Nigeria: Judgment delivered in constitutional challenge to indigene-settler divide

Published: 17/Déc/2011
Source: Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA), Banjul

Judgment in the case of Adamu Garba and 20 Ors v Federal Attorney General of Nigeria and 13 Ors was delivered on December 16, 2011 by Hon. Justice Mohammed Lawal Shuaibu of the Federal High Court in Kaduna.

In his judgement, Justice Shuaibu struck out the case relying on the following four (4) main reasons:

  1. That no specific claim was made against the 1st and 2nd Respondents (The Federal Government and the Federal Character Commission respectively).
  2. That the indigene/settler divide is outside the purview of Chapter 4 and Section 251 of the 1999 Constitution as well as the Fundamental Rights Enforcement (Procedure Rule) 1991.
  3. That the Federal High Court Kaduna has no jurisdiction to deal with claims arising outside the limits of the territorial jurisdiction of the court.
  4. That the Applicants’ main affidavit was based on the Oaths Act 1990 which was repealed.

Adamu Garba and 20 other Nigerian citizens sued the Federal Government of Nigeria and 13 state and local governments for discrimination caused by the indigene/settler divide. Claiming their right to protection from discrimination, the 21 persons urged the Federal High Court in Kaduna to enforce their constitutional rights. They sued the Federal Government, the Federal Character Commission, Plateau, Kaduna, Kano and Katsina states, and Jos North Local Government Area (LGA), Shendam LGA, Kaduna South LGA, Giwa LGA (Kaduna), Fagge LGA (Kano), Kumbotso LGA (Kano), Nassarawa LGA (Kano) and Tarauni LGA ( Kano).

The complainants challenged their arbitrary classification as “settlers” or “non-indigenes” by their respective states. This government practice denied them their fundamental human rights under Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution and African and international human rights law. They are asking the Federal High Court to order the full recognition and respect of their rights, and those of all Nigerians suffering similar discrimination.


The Federal Character Principle is enshrined in s. 147 (3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999. However well-intentioned, in a multi-ethnic setting like Nigeria, the Principle has been unnecessarily expanded and distorted, allowing for politicisation of the question of who is considered “indigene” of a State or Local Government Area in Nigeria. Further, classifications of “indigeneity” and issuance of “indigene certificates” have resulted in preferential and sometimes exclusive access to rights and services ordinarily due to all citizens. As a result, Nigerians who are classified as “non-indigenes” or “settlers” are marginalised and excluded in ways that have nothing to do with the aims of preservation of cultural identity and autonomy envisioned by the Federal Character Principle.

The discriminatory treatment meted out to “non-indigenes” has deep historical and socio-political underpinnings, and is probably the most sensitive subject in Nigeria’s public life. It has contributed to a cycle of violence in certain states and is of earnest national security concern for Nigeria. As such, if not resolved, it can threaten the very social fabric of Nigeria.

“Non-indigenes” are discriminated against and are denied rights, opportunities and benefits, including:

  1. educational opportunities and benefits;
  2. employment opportunities and benefits;
  3. access to public and military service;
  4. property ownership and allocation;
  5. government infrastructure and services such as roads, water and schools; and
  6. political participation and opportunities.

The discriminatory treatment faced by “non-indigenes” defeats the idea of integration which should help in moulding society and strengthening the “One Nigeria” belief.

The Applicants are not satisfied with the reasoning and issues relied upon by the Judge in striking out the suit. They have therefore requested their legal team to study the judgment and advice on the options available in the circumstances.

Themes: Discrimination, Pièces d'identité, Citoyenneté interne, Ethnique/Raciale/Religieuse
Regions: Nigeria
Year: 2011