The Resource Centre for Human Rights & Civic Education (CHRICED) has trained media practitioners on effective and impactful reporting on issues of indigenous people in Nigeria.
According to the World Bank: “Indigenous Peoples are distinct social and cultural groups that share collective ancestral ties to the lands and natural resources where they live, occupy or from which they have been displaced.
“The land and natural resources on which they depend are inextricably linked to their identities, cultures, livelihoods, as well as their physical and spiritual well-being.”
Delivering his welcome statement at the event which was held on Monday and Tuesday at Corinthia Villa Hotel & Suites, Abuja, Comrade Dr. Ibrahim M. Zikirullahi, Executive Director of CHRICED said the training was especially capped on the media because of its importance in agenda setting and nation-building in any society.
He said Section 22 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) made it clear that the media has a historic duty. In that section, it says, “The Press, radio, television, and other agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people.
“It is important to note that Section 17(1), which says that “the State social order is founded on the ideals of freedom, equality, and justice”, is an important part of the constitution’s fundamental goals.”
Dr. Zikirullahi said the stories and day-to-day lives of the original inhabitants don’t show that our country is committed to “freedom, equality, and justice.”
The Original Inhabitants of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT OIs), whose ancestral lands were taken to make room for our capital city, are a good example of this claim.
“FCT OIs have made a lot of sacrifices for Nigerian unity over the past 40 years, but the promise of “freedom, equality, and justice” in the constitution has been a pipe dream and a mirage for them.
“Instead, the paradox is that these peace-loving people, who gave up a lot to give our country a place worthy of a capital city, are now left to regret and suffer because of their patriotic disposition. Today, not only are the Original Inhabitants in the FCT landless, but they have also become economically deprived, just as their culture stands the risk of going into extinction.”
“Our role is to support the Press to be able to effectively and impactful narrate this story of serious injustice, not only to the national audience within Nigeria but also to the international community. The first step towards supporting the media in this regard is this two-day training.”
In his brief remarks, the Africa Director of the MacArthur Foundation, Dr. Kole Shettima said the issue of the rights of the FCT OIs is very important, especially the role of the media to report the violations of indigenous rights in Nigeria.
The media have been recognized as the fourth estate by the constitution means that it is critical and very important to have a vibrant, independent to hold government accountable.
“This conversation is about journalism in defense of the rights of the indigenous people who are here in Abuja.
“To hold government accountable is critical and important because the best benevolent democracies depend on independent and strong media, without which holding those in authority accountable may be impossible as the best of them will slide back in certain ways that are not right.”
He added that currently, MacArthur supports over 45 organizations in the media ecosystem in Nigeria to drive anti-corruption and accountability in governance.
Earlier, in his goodwill message, the Director of Journalists for Democratic Rights (JODER) Mr. Adewale Adeoye said the efforts of CHRICED can be one of the significant contributions to the resolution of conflicts and violence that seems to dominate the political space in Nigeria.
“I believe after this conference we will be thinking of a national conflict of indigenous people themselves because it is a major issue all over the world,” he added.
On his part, Prof. Lucky Akaruese of the Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Humanities, and the University of Port Harcourt said being at the workshop has brought him to the reality of the pains of the original inhabitants of FCT.
He said the OI of FCT has been permanently denied of their rights to culture and tradition….how do you expect them to sing the national anthem, he asked?
In her remarks, Ms. Ibiba Don Pedro the publisher of the National Point shared the plight of the indigenous people of Ijaw in Finima who were relocated from their community (Finima) for the construction of the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas structure; up to January 2022, they were protesting.
Also, the Executive Director of Abuja Original Inhabitants Youth Empowerment Organization (AOIYEO), Mr. Isaa’c David appreciated CHRICED and the MacArthur Foundation, participants, and the resource persons.
He said the plight of the original inhabitants of the FCT is not meant for them alone because we all live here together; if there is violence in the FCT, it will affect everybody.
“So, it is a very good thing for all of us to put our hands together and fight this common injustice.
“The thinking by the Federal Government that what happened in Lagos may repeat itself if the rights of the original inhabitants of FCT are given is not correct,” he added.
Experts from the media and academia presented and discussed different topics and issues of the original inhabitants of Nigeria.
Ms. Ibiba Don Pedro on “The Role of Media in the Struggle of Indigenous Women in Nigeria: Case of FCT Original Inhabitants and the Niger Delta.”
Prof. Lucky Akaruese, University of Port Harcourt, and former President of the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights (CDHR) spoke on “Effective Strategies for Developing a National Framework for the Advancement of Indigenous Issues in Nigerian Media Space.”
The Director of the International Press Centre (IPC), Comrade Lanre Arogundade discussed “Politics, Media, and the Plight of Indigenous People in Nigeria.”
Comrade Wale Adeoye, the Executive Director of JODER presented a paper on “The Role of Media in Promoting International Instruments for Sustainable Development and Empowerment of Indigenous Peoples in Nigeria.”
The high point of the training was the development of story ideas around reporting indigenous resilience in the context of civil and political rights, knowledge systems in the context of economic and cultural rights, human angle reporting of gender, equity, and social inclusion (GESI), and the original inhabitants’ story in the context of conflict sensitivity and peacebuilding.
CHRICED is implementing a two-year project on ‘Promoting the Rights of the Original Inhabitants in the FCT’ with the support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
The project aims to support and strengthen the advocacy, voice, and organizational development of the FCT’s Original Inhabitants. The project is part of the MacArthur Foundation’s response to the crises of the COVID-19 pandemic and racial inequity.