BY HENRY TYOHEMBA, Abuja
The Emir of Potiskum, Alhaji Umaru Bubaram, has kicked against the transfer of ownership of the abandoned old prison Emirate Council by the federal Ministry of Interior to the Fika Emirate Council.
Bubaram made the objection in a letter addressed to the National Human Rights Commission and copied to His Excellency, Mai Buni, the governor of Yobe State, the Hon speaker, Yobe State House of Assembly, Damaturu, the Commissioner of Police, Yobe State Command and the state Director, State House Annex, DSS Yobe State.
The letter also copied His Excellency, the vice President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Senate President, National Assembly Complex, the Nigeria Police Force, Director General, Department of State Security Service, the Director General, Mallam Ahmed Rufai, National Intelligence Agency Presidential wing, Gen Muhammed Monguno, National Security Adviser to the president, the Chief Commissioner, Public Complaint Commission and the Director General, National Commission For Museums and Monuments (NCMM).
He said, “I write, on behalf of Pataskum Emirate Council and the entire people of Pataskum Emirate to request for your kind intervention to protect our cultural rights in the matter of the release of Potiskum Old Prison premises by the Federal Ministry of Interior to the Fika Emirate Council as conveyed vide letter Ref .No
FM/PSO/020/T/345 of 2nd October, 2015.
“This was done without giving us fair hearing as the most important stakeholder in the matter and in violation of our cultural rights guaranteed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended and the provisions of Articles 1,3,5 and 15 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (See Annex 1)which our dear country has ratified and signed.
“It would appear that Fika Emirate Council has based its request
for “return” of the facility on similar happenings to old prisons in Maiduguri and Wukari and the location of the old facility in its territory, not minding historical and cultural considerations involved.
Established as a modern prison in 1912, Old prison premises is located in Potiskum, Yobe State and following the building of a medium security prison in the town, the inmates were transferred to the new facility while the old one remained abandoned.
The Emir said it was in that respect that Fika Emirate Council wrote a letter to the Federal Ministry of Interior dated 10th June, 2015 requesting for return of the land and building of the old prison to it, which the Ministry obliged in the letter quoted in the first paragraph above.
He continued: “As things stand today, Potiskum town is divided into almost two equal halves- Pataskum Emirate occupying the eastern half and Fika Emirate occupying the western half in which the prison facility and the other two Ngizim monuments isted above are located.
“Fika Emirate, representing the last vestige of colonial domination is fighting tooth and nail not to be asked to relocate to their ancestral land in Fika In the present circumstance in which intentional destruction of cultural property is an instrument of warfare, the motive of Fika Emirate Council may well be to take over the historical site, embark on its intentional destruction so that our cultural identity and remaining historical traces in Potiskum town are erased which is tantamount to destroying our soul.”
The Emir further called on the Commission to consider Pataskum Emirate Council in the event of any decision to dispose of the Potiskum old prison facility because of historical and cultural reasons, saying that the old prison site is the location of the walled town which became the nucleus of modern Potiskum and which our forefathers struggled hard to consolidate.
“As evidence of this assertion, three of our monuments are still there and were being used as the need arose even when the old prison was still in use. The old prison was compulsorily acquired by the colonial masters as highlighted above in 1912. The position under the land use Act which is saved in the 1999 Constitution as amended is that where a land is compulsorily acquired for a public purpose and the purpose is no longer there as in this case the land should revert back to its previous owners. Therefore the previous are the people of Pataskum Emirate.”
He added that Fika Emirate Council which is claiming the facility has no stake historically, culturally and even legally.
The royal father stated: “Its claims therefore, cannot go beyond pecuniary considerations and the need to have the advantage of erasing historical and other evidences not in its favour in its bid to build a case for its continued stay in Potiskum.
“We have clear cases of intentional destruction of cultural property around the world to serve as examples e.g Iraq, Afghanistan, Mali etc. In similar cases where old prisons were handed over to Emirate Councils like Borno and Wukari, the circumstances are not exactly the same as this. No concerned party came to put up a superior claim like we have done and so it was not difficult to take a decision. Our right to fair hearing and the right to take part in cultural life and to access and enjoy cultural heritage has been seriously undermined and breached.
The Royal father also noted that the submission to the Commission highlights the objection of Pataskum Emirate Council and people of the Emirate to the handing over of the old Potiskum prison facility to Fika Emirate Council which has no stake whatsoever, adding that decision violates our rights to ownership and access to our relics and monuments and runs contrary to the constitution and other international covenants of which Nigeria has ratified and signed.
“As the body established to deal with all matters relating to the promotion and protection of human rights as well as their alleged violation, we look up to the Commission to ensure justice and fairness by ensuring that our rights to our historical monuments are restored and protected,” he stressed.