By Christiana Alawa/Archibong Jeremiah
The displaced people of Bakassi under the aegis of Bakassi Returnees Efut Obot Ikot, camp 2 have appealed to the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, Non Governmental Organizations, NGOs and other good spirited individuals to come to their aid as they have been abandoned by the government.
Revealing their plight to CrossRiverWatch in an inspection of camp 2 by our reporters, the group leader Mr. Etim Okon Ene, who spoke for the displaced persons camped at St. Mark Primary and Secondary School, Ikot Eyo Edet in Akpabuyo Local Government Area they have been abandoned to their fate by the government and warned that ‘when the worse gets to worst the State will not contain us.’
CrossRiverWatch also met and spoke to the only medical personnel, a nurse previously stationed at the camp for over a year and later transferred with no one replacing her at the camp and she shared her ordeal.
A bereaved father who lost his daughter a year ago at the camp after borrowing 600,000 Naira for her treatment and gave his younger daughter as collateral also shared his grief.
Excerpt from the interview with Mr. Etim Okon Ene, Leader of the Bakassi Returnees Efut Obot Ikot, camp 2:
Good day sir, please share with us some of the challenges you and your people are passing through?
It is getting to three weeks now since we have not received relief materials from the state government and we have been camping here for 21 months now. We don’t have and have not gotten any cash from the state government, the conditional cash transfer they promised our elderly ones have still not been actualized; we lack good medical care for all. Our feeding condition has gone bad that our children at times go to beg for garri to sip before going to school, and sometimes good neighbors come to our rescue for food but that is not all, the situation is very bad that even our youths are now been sweet talked for them to join cult and other bad gangs which you and I know what the community and the state at large stand to lose if these boys and girls embrace crime as the solution to having a better life from this meaningless life.
We have suffered a lot, our young girls now are becoming more corrupt as they get unwanted pregnancy and because of no money and poor medical services they choose to use un-prescribed herbs for abortion which in most cases don’t go well with them, some almost lost their life in the process while others in many occasions some have attempted suicide. We lack skill acquisition center here and our young men and women are left behind to their own fate as they can’t learn any trade or acquire a skill/vocation, within us we have under graduates due to the fact that they start tertiary institution but they can’t complete their education because of the resources as you know, which means education has stopped for them, (sobbing) and those who were in school before the displacement can’t go back either.
Employment is another issue especially for those of us who have just primary 6, though the state government had sponsored about 200 of us to write West Africa Examination Council, WAEC which the result is not out yet, with the present condition, three of our youths picked forms to serve our country in the Army and the issue of god- fatherism caught up with them as they were told they don’t have any god-father to speak for them and they returned back to the camp, you know what it means for someone to willingly say he wants to fight for his fathers’ land and they are cheated out; they specifically went with the hope that they will help in future to reclaim our ancestral home, Bakassi.
How do you feel about the way and manner the Cross River State government is treating you people?
Yes, at some point we got fed up with the state government and wrote officially to National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA when they had their recent conference here in Calabar where we explained our perils to them pleading with them to resettle us, send our children to school with the necessary educational materials and at least support us to pick our life where we left. Our children go to school with tattered clothes and their class mates mock them because they don’t have school uniform, sandals and books, they call us refugees, even the ones here in the camp don’t have clothes they walk naked. The clothes we were given are all going bad, the 6-spring mattress they also gave us over a year ago are in bad condition such that they need to be replaced, for over three weeks we have been in darkness without light because there is no fuel and money to buy.
How do you feel when your people cry to you and have they at any point in time gotten mad at you?
Every day my people are crying as their leader, I try to hold myself because if I cry then there will be no hope for those I’m leading, once they ganged up and attacked me threatening to beat me up accusing me of not representing them aright as a result they are still suffering but the truth is that many don’t know what I pass through as a displaced person like them and leading them, recently they had attempted to go and hijack the airport in protest but I asked them if these their mothers and younger ones with the intensity of hunger in them walk with them to the airport to protest, will they come back alive? At the end they didn’t go. The situation here in the camp is such that only God can send a savior to us who will rescue us.
State Emergency Management Agency, SEMA is our boss, the DG of SEMA days ago when two of our pregnant women collapsed I sent him, SEMA DG, Mr. Vincent Akwa a text he replied that there is nothing he can do because the state government have not given him money. SEMA previously have been trying for us but now, up to three weeks nothing has been done, usually they bring food items and some beverages but the social welfare which is to give us five thousand naira handy hasn’t been doing so, the geisha and rice is nothing without money handy to support ourselves, they have never given us money. December the Commissioner of the state Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development visited here and took our statistics to be 965 household to prepare for our conditional cash transfer up till now nothing has been paid. The conditional cash transfer was to also cater for the children educational needs but now when they go to school they just sit and watch the board without writing, it is unfair. Not all of my people know this because I can’t tell them all for fear of dashing their hopes, these things make them revolts at times.
Why do you think that the state government has abandoned you people?
I believe that it is because of election in 2015 that the government abandoned us; I believe they are using our money for election because of their selfish interest, it is bad. We are 3200 in number which includes the 965 households. We are hard working people who did not pray to come and sit here and become burden to anyone in anyway like this, we need NGO’s to help us in the small ways they can, 99% of us are fishermen; if we can be provided with fishing materials we don’t mind taking any risk to fish in any water to survive which will be better than being treated like this by the government we fought for and helped deliver. If any good spirited individual or NGO can help us with engine boat, speed boat, hook, net etc and even give us building materials to build our tent because we are native people, let them resettle us at dayspring even without building house just give us the building materials and you will be surprised that we can start from there because we know what it will cost to build house for 965 household with up springs.
We need employment opportunities, skill acquisition training, and entrepreneurial opportunities. The most important thing is to give us a home where we know that come rain or sun shine we can maintain our identity because now as it stands we are nowhere, we don’t have any identity. If not that the people here have the fear of God to accommodate us and at times give us things to show their understanding and support when they are just peasant farmers not to talk of our government that we all paid tax to we would have been dead by now.
How will you summarize government action towards you and your people?
Our own state government has violated our fundamental human right by dumping us here without any reasonable and visible step to rehabilitate us. We don’t have any basic amenities to show that we truly exist, we lack medical facilities, for over a year we had just one nurse here in the camp who was stationed here to attend to us, she was transferred away without anybody coming to take over from her. The most painful aspect is that the 3200 individuals we have here can you imagine what it is like for only one nurse, no medical doctor, no moderate camp clinic and other medical team to support us it was not enough to have one but they transferred her from here without any replacement, can you see how wicked our own government can be to us; the community that once gave the state huge revenue, it’s a shame. Although our leaders betrayed us by handing over our ancestral home to the Cameroonians’, we can fight not that we are afraid but if we fight now means we don’t understand the meaning of democracy and the fact that our state government have in their own way tried for us is the only reason we are calm and quite, we accept the fact that we are Nigerians and Cross Riverians; we are Efik people by birth and origin, we are upholders of the Ekpe tradition which refutes us from shading of blood when we know we can dialogue.
How many people do you have in the camp that needs urgent medical attention considering the fact that this place is not hygienic?
Talking about hygiene, this place is not conducive at all, in the primary school apartment which is just opposite this one (the secondary school), there is no toilet. The people there use the bush to defecate. Here in the secondary school we have toilets but they are nothing to write home about because it rather infects you in turn, we don’t have bathroom in the both camps, at the primary school three classroom blocks and a hole is used during the school period after closure we occupy them to sleep, can you imagine the life. In some of the classrooms we can’t sleep because its half built; when the rain is heavy with breeze it wets all our belongings, no fuel for the generators, no oil and no money either to buy them. To your question we have 39 pregnant women, 55 nursing mothers, 6 children that collapsed and 2 pregnant women also that collapsed all of them needs urgent medical attention.
What will be your next line of action?
When the worst gets to the worst the state will not contain us because then the government will call us Boko Haram or even militants and our fathers who we have witnessed preserved the Efik cultures that have forgotten us will deny us but we don’t care, the paramount ruler from Abanga, the northern part of Bakassi which is Amutu/Ekeng Ewa clan, he the clan head can identify us proper by name, fathers lineage, place and date of birth. The paramount ruler and other traditional rulers have failed us by not fighting fervently for us, Senator Florence Ita Giwa although visited us from time to time promised us that December last year will not meet us here, we will be in our houses but we are two months away from December nothing has happened.
She came with a lot of our traditional fathers including our direct clan head and the present chairman who was seeking the office then and they promised us heaven and earth now they have abandoned us, what they don’t know is that all of them are part of us and are also displaced people who only have a means of survival. Even if the paramount ruler for now have a palace here in Akpabuyo, one day the owners of the land will ask questions and send them packing, that I’m sure, they don’t have any right to poor libation on that soil. The paramount ruler who is a onetime chairman of Akpabuyo and then paramount ruler who has never passed through the creek to come and see first hand where we stay and how we were surviving has failed us, if they truly want to play their role they would have long before now join us to tell the government to settle us; 21 months is not easy.
When the youths who are very aggrieved lose their patience and rise up it will affect our leaders and other innocent people in the state, you see those people in the creek they are our brothers and sisters but we did not see that way as the way, some of us even know the road there better than those in the creek but we don’t want to betray the cry of the mothers whose husbands fought and served in the Nigerian army and other intelligence organizations in the state and country, they laid their life to sustain the peace we enjoy today but look at us their children, we are suffering, the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, we fear Him and care about the peace and future of our present generation and those to come which is why we are calm, if the neglect gets unbearable as a leader I will lead my people to the promise land the government can kill us then and we will happily die.
At the camp, we met and spoke with the only medical personnel, Patricia Asuquo, a nurse previously stationed at the camp for over a year. She told CrossRiverWatch that even if saying the truth will make her lose her job, she cared less because the right thing must be done because of the fear of God.
Please introduce yourself to us and share your challenges here in camp 2?
I am Mrs. Patricia Asuquo a health staff at Akpabuyo Local Government Area, I was the medical health staff here at the camp, I stayed a year and three months. Last week our transfer came up, I am now stationed at Odukpani but for now no other staff has resumed here. When I resumed duty here their status was very bad, although when the government was responding to them accordingly it was better but for some time now they have no food at all and relevant drugs now they are not healthy and need food and drugs.Government should give them adequate food as they used to initially, even if saying the truth will make me lose my job I care less because the right thing must be done because of the fear of God.
My challenges included not running shift, I have never gotten off and I work from Sunday to Sunday, I resume 8am and close 6pm, for all these strenuous working condition I have never received any allowance or bonus, I use my meager salary to do my job which at the end of the month I’m left with almost nothing, I have not been given any feeding or transportation allowance by my employer.
A bereaved father who lost his daughter a year ago at the camp after borrowing 600,000 Naira for her treatment and gave his younger daughter as collateral also shared his grief with CrossRiverWatch.
Please kindly share your experience in the camp with us…..
I am Edet Ene, between April and March last year my daughter Blessing took ill and died October 10 because I couldn’t raise some money for medical bills. We borrowed and spent over 600, 000 naira for medical treatment but eventually she died. I had to give my younger daughter Mary out for collateral till date I can’t pay back to get her, I am dying slowly. Since my daughter died nobody has come to aid me. I feel very bad, I cry every day like a baby because the government could not save my home. I was not poor but the taking over of Bakassi made me poor. Let the government and other good spirited individuals please come to my rescue.
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