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‘Cross River has been treated unfairly after suffering double jeopardy’

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Ben Ayade

In this interview with ANIETIE AKPAN, the Chief Press Secretary/Special Assistant on Media, to Governor Ben Ayade, Christian Ita, threw more light on the Bakassi issue and efforts of the state government to remedy the situation.

What has the state government done so far towards the proper resettlement of the people of Bakassi?
Certain things are being mixed up when it comes to the issue of Bakassi. But let me ask, ‘In Borno State, who is resettling the internally displaced people? Is it not the Federal Government? In Adamawa State also, is it not Federal Government that is resettling the displaced people?

Now, the ceding of Bakassi was an issue between two sovereign nations- Nigeria and Cameroon. Cross River State had no hand at all. Even when you look at the Green Tree Agreement, it has nothing to do with Cross River State, so there is no need to beg the issue because I think we are begging the issue. The truth of the matter is that the little element of comfort that the people of Bakassi are enjoying is coming from the state government even after the state suffered what can be described as double jeopardy. After the peoples’ land was ceded without their consent, the state also lost over 70 oil wells as a consequence, and it is the same Cross River State, which now has less money that is being left to cater for the wellbeing of the people.

In my opinion, I think the narrative should be different. In fact, the narrative should be that land belonging to this people was forcefully taken and their people rendered homeless. Because they lost their land, they also lost revenue, and at the same time, you expect the state to be the one to resettle the Bakassi people? How does that work? Is there no justice in the land anymore?
That is the issue, and I do know that agencies like the Cross River State Primary Healthcare Agency (CRSPHA), with Dr. Beta Edu, as the director general; State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), headed by John Inaku, and others have done much to help the people of Bakassi. Medically we are the ones taking care of them. The food they eat we are the ones giving them, same applies for the schools, and so many other things. Nigeria ceded Bakassi and is the signatory to that Green Tree Agreement and not Cross River State. So, let’s direct the issue to the appropriate authorities.

Bakassi people kicked against the location of the 5, 000 housing units, funded by the Africa Nations Development Programme (ANDP). Why did that happen?
It is in respect of the sufferings of the Bakassi people that Governor Ayade attracted the Africa Nations Development Programme (ANDP) to build the 5, 000 housing units at Ikpa Nkanya Village, Ikot Eyo Ward in Akpabuyo Local Council. However, after the land was cleared for the take-off of the project, this controversy over whether the project should be located there or not arose. So, the governor succumbed to superior reasoning and approved the relocation of project closer to the shoreline, because as fishermen, they prefer to live leave close to the water. In this direction, the state government is doing what it can and construction works would commence there any moment from now.

When we talk about that housing estate, it is not just any house; it is a whole community. There will be schools, a police station, fire service station, market and other such facilities, so it is a total package.

Years after the Presidential Committee on the Plight of Displaced Bakassi People headed by former Deputy Governor Efiok Cobham, submitted its report, none of the recommendations have been implemented, why?
The governor once asked whether if we were not in the minority Bakassi would have been ceded in the first place. Today, you and I are witnesses to how the Federal Government is mobilising resources internationally for other IDPs. Are we less Nigerians? Why are we being treated differently?

The Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), recently said that N38b has so far been released to the state as palliatives for the loss of 76 oil wells, and compensation for Bakassi. What did government do with the funds?
We have 12 months in a year, so multiply that by 11 years and divide it by N38b, that is when you will know whether that money was meant to achieve anything or not. By the time you finish the calculation per month, you would know that the amount would have become pittance. It is nothing. We are thinking that we should be compensated in perpetuity; we should be compensated heavily. I know that the governor is even considering taking the Federal Government to court to ask for over N3trillion damages over the loss of Bakassi Peninsular and its oil wells because no laid down procedure in international law was followed in ceding the area.



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