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Nigeria’s Indebtedness To Igala kingdom




*The Main Issue*
For those who clearly understand pre-colonial Nigeria’s political, social and economic setting, the Federal High Court judgment was not a snake bite or the stinging of bees – they are not in any way shocked. For instance, the Ibo nation is not in denial of their ancient, precolonial relationship with the Igala kingdom, and the imprint is not denied in Anambra State where, up till today, there is a sizeable portion of communities with Igala ancestry. Igbo trader sknew that their routes to access the old Kwararafa kingdom ran through the confluence of Rivers Niger and Benue at Lokoja. The river flows through that space into the Atlantic Ocean. Historical evidence bears the fact that Igala kingdom was founded by two brothers, Igala and Bunda (Kakanda). While Igala was based at Idah, Kakanda had his base at Okuta Ihabe, which was to later become a stone market (Ajaokuta). Today, there is a sizeable population of aboriginal Igala, who are led by Onu Igala at Ajaokuta. His reign is older than that of Ebira traditional head in the area.

Several sources state that the Chronicles of Abuja spoke of the extensive influence of Idah over the Abuja territories – Umaisha, Toto, Koton Karfi, and even Abaji. In their work, Narrative of the Expedition to the River Niger, William Allen and T.R.H. Thompson explained that as at 1841, “The Ata was King of the Igala state, with its capital at Idah, at this time an important commercial centre on the Niger, with historic connexions southwards with Benin and northwards with Nupe.” The authors showed how powerful Attah was in 1841, when His Royal Majesty rejected a gift brought to him by explorers from the Queen of England, and refused an offer to travel by boat to England to meet the Queen to discuss trade relations, saying those were activities that ‘servants’ carried out.

Because the sea was the means of transportation and the link between them and Niger Area, European traders had to establish trade and diplomatic ties with the king in control of the great rivers, and, in that era, the king was Attah Igala. To express the depth of the relationship, the colonialists built a seaport and an airstrip at Idah, the headquarters of the Igala State. Before the Nigerian civil war began in 1967, Idah had a thriving seaport, preferred by European traders to the port at Lokoja. The port had to be closed as a result of bomb attacks from Biafra army. The aerodrome constructed at Idah was put out of use because of the war. For traders from Europe, Idah port was strategic for transporting palm oil and palm kernel from Igbo and Igalaland, on the one hand, and for moving cotton from Hausaland to their continent. Even in the 1960s, Idah was a thriving port city. The government of the late President Umar Musa Yar’adua/Goodluck Jonathan awarded a contract to revive the port, but the project was not completed. In the book, Nigerian Perspectives: An Historical Anthology, by Thomas Hodghin, the author alluded to the fact that Igala kingdom stood erect in comparison with the ancient Benin Kingdom, Oduduwa Kingdom, Hausa Kingdom, and the Bonny’s King Opubu.

In the precolonial era, the political arrangement was more like a confederacy. Confederacy is a political system in which different ethnic communities or peoples come under one authority in order to pursue a common aim. The Kwararafa Kingdom was very large, but it was because other ethnic communities, accepted to come under the reign of the Aku Uka, in order to be protected from enemies who might wage war against them. In this way, the ethnic communities around the confluence came under the umbrella of the Attah whose army was powerful enough to protect them from invaders, including Fulani Jihadists, who had swept through Hausaland to install Fulani emirs in place of traditonal chiefs. The evidence of this military might command by the army of Attah Igala is there for anyone to see – in all the territories around the confluence river, there is no emir or emirate. If the Fulani possesses any political power in this area today, it is simply as a result of modern political arrangements.

The indebtedness. An Igala proverb says “a barren woman does not suffer child bereavement.” If the British had paid up the full sum of 700,000 cowries, nobody would have been nagging about ‘Igala imperialism’ in 2020. No matter how rich a man is, he hardly forgets those who are indebted to him. That is what is playing out in the courts today. Historically, the Quaker Society of London, a missionary organization, which had campaigned against slavery sought to use the land from Ajaokuta to Lokoja as a model farm to halt slave trade. Slaves were taken to Europe to work on plantations. The Quakers argued that it would be better for Africans to, in their own country, plant those crops for which they were enslaved in Europe, and export the produce by sea to Europe, instead of being dehumanized as slaves in foreign lands. Those who want to know more about the Quakers can read up the roles these missionaries played in the fight to halt slave trade. The Queen of Great Britain and Ireland signed the Deed, while a representative of Attah also signed. Though the model farm project thrived for some years, it was thwarted by the activities of Fulani Jihadists who raided the farms. But the colonial government used Lokoja as Nigeria’s first administrative headquarters – without paying up the balance for the land. Incidentally, people from all walks of life came to settle in Lokoja under the new political arrangement, which has subsisted up till the present day.

Unless they have decided to play the ostrich, all traditional institutions in Kogi State are not ignorant of this historical fact. In Igala, there is a proverb which says, “if you own a property but are afraid to claim it, then it is not yours.” Like every government, the institution of Attah is a continuum. The indebtedness to Attah Igala in 1841 is an indebtedness to Attah Igala in 2020. In the same manner, the debt owed by colonial government that gave birth to the current system of government is a debt that hangs on the neck of the Buhari administration. What the court has asked the federal government to pay Attah Igala is a domestic debt. Though the transaction is over 200 years old, a debt is a debt, unless it is negotiated and written off. It is in this sense that Africans are seeking reparation from today’s Europe and America over slave trade that ended almost 200 years ago. In 2020, Namibians are seeking reparation from German government, for material damages and loss of lives that occurred during Germany’s colonial rule from 1884 to 1915. In America, there are deliberate policies to provide reliefs of all kinds to aboriginal Red Indians, who were displaced for modern America to be established.

In contemporary Nigeria, the Land Use Act gives governors control over land, but if such land is being used for projects in the interest of the public, compensation must be paid to the ‘traditional owners’ of such land. So, why must Attah Igala be shot down for seeking the repayment of an old debt? Some traditional institutions want to appeal the Federal High Court judgment. Not exactly because they have a stake; not because Attah is asking them to be evacuated from Lokoja and Ajaokuta. No. Their intention is to do the impossible – alter history, fight the past. May God grant us wisdom to pick the battles we fight.

Abbah wrote this piece from Abuja.

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Nigeria Air: Civil Society Group Tackles NASS



Says Committee Chairman’s declaration amounts to ‘giving the dog a bad name in order to hang it’

A civil society group, The Concerned Civil Society Advocacy Group has taken up the outgoing Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation, Nnolim Nnaji on his recent declaration that the national carrier project was a fraud.

According to the group, the declaration, coming in the wake of the recent exhibition of one of aircrafts of Nigeria Air in Abuja, amounted to “giving the dog a bad name so that it can be hanged”

In a statement to the media in Abuja on Wednesday,and signed by the Group’s National Coordinator, Bako Barkindo and National Secretary, Julius Adaji, it described the sustained plot to ensure the failure of the national carrier project as a disservice to the Nigerian people who stand to benefit from its establishment.

Former Aviation Minister, Senator Hadi Sirika

The Statement read:

“The media has been awash with reports that the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation has declared the national carrier project a fraud after a hastily organised ‘public hearing’ whose outcome was obviously predetermined.
As usual, many gullible Nigerians have been deceived through deliberate misinformation by opponents of the Nigerian Air project who have been masquerading their real intentions as national interest.
Everyone knows what the benefits of a national carrier are, and they include; competitive ticket prices, direct flights to international destinations, national pride etc. We therefore wonder why the concerted efforts by some people to ensure that the project fails.

“As a group that believes that Nigeria deserves a very robust national carrier that is private sector-driven (bearing in mind the issues that led to the death of defunct Nigeria Airways), we have followed the process through which the project had passed, from the appointment of transaction advisers up to the announcement of Ethiopian Airlines as the Strategic partners and other private sector investors before the court injunction obtained by some domestic airline operators. It is therefore surprising that the Chairman, House Committee on Aviation had to come up with such a declaration shortly before the Committee’s tenure ends.

“We are therefore constrained to raise the following questions:
1.Has the Committee chaired by Nnolim Nnaji not been part of the whole process of establishing the airline, or they have been watching from the sidelines, unconcerned with such a flagship project in the sector?
2.Why wait till the wee hours of their departure from the national assembly to hold a make-believe public hearing where the Chairman acted as a sole administrator and did not allow those in charge to make contributions but went ahead to declare the national carrier project a fraud, a position that at variance with that of Senate?
3.Is the Committee not aware of the fact that government equity in the airline is only 5% and the remaining 95% belongs to the strategic partners (Ethiopian Airlines) and other private investors; and that even if government withdraws from the venture, the owners of the 95% will carry on?
4.On the use of the Ethiopian Airlines plane, why didn’t the Committee highlight the 49% ownership of Nigeria Air part of which includes the provision of aeroplanes for take-off?
5.Can the Committee invalidate an Executive Council-approved project that was midwifed by the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) and approved by the President?
6.Why are some members of the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) so vehemently opposed to the national carrier project, if not for the sole purpose of continuous exploitation of air travellers? Should Nigerians be subjected to whims and caprices of these airline operators who have made air transportation in the country unaffordable to the average Nigerian?
7.Why would the Association also claim that they were not carried along in the process when every stage was advertised in most national dailies and some international publications as well as the electronic and social media? Moreover, all the information regarding the airline has been available on websites of the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) and the Ministry of Aviation. Wherein lies the the much-vaunted secrecy?

“As concerned citizens we believe that the establishment of the cational carrier will be of immense benefit to Nigerians with the provision of competitive rates for both domestic and international routes.
It is our belief also that there’s more to this seeming gangup to truncate the project than meets the eye, especially with the close relationship with the major actors in the plot to deprive Nigerians of the inherent benefits.

“We conclude that all the negatives being spread about the Nigeria Air project is only to ‘give a dog a bad name so they can hang it’.

The group appealed to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to ensure the take-off of the airline which,according to them was at that stage before the change of government.

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Jibrin Condemns Destruction of Political Activist’s Hotel in Kogi



Accord Party Candidate in forthcoming gubernatorial election in Kogi State, Admiral Usman Jibrin (rtd) has condemned the attack and wanton destruction of a hotel belonging to a political activist Hon. Kabir Bala aka Okwo’ located at Ejule in Ofu Local Government Area of the state.

Reports have it that the hotel, said to be one of the best in the area, was attacked and completely razed down Wednesday night by people yet to be identified.

Admiral Jibrin in a statement to the media in Abuja, said the attack on the hotel was not only condemnable, but dastardly and unwarranted.

According to the retired Chief of Naval Staff, people should imbibe the spirit of politics without bitterness and eschew the recourse to needless violence in aspiring for positions of power.

He called on the state security apparatus to ensure an urgent and independent investigation and communicate their findings to the public to douse the tension that is building up in Kogi East.

Admiral Usman Jibrin (rtd)
Accord Party Governorship Candidate, Kogi State

The Governorship hopeful, while also calling on the State Governor, Inspector-General of Police and the Department of State Services to quickly take steps to ensure that the electioneering period leading to governorship election is devoid of all forms of criminality.

Admiral Jibrin, popularly called ‘Akpabana’ promised to bring his experience, extensive knowledge of security and universal contacts to bear on ensuring that the people of the state are safe and secure when he takes over the mantra of leadership of the state.

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President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has announced the appointment of Speaker of House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila as Chief of Staff, and Sen. Ibrahim Hassan Hadejia, a former Deputy Governor of Jigawa State, as Deputy Chief of Staff.

Sen. George Akume

A statement by the State House Director of Information, Biodun Olajundoye said President Bola Ahmed Tinubu confirmed the appointment on Friday during a meeting with the Progressives Governors Forum (PGF),

Oladunjoye further stated that the President also named former Governor of Benue State and immediate past Minister of Special Duties, George Akume as the new Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF).


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