolition to the socio-economic marginalization and political right entrenchment of original inhabitants of the FCT, the women have been most affected by these issues.

“A world were social services are not equally distributed breeds inequity. But for the original inhabitants of the FCT, especially women, inequity from lack of access to basic amenities like efficient health care service is their daily reality.

‘‘The only source of clean water for most of the rural indigenous communities is a borehole donated to them or built by government. These boreholes usually go bad partly due to lack of routine maintenance or for being poorly executed. So, often, they resort to trekking long distance to fetch water from streams and rivers which are usually contaminated.’’

Access to quality healthcare for every resident of Abuja is still a struggle for the FCT administration. The impact of this is felt mostly by rural, hard to reach communities which are mostly occupied by the original inhabitants. Even where functional health facilities are available to indigenous communities, many cannot afford their services and do not have access to health insurance. As a result, stories of preventable deaths, especially from pregnancy related complications, are common in these communities.

“As we mark this year’s United Nations International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, the burden is on us all to speak truth to power and raise awareness on issues affecting the original inhabitants of the FCT, especially women, who are among the most marginalized and discriminated group of people in the world,” she added.

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