The Nigerian government has been urged to establish a Bakassi Development Commission to facilitate the implementation of the 2013 report of the Presidential Committee on the “Plight of the Displaced Bakassi people”.
The traditional ruler of Bakassi people, Etim Okon Edet was speaking while chatting with newsmen in Calabar, Cross River State.
Edet, who was in company of other traditional rulers and some youths of Bakassi, said the yearnings of the people was to be properly resettled in Nigeria, as specified in the report of the committee.
According to him, “our present situation as a people is highly pathetic and worrisome as it is very painful for one to forgo his or her ancestral home. We were hopeful that the Nigerian government would implement the recommendations of that committee and end the matter in our collective interest. But, we have seen nothing yet,” Edet stated.
Edet, who is also the Chairman of the Cross River State Traditional Rulers’ Council, stressed the need for basic social amenities such as schools, healthcare centres, which were lost after the ceding of the peninsular to Cameroun, to be rebuilt within the specified and approved location for the new Bakassi.
He remarked “before the ceding of Bakassi, we had four Secondary Schools and staff quarters built by Niger Delta Development Commission; 42 primary schools, two other secondary schools, a comprehensive healthcare clinic and more than 10 healthcare centres and an ambulance boat.”
The Traditional ruler hinted that, “The fate of our youths, pregnant women, elderly and children, who were displaced, hangs in the balance because they have been denied access to sound education, affordable healthcare and we have seen an increase in the rate of militancy, sea robbery, piracy in the Bakassi area and by extension the Gulf of Guinea.”
The Bakassi chieftain expressed hope that the leadership of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari would address all issues affecting the Bakassi people, like seen in the commitment to clean up Ogoni land, develop the Niger Delta region and implementation of the restoration agenda for north-east region of the country.
According to Edet, “The October 10, 2002 International Court of Justice, ICJ, judgement affected the maritime Boundary of Bakassi and the Land Boundary of the Lake Chad Region of Adamawa, Borno, Taraba and others. In the land area, the Nigerian Government had resettled the people and we are very hopeful that our people-oriented President Muhammadu Buhari will address our problems.”
He stated that “the commitment of Mr President to better the lot of all Nigerians irrespective of where you come from has given us hope that what we need, he will provide accordingly”.
It would be recalled that the Presidential Committee on the Plight of the Displaced Bakassi People was constituted on December 13, 2012 by former Vice President, Namadi Sambo.
One of its terms of reference included, “the legal resettlement of and relocation of the displaced persons to Dayspring 1, 2, and Kwa Islands” and “Legal transfer of Local Government Administration to Dayspring 1, Dayspring 2 and Kwa Islands” as well as “Human Capacity Development of the displaced Bakassi sons and daughters”.
The committee after its findings recommended that the Nigerian Government amongst others “interface with the people to determine the needs of the majority in terms of choice of the sites to relocate”.