By Jonathan Ugbal: Government House Correspondent
Cross River Governor, Senator Ben Ayade has again staged a public cry over the plight of Bakassi returnees 14 years after their ancestral home was ceded to the Cameroon’s following a ruling by the International Court of Justice in 2002.
“The pain the Bakassi people have gone through is totally unacceptable in modern society” Ayade said Wednesday in Calabar when he received the National Commissioner, Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced persons (IDPs), Hajia Sadiya Umar Farauk, in his office and criticized the administration of former President Olusegun Obansanjo for allowing the Bakassi people to be uprooted from their “ancestral home”.
This is the second time in 4 months Ayade wept in front of cameras with the last one at the Bakassi IDP camp in December 2016.
He said the returnees have become tired and have given up after watching their country, Nigeria and the international community struggle to mitigate the hardships of IDPs elsewhere with no one looking their way.
“As we watch several multinationals and countries fall over themselves to provide relief items to other IDPs’ centers, I watched my own people of Bakassi daily in pains, agony, and totally reduced to wants in body and spirit and above all, completely dislocated from their ancestral homes.
“As I watch them scratch their skin in pains, as I see the difficulty for them to access water coupled with the loss of their main source of livelihood, let me say that until there is a psychological and emotional redemption, the people will know no peace” Ayade said.
In what appears to be an indirect criticism of former President Obasanjo, Ayade said that; “(A) Government that takes its people off their ancestral homes by virtue of an International court of justice that has not been domesticated and therefore illegal in spirit and in truth is unfit to be.”
He invited the commission to visit the camp with him and assured them that after seeing the condition of “human beings like us, I’m sure you will be more determined to offer psychological succor above anything material.”
However, he said he believes President Muhammadu Buhari will look into the matter.
Earlier, Hajia Farauk announced plans by the Federal Government to permanently resettle the Bakassi returnees which comes barely a fortnight after the state in partnership with the Africa Nations Development Programs (ANDP) performed groundbreaking for the construction of 5,000 units of houses for the returnees in Ikpa Nkanya, Akpabuyo Local Government Area.
“The government is working assiduously to tackle all issues of statelessness and displacement of the citizenry across board,” Faruk said, adding that “the people of Bakassi have proved their link with Nigeria, therefore we shall not allow them to become stateless in this country because we are duty bounds to look after them.”
“The distribution of food and non-food items is symbolic because it will give the people a sense of belonging as well as enhance the national response as statutorily demanded of the commission” she added and commended the state for it’s role in cushioning the effects of being an IDP.
“Let me thank the government and good people of Cross River State for their warm and kind hospitality so far shown to the IDPs and to assure you that plans are in earnest to ensure that the displaced people of Bakassi are resettled as soon as possible in their home community” Faruk said and lauded Ayade for celebrating his birthday with the IDPs, an act which she said show love, commitment and being in touch with the people.