…As govt suspends installation of local chiefs
John Adams, Minna
Currently pervades the streets of Minna and other communities of the Minna Emirate Council in Niger State. The cause is the indefinite suspension of the installation of over 200 district heads and village heads by the state government.
Minna Emirate is among the eight emirates in the state, with eight local government councils under it.
Emir of Minna, Alhaji (Dr.) Umar Farouk Bahago, had, in 2016, announced the appointment of 30 district heads and 188 village heads, as well as the replacement of four deceased district heads and 40 deceased village heads in the emirate.
The appointments were approved by the state government in a letter dated March 9, 2016, signed by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Local Government, Chieftaincy Affairs and Community Development, Alhaji Iko Adamu Dauda.
The state government noted in the letter that it would be unable to meet the financial obligations accompanying the appointments due to the state’s financial challenges.
“Similarly, the Emirate Council should also note that it is responsible for the appointment and payment of allowances of ward heads as proposed,” the government added.
The emir and the traditional council of the emirate then fixed Monday, January 1, 2018, for the turbaning of the new chiefs.
The decision has, however, caused acrimony and sharp reactions from some stakeholders in the emirate. A group, Gbagyi Elders Forum, has threatened a showdown with the emir over what its members described as the unilateral decision of the monarch to appoint and turban over 200 district and village heads.
In a letter of protest dated December 18, 2017, addressed to the governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello, the group called on the state government to suspend the installation of the chiefs, claiming that the emir’s action was illegal and unilateral.
The Gbagyi Elders Forum claimed that the appointment of the district and village heads was not in consonance with the custom and tradition of the Gbagyi and did not reflect a through representation of the five districts that make up the Minna Emirate Council. The group said it would resist the emir’s decision and warned that the installation, if allowed to hold, could cause a breakdown of law and order in the emirate.
The group’s spokespersons, Ambassador Zubairu Dada, Alhaji Awaisu Giwa Wanna and Alhaji Abubakar M. Bosso, noted that: “Should the emir fail to accede to the yearnings and aspirations of the people to make the administration of Minna Emirate more inclusive, we plead with the governor to use his good offices to dissolve the Minna Emirate Council as presently constituted and allow the various chiefdoms the autonomy long denied them.”
However, the emir decided that the proposed turbaning of the traditional rulers would go ahead as scheduled on Monday, January 1.
Meanwhile, less than 48 hours to the scheduled ceremony, the state government directed the emir, Dr. Bahago, to suspend the installation. In a statement signed by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Alhaji Akilu Musa Kuta, the government said the suspension was in the interest of peace.
The directive jolted many people across the Gbagyi nation, as many indigenes had gathered in Minna, the state capital, for the historic occasion. In compliance with the governor’s directive, the emir decided to cancel the coronation.
He told the huge crowd that had gathered for the ceremony that the event had been suspended by the Niger State government. Unable to control his emotion, the emir broke down in tears as he appealed to his subjects to remain calm.
Since the suspension of the exercise, there has been growing tension and anxiety within the emirate. Expectedly, the decision did not go down well with some Gbagyi sons and daughters, who have come out strongly to condemn the action. They described the government’s decision as not only unfortunate but a complete disrespect for the emirate.
Some sons of the emirate alleged to be behind the contentious decision of the state government have come under verbal and physical attack in recent times.
A former commissioner for justice and attorney-general of the state, Alhaji Abbas Bello, was last week manhandled and his vehicles vandalised by some youths in the emirate.
The lawmaker representing Niger East Senatorial District, a political leader from the emirate, Senator David Umoru, in his reaction to the development, described the state government’s action as surprising and disheartening. He wondered why the same government that earlier gave the approval for the appointment of the village and district heads would turn round to order the cancellation of the installation of the chiefs less than 48 hours to the ceremony over a petition by “a group of persons whose antecedents are well known to everyone, including the government.”
He regretted that Monday, January 1, 2018, would remain the saddest day for Gbagyi people in Minna Emirate and all over the world.
The lawmaker wondered why the state government would prefer to cancel the exercise in complete disregard of the sensibilities of the Gbagyi nation and what the institution of the Emir of Minna