December 10, 2023
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Harnessing media potential to redress violations of indigenous peoples’ rights

By Sunday Aikulola

Publisher, National Point, Ibiba Don Pedro; Executive Director, International Press Centre (IPC), Lanre Arogundade and Executive Director, Journalists for Democratic Rights (JODER), Adewale Adeoye were among stakeholders who recently raised the need to harness power of the media in seeking redress for violations of indigenous peoples’ rights.

They spoke at a two-day training for media practitioners on effective and impactful reporting on indigenous issues in Nigeria held in Abuja. The training was organised by Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education, (CHRICED), JODER and IPC with the support of John D and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

All over the world, indigenous peoples have lived for generations being the first to occupy a particular territory. They are called the first Nation. While they can be found all over the world, where human habitation is possible, many indigenous peoples have been lost to time and history and are struggling to protect their identities expressed in the form of language, culture, civilisations, indigenous knowledge and philosophies, which they wish to preserve even in the face of threats.

According to the United Nations, indigenous peoples face significant obstacles in performing their traditional occupations and accessing decent work opportunities, education, and social protection; indigenous peoples are nearly three times as likely to be living in extreme poverty compared to their non-indigenous counterparts; and more than 86 per cent of indigenous peoples globally work in the informal economy, compared to 66 per cent for their non-indigenous counterparts.

In Nigeria, it is believed post-colonial state sustained a pattern of balkanisation. The emergence of local, state and national authorities hold firmly the reign of power and authority with little or no consultation with indigenous people on how the states and boundaries were conceived.

In her presentation, Don Pedro, who spoke on: ‘The Role of the media in the struggle of indigenous women in Nigeria: Case of FCT-Abuja original inhabitants and the Niger Delta,’ noted that journalists should focus on environmental rights and climate responsive actions, investigative journalism, data journalism, agenda setting and human rights journalism.

Speaking on: ‘The Role of the Media in Promoting International Instruments for Sustainable Development and Empowerment of Indigenous Peoples in Nigeria,’ Adeoye observed that there is lack of connectivity between media reports and the rights of indigenous people as defined by international laws, treaties and conventions.

He noted the media treat indigenous issues as footnotes, adding indigenous issues such as language, customs and traditions are perceived as mere art and life stories, which ignore the intrinsic link with socio-political and economic survival of the people.

He also observed the following: Journalists sometimes substitute their own consciousness and subjective thinking with the consciousness and objective reality of the subjects they report; media reports sometimes fail to locate indigenous rights within historical context; indigenous issues are often overshadowed by corporate interests and the profit of multi-national companies; the use of clichés in couching indigenous issues satisfies only the expectations of the state; clichés like ‘banditry’, ‘anti-state elements’, ‘hoodlums’ are employed to undermine critical issues of exclusion expressed by indigenous peoples-even if in a violent for- agitating for justice.

Journalists should focus on environmental rights and climate responsive actions, investigative journalism, data journalism, agenda setting and human rights journalism.

Don Pedro

Other observations include: Control and manipulation of publicly owned media by the federal and state governments, thereby, depriving indigenous peoples’ equitable access, inability to balance the interest of indigenous peoples with the exploitative tendencies and exploitation of corporate institutions and inadequate access by indigenous peoples to the mainstream.

To this end, he stressed the need to build a network of journalists on indigenous issues, with the aim of training on reporting conflict, climate change, peace building and conflict prevention.

He added that indigenous peoples should also create their own stories using modern technology that can be accessed through the social media. Arogundade, who spoke on: “Politics, media and the plight of indigenous people in Nigeria” said journalists should make issues of indigenous people social responsibility by engaging in developmental, inclusive, credible and sensitive journalism.

In his presentation, Prof. Lucky Akaruese of Department of Philosophy University of Port Harcourt spoke on: “Effective Strategies for Developing a National Framework for the Advancement of Indigenous Issues in Nigerian Media Space.”

He observed that 1914 amalgamation brought respective indigenous groups under the umbrella of the Nigerian state, thereby, fostering on them the alien values of coloniality including colonial inherited social, economic, technological and political models, thus distorting respective indigenous models.

He advised media practitioners to urge government at all levels to embark on massive education, specially designed to educate indigenous peoples to realise the need for mutual co-existence among themselves, and with others; which will require the dropping of such ideas that are adversarial in nature.

In his welcome address, Executive Director, CHRICED, Ibrahim Zikirullahi, disclosed that a visit to Abuja Original Inhabitant communities, just a few hours’ drive from the beautiful Abuja City Centre, would expose the filthy underbelly of the people’s deprivation, and reveal the reality of communities lacking functional health and educational facilities, deplorable roads, potable water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities.

Consequently, he said the Original Inhabitants (OIs) have done everything possible over time to bring attention to the obvious discrimination and pervasive injustices they face, but subsequent governments have turned deaf ears.

To him, even the judgments of the courts, including the Supreme Court of Nigeria in favour of the OIs have all been ignored. He noticed: “The lack of representation in the core governance structures responsible for service delivery worsens the reality of the Abuja OIs. And unlike other Nigerian citizens in various states who have the right to vote for a Governor and a State House of Assembly, Abuja OIs are denied such right. In fact, as Nigeria counts down to the 2023 general elections, the democratic process itself is a painful reminder of the marginalisation and exclusion of FCT Original Inhabitants.”

He added that in response to the discrimination, exclusion, and violation of fellow countrymen and women’s rights, CHRICED designed and began implementation of the two-year project of ‘Promoting the Rights of the Original Inhabitants in the FCT’ with the support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

He said the project aims to support and strengthen the advocacy, voice, and organisational development of the FCT’s Original Inhabitants. He assured: “CHRICED, alongside the IPC and JODER, is convinced that this story of injustice, exclusion and marginalisation has to be told in a way that can help redress the violations suffered by the Original Inhabitants. As such, our role is to support the Press to be able to effectively and impactful narrate this story of serious injustice, not only to the national audience within Nigeria, but also to the international community.”

Culled: The Guardian

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