by Christiana Gokyo, Jos
PLATEAU STATE – The senator representing Plateau Northern Senatorial District, Senator Istifanus D. Gyang, has says his attention has been drawn to the naming of a Primary School after an individual of Fulani extraction, followed by yet another renaming of Rankum Hamlet in Jol Village, Riyom local government area.
He said, “The decision and action of the SDG Office in the Presidency attracted a petition from the immediate Jol community, which perceived the naming of the school and the renaming of Rankum Hamlet to ‘Mahanga’ as a ploy to legitimize the forceful occupation of the community and bestow ownership of their ancestral lands and homes on the Fulani.
Senator Gyang made this known in a statement signed and issued to newsmen in Jos by Musa Ibrahim Ashoms, who is Special Assistant, Media & Protocol to the Senator.
According to him, he is aware that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) has made ample provisions for national integration and residency rights for all citizens; iIt has also spelt out the duties of citizens.
He said for the avoidance of doubt, the constitution provides in
Section 15 (3) that:
“For the purpose of promoting national integration, it shall be the duty of the State to provide adequate facilities for and encourage free mobility of people, goods and services throughout the Federation; secure full residence rights for every citizen in all parts of the Federation.”
Senator Gyang added that, the Constitution went further to
define the corresponding duties of the citizen in Section 24 where it provides
that: “It shall be the duty of every citizen to respect the dignity of other
citizens and the rights and legitimate interests of others and to live in
harmony and in the spirit of brotherhood; and
MAKE POSITIVE AND USEFUL CONTRIBUTION TO THE ADVANCEMENT, PROGRESS AND WELL-BEING OF THE COMMUNITY WHERE HE or SHE RESIDES,” he stressed.
The Senator said, the intention and intendment of provisions of Sections 15(3) & 24 (c) and (d) of the Constitution quoted above is to foster national unity, integration and cohesion.
Senator Gyang noted that it is not the contemplation of the drafters of the Constitution that citizens, who come to reside in another community in exercise of their right to choice of residency, were to TAKE OVER THOSE COMMUNITIES OR FORCEFULLY DISPLACE AND DISPOSSESS THEIR HOST OF ANCESTRAL LAND AND HOMES FOR PERMANENT OCCUPATION.
He stressed that, “Neither did the Constitution provide for a situation where such citizens would unilaterally or exercise discretion to CHANGE THE NAMES, CUSTOMS AND TRADITIONS of their host communities, which are also rights recognized by international instruments of which Nigeria is signatory to.
“Such attitude and disposition certainly negates Section 24 (d) of the Constitution, which requires citizens seeking new places of abode outside their ancestral homes to seek the good, progress and well-being of their new places of abode and add value to the host community.
“It is, therefore, instructive to situate the decision and action of the Sustainable Development Goals Office in the Presidency within the confines of the law, foremost being the clear provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended),” he noted.
“The SDG Office is part of the State, being the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which the Constitution has charged with the responsibility of upholding and enforcing the provisions of Sections 15 (3) & 24 (c) and (d) of the Constitution,” he said.
According to him, “The building of the school by the SDG Office satisfies Section 15 (3) (a) of the Constitution and is, therefore, a welcome and commendable development.
“However, THE NAMING OF THE SCHOOL AFTER AN INDIVIDUAL and the RENAMING OF THE PLACE WHERE THE SCHOOL IS SITUATE is where the controversy lies,” he stressed.
The Constitution has defined the powers of the Federal, States and Local Governments in Part 1 & 11 of the Second Schedule and the Fourth Schedule, respectively.
He said, “The local governments are constitutionally empowered to undertake, among other functions, the following: Naming of roads and streets and numbering of houses; the provisions and maintenance of primary, adult and vocational education.
“Where the federal government intervenes – as in the instant case, building a school by the SDG Office – the Constitution does not vest it with the power to name the school after an individual or change the name of the place where the school is situated. Such an action, therefore, would be ultra virus, as it is not within the purview of the SDGs Office,” said Senator Gyang.
He warned that, “To avoid unnecessary controversy, therefore, the SDG should restrict itself to the good intention and intervention of providing facilities, including primary schools, and allow the appropriate tier of government – in this case, the local government – to exercise jurisdiction over naming of schools as sanctioned by the Constitution.
“Doing so will engender citizens’ integration and communal harmony in an axis that is in dire need of reconciliation and restoration of lasting peace.”
Senator Gyang urged that, “The SDG should in addition to building the school, take steps to assist the Jol community in its quest at resettlement and reconstruction. This will go a long way in instilling citizens’ confidence in government and engender national integration, cohesion and unity.”