CSOs Bemoan Effect of FCT Council Workers Strike on Inhabitants

...Seek Quick Resolution of Impasse

By Edward Adamidenyo, Abuja Bureau Chief

A coalition of civil society organizations advocating for the rights of the Original Inhabitants of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) has bemoaned the effects of the lingering strike on inhabitants of the nation’s capital.

These industrial actions by the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) and that of the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) have a direct effect on the basic rights of Original Inhabitants of the Nation’s Capital. As a cohort, we call for a speedy resolution of the issues that led to these strikes.

A statement on Sunday signed by Nine members of the Cohort on Promoting the Rights of the Original Inhabitants in the FCT noted that resolving these issues with immediate effect will accord Original Inhabitants and other residents in the FCT continued enjoyment of key social services, which have been shut down since the disputes began. This statement is jointly signed by ALL nine members of the Cohort, with a call to all actors to heed the fact that by their actions and refusal to find lasting solutions, the basic rights of FCT Original Inhabitants; such as the right to quality basic education and healthcare services, are currently being denied.

The groups are Abuja Original Inhabitants Youth Empowerment Organization, Abiodun Essiet Initiative for Girls, Centre for Environmental Sustainability & Development Awareness and Socio-Economic Research and Development Centre.

Others are HipCity Innovation Center, Mairo Women Foundation, Centre for Transparency Advocacy, Association of FCT Traditional Rulers Wives and Helpline Foundation for the Needy

The CSOs stated that since the strike by the Nigeria Union of Teachers began in January, public primary schools across the Area Councils have been closed resulting in a direct negative impact on the education of their children.

According to them, “Many parents cannot afford to send their children to private schools, rely on the public school system which has now come to a complete halt. The downing of tools by the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees over alleged non release of Area Council allocations by the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), has further compounded the plight of FCT Original Inhabitants. Because of the industrial action, key functions of the local governments, especially related to healthcare delivery at the grassroots and the prevention or curtailing of the spread of diseases has been put in abeyance.

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It is important for all to note that given the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the lives and livelihoods of Original Inhabitants, it is paramount that critical social services are not curtailed and that they continue to be provided in better quality and quantity. These strikes have a direct and disruptive effect on the lives of people already affected by the pandemic. This Cohort is currently implementing a two-year project focused on promoting the rights of the Original Inhabitants in the FCT”.

The groups said they recognize ongoing efforts and recent steps towards reforms and citizen’s engagement by the Ministry of the Federal Capital Territory. These include town hall meetings, registration of land compensation claims and the setting up of new models for governance within the territory.

The organizations expressed frustration that the authorities will allow industrial disputes to fester and undermine its otherwise commendable efforts at governance reform and citizen engagement.

They cautioned that if the situation is not quickly addressed, it could further worsen the plight of FCT Original Inhabitants who are already suffering from decades of historic marginalization and economic dislocation. The called for sustained efforts by the authorities to speedily resolve the issues at stake and restore normalcy to the governance of the Area Councils.

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