By Archibong Jeremiah
The Director General of the Cross River State Emergency Management Agency SEMA, Mr. Vincent Aqua has reiterated that it is the responsibility of the Federal Government to resettle the displaced people from the Bakassi peninsula and not the Cross River State Government.
He pointed out that the role of the state government is to aid the federal government by making sure they provide for the stop gap expediency pending when the FG is able to permanently resettle the displaced people.
Mr. Aqua said this in his office in Calabar while responding to questions from CrossRiverWatch about why the displaced persons have been left in such a deplorable condition and what the state government was doing to ameliorate their situation.
He said: “The present situation with the displaced people camped in Bakassi is that we are arranging for them to have food supply. For some time now we have not been able to give them supplies because we are planning to take an alternative welfare action for them. The state government directed that each family should benefit from the conditional cash transfer plan and the Ministry of Social Welfare is working on implementing that. On our own part in the interim, we are arranging that between now and when the conditional cash transfer is implemented, we will drop some food items and other supplies for them.
“The conditional cash transfer is not domiciled in this agency but in the Ministry of Social Welfare what we do as far as that is concerned is to supply them with detailed demographic information that will aid them in implementing the policy”.
With respect to the horrible hygiene conditions of the camp he said: “Nobody will ever pray to come and live in the camp no matter how poor your home might be, you will be more comfortable with that, talking about sanitation, when we constituted the camp we set up committees such as security, welfare, peace and conflict resolution, sanitation committees but you don’t expect everything to be 100% perfect because it is not a properly constituted camp. We didn’t know they were going to be camped here for this long, we expected that the federal government will resettle them within the shortest time”.
“We prepared it as a transit camp but however we put all the basic amenities in place, what we did was to establish a health post manned by a trained practitioner who refers when the case is out of her hand to the general hospital in the same village, Ikot Ene and it has been working so, if it is more than them we transfer them to the general hospital Calabar where there are more facilities.
“Usually that is the procedure for mass care exercise beyond that we ensure that adequate drugs are provided; we’ve had cases where we had to activate ambulance there for patients in need of it. So far that health post has not had any case that went beyond it and was not properly handled; we have not had any casualty as a result of poor health facilities”.
Mr. Aqua maintained that the cases of people slumping in the camp happened between the shot period the health worker was transferred without replacement ‘and we have taken steps to address that’ he said.
The SEMA DG revealed that as a Cross Riverian he has learnt so many lessons from the camp and they include; “One should not rejoice completely at the time he finds himself in good conditions because your condition can change at any given moment. The Bakassi people should not be said to be the worst because of the condition they find themselves because before now they were better off than some of us out here, that as they find themselves in this situation it means one can find himself in any situation in any given time. I have also learnt a lot in respect to the psychology of displaced persons, I have learnt also how to demonstrate compassion. I have learnt how to be tolerant and patient with people, and the advantage of being altruistic”.
When asked about the state of the agency’s edict, the SEMA DG replied, “The edict that should give force to the operation of the agency has been drafted, edited and awaiting the approval from the state executive council after which the edict will be presented to the State House of Assembly as an executive bill. The policy itself has been done, within the next two weeks we hope to present it to the state executive council for approval, hopefully before the end of this year the policy on disaster and the ethics will be ready for use and we intend to start implementation of the policy”.
He lamented the lack of adequate finances as a peril to service delivery by his agency. His words: “The low finances of the state has affected the smooth operation of the agency just as it has the economy of the state, but very soon we hope for a better operation”.
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