By Jonathan Ugbal; Government House Correspondent
The last may not have been heard about the ceding of Bakassi peninsula to Cameroon by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) as Cross River governor, Benedict Ayade has described it as an unsettled issue.
Addressing a team led by the country representative, United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), Angele Dikongue Xtangam when they paid him a courtesy call in his office in Calabar, Ayade said Cross Riverians were pained at the way a part of them was cut away.
His words “We have a moral and emotional burden to express some concerns, fears, agony and pains we have encountered in the course of our struggle as a small nation state within the nation state of Nigeria. The people of Bakassi and the people of Cross River state are indeed pained and hurt by the way and manner that a part of us has been ceded out.
“Rightly put in the way and manner you (Angele Dikongue) earlier put it, we have reduced our people, the people of Bakassi to be near stateless people, a people whose heritage, a people whose lifestyle, a people whose original means of living has been completely taken, a people whose fundamental human rights have been trampled upon, a people who were never consulted either by referendum or plebiscite to ask where they choose to belong, a people whose faith was decided in the high tables of cities where they know not, whose course the world has altered, their spirit and soul cries.
“There is no amount of peanuts, no amount of food, no amount of shelter that you provide that will reverse the hurt. The right thing is to allow a man the fundamental right to choose whom he intends to associate with, where he belongs and how he chooses to live”.
Ayade averred that the fact that the state was an ethnic minority should have been the reason why it should be considered with greater priority, opining that if it were another part of the country that suffered the same fate, the country will go to war.
On the compensation packages and aid, Ayade questioned the UN’s programs “If there was United Nations indeed, they should have started from Bakassi, because the people are in pain, they have no food, no education, no future”.
He then sent a message to the UN saying “The United Nations must hear it loud and clear that it is an unsettled issue as there is no amount of dollars that can settle this and at the fullness of time, when the state is through with her economic challenges, they (Bakassi) will be back on the table, they will be back before the UN to ask for a plebiscite, they will be back before the UN to ask for what is fair and right; that the people of Bakassi have a right to choose where they want to live.
“As we speak today, there is a split between Cross River and Akwa Ibom states as to where they belong, there is a split between some parts of Cameroon, Ikang and Bakassi and there is no way a people can be reduced to that level of want in spirit and in body” he said before adding that the scars, pain and hurt cannot be taken away even though humanitarian efforts were been celebrated.
Angele Dikongue, the Country Director of UNHCR, earlier in her remarks said the state was one of the few in Nigeria that received and catered for refugees from Cameroon since 2008 and referenced Obanliku local government area which received hundreds of them, integrated them until they spontaneously returned to Cameroon four years later.
Angele disclosed that her office had been collaborating with the Department of International Development and Cooperation, DIDC in the state since 2008 and operationally since 2013 after the flooding of Bakassi in 2012 which she said 200,000 dollars worth of ‘non food items’ were distributed in the first half of 2013.
She added that, some of the Bakassi people were been regarded as been in a state of ‘statelessness’ as most did not register themselves when they came in and opined that the state’s cooperation was needed to engage the people positively so they don’t become a threat as is been witnessed.
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