Vanguard (Lagos)

26 July 2012

Nigeria: Bakassi - Thank God We Are All Now On the Same Page

opinion

Photo: Thisday
Bakassi indegenes in protest

IN the last 15 years I have assumed the position of Political Leader of the people of Bakassi. On the account of my advocacy for the creation of the Bakassi Local Government, I was nominated into 1994 constitutional conference by General Abacha, it was at that conference that I and Chief (Dr.) Emmanuel Nsan with the support of Chief Tony Ani and Air Vice Marshall Emmanuel Edem including traditional rulers and the people made successful case for the creation of a Bakassi Local Governement.

In essence, I am a bona fide stakeholder in the fate of Bakassi. I have never shirked my responsibility towards the people, if anything I have been described as overly emotional and militant in some quarters, a charge to which I gladly plead guilty.

However, it will be useful for me to reel out instances where my people have been taken for granted so that everyone can judge whether or not I have a right to be emotional. Is it not a shame that no Bakassi indigene has ever been appointed commissioner or minister in this country?

Is it not strange that a non Bakassi indigene was nominated to represent the interest of Bakassi people on the mixed commission set up to oversee the ceding of Bakassi to Cameroon? Is it not a shame that the NDDC position meant for Bakassi was deliberately taken to another Local Government?

Is it not also puzzling that my people were ordered to be resettled in a place called Ikang which in itself is a part of the existing Akapabuyo LGA, when the only portion of Bakassi not ceded to Cameroon called Day Spring Island was available to us for resettlement. Finally I ask if it is proper to prevent the Bakassi people from voting during the governorship primary and general elections.

Before I am accused of being recalcitrant, permit me to avail you with some facts. During the last general elections, the INEC Resident electoral commissioner rightly refused to carry out voter registration and verification in Ikang for Bakassi indigenes because according to him the voter's list he had listed wards named after our ancestral homes and not Ikang.

At great personal expense I moved my people who were squatting all over Southern Cross River State and even some who stayed behind in Cameroon to the only constitutionally recognized piece of Bakassi land within Nigerian Territory called Day Spring Island for registration.

Eventually they all voted in the State Assembly elections, National Assembly elections, and Presidential elections all from Day Spring. Come time for the governorship elections a strange injunction bearing the names of fake Bakassi indigenes as plaintiffs was served on us on the eve of the election after we had had expended tremendous amount of money to move our people to Day Spring Island to vote.

I led my disappointed people to protest in Calabar. I am very sad that my paramount ruler was humiliated and threatened with exile because of his principled support for the registration of voters and the eventual voting that took place in Day Spring Island.

Now in the wake of the recent Supreme Court judgment giving the 76 oil wells to Akwa Ibom State on the ground that Cross River State is not a Littoral State and so can not possess off shore oil assets, it is worth noting that had we been allowed to settle in Day Spring, Cross River State may not have been described as non littoral State because of its proximity to the Bakassi coastline.

While I do not intend to question the integrity of the Supreme Court verdict on the 76 oil wells, it is important to note that as tragic and unfortunate as it is for Cross River State; the verdict has made it increasingly imperative for the displaced people of Bakassi to be properly resettled.

Bakassi indigenes

It has been claimed in some quarters that Bakassi Indigenes have been properly resettled in Ikang and they even got some compromised Bakassi indigenes to agree. The truth is and I stand to be corrected not one Bakassi indigene has settled talk less of resettled in Ikang.

The houses allegedly built for Bakassi returnees have all been allocated to non Bakassi indigenes. This then raises the question about where all the budgetary allocations to Bakassi LGA have gone to over the years.

For the avoidance of doubt, I resisted the ceding of Bakassi to Cameroon to the limit of my ability. I even out of desperation formed the Bakassi Self Determination Front which advocated an independent Bakassi.

I thank God that we are all on the same page today as it concerns the resettlement of my people. Can we now implement the three year old report prepared by the Bakassi Resettlement committee that I served as Chairman? Is it not time after 10 years of being marooned that the Federal Government will rescue my people and resettle them? Should my people who have been treated as second class citizens in their fatherland not be compensated?

Recently, a motion was passed in the House of Representatives asking the Federal Government to appeal the World Court judgment. In as much as that motion is rather noble, I find it rather curious that it is being moved 10 years after the judgment and after 10 years of my people being physically and emotionally traumatized.

My consolation is that to the glory of God we are all on the same page at last. Finally, still with regard to the disputed oil wells, I wish to conclude that as a mother, I recognize the huge sense of loss presently experienced by my people of Cross River and the ill feelings it's generating.

I, however, strongly recommend that Akwa Ibom State should resist the temptation to adopt a winner-take-all attitude in this matter. I believe that there is still room for dialogue between the two Sister-States so that we can arrive at a mutually satisfactory political solution not through physical violence or verbal altercations.

Senator (Princess) Florence Ita-Giwa, OON, Eka Iban Ke Essien Efik Duopeba

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Bakassi indegenes in protest

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