Ohia Israel examines the prolonged crises on the Plateau over who holds sway, following findings by a Belgium-based international conflict resolution outfit, that Governor Jang and his cohorts are not helping matters in the indigene-settler conflict
The crisis in the Plateau, which has been on for about 13 years now, has continued unabated with little or no effort to curb it. However, a conflict resolution organization based in Brussels, Belgium – the International Crisis Group (ICG), an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organisation committed to preventing and resolving deadly conflicts, has come out in its latest report in December 2012, largely blaming Governor Jang and a few others for fueling the violence.
Founded in 1995, ICG focuses on conflict prevention and resolution with unique combination of field-based analysis, practical policy prescriptions and high-level advocacy. In its report titled ‘Curbing Violence In Nigeria: The Jos Crisis’, the group came out clean, blaming those it said needed to be blamed and recommended solutions for the troubled state.
According to the group, since the year 2001 when the violence erupted in Jos the Plateau State capital, the causes of the violence is nothing less than the “rights” of the indigene Berom/ Anaguta/Afizere (BAA) group and the rival claims of the Hausa-Fulani settlers to land, power and resources.
“The reason for the Jos crisis is the result of failure to amend the constitution to privilege broad-based citizenship over exclusive indigene status and ensure that residency rather than indignity determines citizens’ rights.
“Constitutional change is an important step to defuse indigene-settler rivalries that continue to undermine security. It must be accompanied by immediate steps to identify and prosecute perpetrators of violence in Jos and other parts of the country.” stated the group.
The group believes that “elites at local, state and federal level must also consistently implement policies aimed at reducing the dangerous link between ethnic belonging and access to resources, power and security if inter-communal violence is to end.” It went further to say that the indigene principle, or indignity (that is, local origin), means that some groups control power and resources in states or local government areas (LGAs) while others – who have migrated for different reasons – are excluded, always gives rise both to grievances and fierce political competition, which too often lead to violence.
One other issue outlined by the group is that, “indignity was given constitutional force at Independence in 1960 to protect the ethnic minorities from being submerged by the larger Hausa-Fulani, Igbo and Yoruba groups and preserve their cultural and political identities and traditional institutions of governance.
“For the purpose of promoting national integration, it shall be the role of the State to secure full residence rights for every citizen in all parts of the Federation. The Nigerian state has not ensured implementation of this provision. Experts have suggested that residency, rather than indignity, should become the determining factor of citizenship. Section 25 (1) (a) declares as citizens of Nigeria “every person born in Nigeria before the date of Independence, either of whose parents or any of whose grandparents belongs or belonged to a community indigenous to Nigeria”.
The modalities for such a determination are nowhere spelt out and the constitution offers little clarity. Its main emphasis is on “ethnic groups” and “states”.
Consequently, article 14 (3) stipulates that “the composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or any of its agencies”.
ICG believes that the Federal Character Commission (FCC), created and mandated by the constitution to ensure strict adherence to the federal character principle, first used the phrase “indigenes of each state” at the federal level, thereby contradicting the citizenship provisions.
The constitution mentions protecting Nigerian citizens, not indigenes of states or local councils. Despite the attempt of Section 42 to protect Nigerians from “any disability or because the 1999 constitution uses the term “indigene” but does not precisely define it, “internal citizenship remains a dispute disuse that fuels local violence all over the country, most notably in the Middle Belt.
“The conflicts are often very bitter precisely because privileges and entitlements are nearly a zero-sum game; the gain of one group is the loss of the other because, across Nigeria, scarce resources generate fierce competition. In a political economy largely dominated by huge but highly centralised oil revenues controlled by very often corrupt and unaccountable political elites in the three tiers of government (federal, state and local), one has to belong to an indigenous community to access them. Those who cannot – referred to as either “settlers”, “stateless citizens” or “stateless indigenes” – and do not qualify to be issued with “certificates of indignity” are victimised not only by the state government but also by local councils, where discrimination against non-indigenes is increasingly the norm.
“The certificate of indignity is weighty and those without it are deprived of meaningful citizenship. The actual number of those affected is not known, but all of them are considered as non-indigenes or settlers. They suffer discrimination in recruitment into federal institutions, admissions to most of the federal universities and education at military academies. At sub-federal levels, where the practice is most rife, they are denied access to schools, healthcare, roads and academic scholarships and are discriminated against in access to jobs. Finally, the door to participation in local politics is virtually shut against them.”
Also according to the report “Certificates of indignity (or indigene certificates) qualify holders or recipients for material and social citizenship, including easy access to schools, health care, academic scholarship, jobs, and state and federal political appointments. Those without these certificates have little or no access to these entitlements.
“Even though much of the discrimination against hiring non indigenes in the public sector (mainly on contractual, non-permanent bases) is a recent phenomenon, and not mandated by official employment policies, it is becoming an entrenched practice. In Plateau and Kano States, respectively in 2000 and 2002, most non-indigenous employees were sacked. Explanations provided by the state governments included “the debilitating effects of Nigeria’s long history of economic decline” and “a necessary response to rising levels of unemployment”.
These states and many others openly violate their recruitment laws. The process of procuring a certificate of indignity is fraught with unpredictability and patronage, if not outright corruption. Local officials and district heads determine who is an indigene.
The federal and state governments handed over the responsibility to them in violation of the spirit of the constitution, but they rarely take into account that the definition of an indigene is far from static,” the report stated. As gathered from the report, it also stated that; “because of the countrywide indigene-settler question, inter-communal conflicts tend to take on national character and expression. Various initiatives by the federal government, such as the 2004 Plateau Peace Conference, have failed to end the settler-indigene dispute because it is more of a national than a state issue” and could be best resolved. If the citizenship of all Nigerians is accepted, the Niki Tobi Commission of Inquiry into the 2001 violence has argued, “Indigeneship is a thorny problem in the sociology and culture of Nigeria as it said that it causes perennial problems in our polity. Crises are experienced regularly in the country as a result of problems of indigeneship” “Virtually all inter-communal conflicts have been centered on, and originated from, Jos North, the biggest, richest and most contentious LGA in Plateau State. Its creation was a watershed in the politics and governance of Jos city. Created at the insistence of the Hausa-Fulani community in Jos, the exercise, by design or default, fundamentally altered the city’s political equation in two major ways. “Indigenous peoples were no longer the most populous in Jos North and they no longer had total control over the palace of their paramount leader, the Gbong Gwom, located in the heart of Jos city. The decision also gave the settlers the space for group expression that they had always clamoured for. The local council’s creation came at a huge cost. Relations between the indigenes and settlers became increasingly strained and latent tension was awakened and, over time, became unduly politicised”, the group further stated. “Things began to move out of hand when Joshua Dariye became Plateau governor in 1999 and 2003 and Frank Bagudu Tardy in 1999 as the Jos North Local Council chairman. Both of them are from the BAA community. There were three major differences with the 1994 crisis: for the first time, religious or sectarian rhetoric and identity. The use of religion as smokescreen is also secondary factor, which reinforces underlying tension and, over the years, has assumed greater importance, especially since the return of democracy in May 1999. The persistent settler-indigene conflict in Plateau State reflects the longstanding sense of grievance the BAA, including a small Muslim community among them; continue to nurse against their perceived treatment as second-class citizens by the Hausa-Fulani. The predominantly Christian Middle Belt, famous for its history of bitter struggle against attempts by the Muslim-dominated Far North to subjugate it, understands the citizenship malaise better than any other region. Conversely, the Hausa-Fulani claim that they, not the BAA, are the authentic indigenes of Jos and have been aggrieved about their lack of access to power and resources despite being the majority in the biggest of the LGAs, Jos North. Because the settlers are almost entirely Muslim and the indigenous people predominantly Christian, struggle over land ownership, economic resources and political control tend to be expressed not just in ethnic but also religious terms. The dispute is compounded by the fact that, of the settler groups, only the Hausa-Fulani lay proprietary claim to Jos. Going further, the report also said “responses from local and national authorities have proven mostly ineffective as they have come in three ways; first, several judicial commissions of inquiry have been appointed to get to the root of the crises’ and recommend lasting solutions. “But authorities have been slow in publishing reports and acting on their recommendations, while it also said that tough public speeches have not been translated into tangible political action against instigators and perpetrators: none of the suspects named by the various commissions have been prosecuted, and impunity continues to feed violence.” Furthermore, the report noted that “the second response is police and military action, which has had little success. Security forces not only fail to share intelligence among themselves, they are also suspected of taking sides in the conflict and soldiers are accused of trading guns for money. The third approach, Operation Rainbow (OR), a joint initiative since June 2010 between the federal government and the Plateau State government with support from the UN Development Programme (UNDP), considered a holistic response to the crisis is still in its infancy. According to the report Operation Rainbow appears useful but will only be effective if it can, at the minimum, win the confidence of both sides and pundits believe it should be publicised at the grassroots so that the population can own it. The struggle over the right of ownership to access land and resources has been a major driver of conflict in Jos. Both groups – the BAA and the Hausa-Fulani – have sought to preserve their cultural autonomy, cultivate close relations between their community and the land, have affirm grip on their traditional institutions and be in charge of development, politics and the economy. A combination of factors – economic, political and identity – has instigated violence over the years, producing segregation in the city mainly along ethnic lines, stated the report. Identity – through ethnic citizenship – is an instrument for granting indigenes access to economic and political resources from which non-indigenes are excluded. Because the Hausa-Fulani are almost entirely Muslim and the BAA predominantly Christian, whenever a political crisis erupts, the ownership struggle tends to be expressed in religious terms. Yet, such violence is a smokescreen for disputes over “such issues as citizenship, group and individual rights and communal distribution of public resources, which boil down to competition over power and resources. According to the report “Joshua Dariye, a Mushere, one of the smaller ethnic groups in the state (from the Bokkos LGA), was elected in 1999 and 2003. He promised the Hausa-Fulani political inclusion, but appeared to have ignored their citizenship rights and claims and attempted to indigenise all major positions. He allowed settler representatives to sit on the Jos North council’s caretaker committee but did not hold local government elections, preferring to appoint sole administrators to run the councils.”