Middle Belt seeks representation in Lagos government

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Akin Ambode                                                                       Amb. Ochi Ode

*Amb. Ochi targets special adviser, commissioner, other positions for middlebellters

By James Ibechi and Ejikeme Omenazu, Lagos

With the 2015 general elections fought, won and lost, the leaders of Middle Belt region living in South West of Nigeria are agitating to be given recognition by the governments of the states where they reside.

They are not only seeking to be given appointments in the cabinets of the in-coming governors, but also that their young graduates be given employment in the states’ civil service.

They believe that like their Igbo and Arewa counterparts who enjoy some positions at both the party and government in Lagos State, the Middle Belt indigenes deserve similar treatment, not only in Lagos, but in all the South West region.

To this end, the Chairman of the Middle Belt Traditional Council (MBTC) in the South West Nigeria, Amb. Ochi Emmanuel Ode, the Ojikpururu 1 of Ibilla, Oju, Benue State, plans to lead a delegation of his people’s representatives to the governors-elect in all the South West states as soon as possible, before the May 29 handover date.

Speaking with journalists in Lagos, Amb. Ochi before the elections, said they reached out to the governorship candidates and extracted some promises, which he said, will form the basis of their meeting with them before they conclude arrangements on their in-coming cabinets.

He said: “In our earlier meeting with the candidates, now governors-elect, we told them that we want some of our qualified sons and daughter to be engaged as Special Assistants to the Governors and to be enlisted in the civil services of the host states.

“In Lagos, we plan to erect a befitting hall to serve as the headquarters of the Middle Belt Traditional Council in South West. We see the assistance of the government to give us a piece of land to practicalise this dream.”

Giving further insight into the Council’s demands, Ode, an Igede High Chief, stressed: “Most of us have lived here for over 28 or 30 years. As law abiding citizens, we have been paying our taxes.

“Some of us have buildings here and there and we pay our Land Use charges and taxes used for the development of the states. We don’t pay taxes to our home states, but the states we live.”

Ode maintained that apart from their personal income taxes, businesses owned by the Middle Beltans pay taxes to the state governments and other liabilities to the local governments as well as taking care of governments’ structures wherever they live.

“We are good citizens of the states. We contribute just like the indigenes. That is why we want to be well treated like the indigenes. We are registered voters and we participated actively in the enthronement of the governments in South West.

“That is why we are seeking recognition and well treatment by the governments and I hope that the in-coming governors in South West will give us listening ear,” he stressed.

The Middle Belt Traditional Council (MBTC), Ode informed, comprises all traditional chiefs, chairmen, presidents of the Middle Belt ethnic nationalities in the South West, including representatives of women and youth groups.

Ochi listed the primary aims and objectives of the institution, which he said is apolitical, to include, among other things, the unity of all the Middle Belt sons and daughters, seeking recognition for the region in the country, being its mouthpiece and attracting development to the region.

The ethnic nationalities in the composition of the MBTC include Igede, Idoma, Igala, Etulo, Tiv, Rindere, Ngas, Eggon, Zagon Katarf, Alogo, Berom, Mada, Izere, Ibira, among others.

Ode informed that as chairman of the MBTC in South West, his role is to give leadership to the people of the region resident in the South West states. He said by his position, he is the contact person between his people and the extended public.

“I make contacts with the host communities to tell them where and how our interests can best be served, for us to be useful continually to our host communities.

“I also serve as a key contact person between our people here in South West and our people back home in their various states that constitute Middle Belt Region.

“With the political atmosphere settling down in the states that make up Middle Belt, we have the plan to visit the governments in our various states to seek their assistance, help, recognition in our quest to be relevant in whatever they do,

“Whatever power we have here must be anchored in our roots, which is our home states. As we need the support of our host states in South West, we still need those of our home states in Middle Belt,” Ode concluded

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