By Jonathan Ugbal
Cross River Governor, Senator Ben Ayade has called on the Federal Government to grant amnesty to militants residing in the state.
Governor Ayade made this call earlier this week during the commissioning of the Eastern Regional Command Centre of the Nigerian Security Element Project 2 (NICEP), codenamed ‘Falcon Eye’ at the Eastern Naval Command headquarters in Calabar where he posited that most of the militancy in the area was perpetrated by non Cross Riverians reports The Guardian.
He said that with the help of well-meaning Nigerians and international friends, militants offered to lay down their arms to ensure that problems of slavery, exploitation, rape and total abandonment face by the Bakassi people are addressed, an act he said was done in faith.
“We are doing this as a mark of faith and demonstration of seriousness. On November 8, 2016 by 16.30 hours; we returned all the weapons our fighters captured during the last confrontation with the Nigerian Army at the agreed drop-off zone. We call on the whole world and United Nations (UN) to note this unilateral declaration of ceasefire and return of captured weapons while we remain vigilant and wait for a response from the Nigerian government.
“We have already witnessed the successes from the actions you have taken so far. But those brothers and sisters of ours that have been practicing this militancy will have to find an alternative means of livelihood because Falcon Eye will pick them. And because that is real, anthropologically, it is the responsibility of the government, which is a bigger partner in the security structure to ensure that we provide an alternative in the first instance.
“I, therefore, plead that there should be haste to ensure that Cross River State is integrated into the amnesty programme. It is critical for us because I believe that it is when people are pushed to the wall that criminality becomes an alternative livelihood.
“Therefore, if government provides a platform for most of these people to have an alternative, I am sure they will turn away from criminality. It is, therefore, a passionate appeal from the people of Cross River State that the amnesty programme had not in actual sense captured Cross River State.
“If you study it very well, a lot of the criminality that has occurred in the state is not orchestrated by Cross Riverians but people who have migrated from areas where they have superior military power and have moved into Bakassi and have made it unbearable. Therefore, an amnesty programme that will enhance all of these people will help us create even a safer environment for us to work” Ayade said.
On the ‘Falcon Eye’ system, the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas said it is a special surveillance and intelligence gathering system that will check crude oil theft, poaching, piracy and sea robbery at the Eastern Naval Command in Calabar with data being transferred to the central command in Abuja which was launched in 2016.
Ibas called on the Government to make funds available to complete the necessary components that are left and disclosed that over one hundred Naval officials had being trained to man the project.
The National Security Adviser, Maj. Gen. Babagana Monguno (rtd) in his speech said the project began in 2014 with a view to combating emerging threats at sea.
He said the commissioning of the Eastern Regional Command Centre showed the commitment of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to protecting Nigeria’s territorial integrity.
CrossRiverWatch findings reveal that the Navy had launched ‘Exercise Eagle Eye’ in 2016 to check operational readiness and caught several suspected oil thieves shortly after.
Notable among those present at the commissioning was the Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin, the Minister for Defence, Brig. Gen. Mansur Muhammad Dan Ali (rtd), Commander, 13 Brigade Nigeria Army, Brig. Gen. Bulama Biu among others.