By Our Reporter
About two thousand members of the Bakassi Strike Force led by Benjamin Ene on Monday surrendered a cache of dreadful looking arms and ammunition to weapons to Operation Delta Safe bringing to an end five years of militancy at the Bakassi Peninsula and surrounding creeks.
The event which took place at the Bakassi Local Government Council secretariat at Ikang was witnessed by a mammoth crowd comprising those sympathetic to the their cause and those who were victims of the struggle.
The arms surrendred ranged from AK 47, machine gun boat, English riffles, automatic pump action, grenades, doble barrel guns, and pistols along with millions of bullets and their “odeshi” white cloths.
Speaking at the ceremony, Sen. Ben Ayade, Cross River State Governor said militancy in Bakassi is the outcome of the ceding of the Peninsular by the Nigerian Government without consulting the people, approval of the National Assembly and without making provision for the welfare of the people whose ancestral homes were handed over to Cameroon in compliance to the World Court ruling at the Hague.
According to him, “For a young man to see his ancestral home being given away with all its resources leading to untold suffering without corresponding action from Government to ameliorate the hardship and all opportunity for negotiation closed , the next thing is resort to struggle and violence”.
Ayade who thanked the Federal Government for facilitating the amnesty for the militants said the State should be assisted to provide the needed rehabilitation and provision for the ex-combatants, stressing that the State will do all it could to keep to the terms of the Memorandum of Understating, MOU, with the militants.
He further said the State is already in distress going by the low Federal revenue it gets monthly and it’s high debt profile but assured that the welfare of the militants would be given top priority by his Government.
“I feel pain, a sense of shame, a sense of defeat that these young men were allowed to get to the level of taking lives to protect their brothers, sisters, uncles and friends but their action affected those whom they sought to protect the most because they were kidnapped, robbed and attacked just to sustain the struggle”. He said.
Governor Ayade warned them against returning to their old ways as his Government will not protect or make excuses for anyone who does not respect the terms on which they were granted amnesty.
He said with the surrender, the Gulf of Guinea which was considered one of the most dangerous water ways would become safer leading to a reduction the high insurance premium charged for ships taking crude out of the country and those coming in with goods.
On his part, Rear Admiral A. Suleiman, the Commander of Operation Delta Safe warned those still at the creeks that they would be moped up to ensure a safe waterways along the Gulf of Guinea and that even those who surrendered if found wanting in any way would be dealt with accordingly.
His words, “We will continue to do the job until we stamp out criminality along the Nigerian Waterways and we remain apolitical to what is going because we have a mandate and shall ensure we carry out that mandate to the latter”.