LESS than 24 hours after some people who claim to be indigenes of the ceded Bakassi peninsular to Cameroon had protested in Cross River State over the ownership of the 76 oil wells, the people of Mbo Local Government area of Akwa Ibom State have strongly condemned the protest, describing it as part of an orchestrated propaganda aimed at confusing some members of the public.
On Thursday, a group of people reportedly staged a peaceful demonstration in Calabar, Cross River State Capital, over the disputed 76 oil wells that the Supreme Court is billed to deliver judgment on July 10, 2012.
Reacting to the protest yesterday in Uyo, a Socio-cultural group in Mbo Local Government area of Akwa Ibom State, the Ibaka Development Organisation (IDO) observed that the demonstration by the purported indigenes of Bakassi was a cheap blackmail sponsored to whip sentiments ahead of the Supreme Court ruling on the case instituted by the Cross River State Government.
The Chairman of the Ibaka Development Organisation, Engr. Asuquo Ating, told newsmen that the protest was unwarranted since the facts of the ownership of the oil wells are clear and locates the wells within Akwa Ibom territory.
He reasoned that since the case is still in court pending the final determination, it was totally wrong for the people to start making unnecessary comments as 'with the assumption that such could attempt to influence the proceedings of the court'.
Engr. Ating recalled that the Supreme Court had in 2004 decided in a similar case brought by Cross River State that Cross River was no longer a littoral state with the ceding of Bakassi peninsular to Cameroon and therefore cannot benefit from the 13 per cent derivation funds.
He said those that demonstrated were not Nigerians as the said group still parading themselves as indigenes of Bakassi was stopped from participating in the last 2011 general elections in the country.
Engr. Ating stressed that the people of Cross River State should be thankful to Akwa Ibom State for allowing more than N600 million to be drawn monthly from the allocation of the Akwa Ibom State government and paid to Cross River State Government under the guise of 'effect of oil exploration on the environmental' and wondered why the people of the area are trading 'half truths.'
On the status of the purported Bakassi indigenes, Engr. Ating argued that the issue of Bakassi returnees should be of greater concern to Akwa Ibom State than anyone else pointing out that since the peninsular was ceded to Cameroon about 10 years ago, the brunt of managing returnees had been of greater concern to Akwa Ibom which had larger number of citizens residing there.
According to him, there was no need to heat up the polity through irrelevant demonstrations, as it was not going to affect the position or decision of the court of the case.
A source close to the legal team of the Akwa Ibom State in the Supreme Court said the state government is relying mostly on the judgment earlier delivered by the same Supreme Court in the case of Attorney General of Cross River State Versus Attorney General of the Federation.
In the said judgment, the Supreme Court had held inter alia: that 'in considering the merit of the plaintiff's case, it is important to bear in mind the effect of the judgment of International Court of Justice date October 10, 2002 ...with the result that Cross River no longer has a seaward boundary.
'In effect Akwa Ibom is contending that with the complete handover of the Bakassi peninsula to Cameroon in 2008 marked the collapse of the negotiations and fundamentally altered the equation.'