Bakassi has so many things in abundance. That is why Bakassi became a global bone of contention in the first place. Apart from the often talked about oil deposits, Bakassi is rich in other mineral resources. Rich in aquatic resources. Rich in popularity. Rich in diversity. Rich in international politics. Rich in pain and sorrow. Rich in settlement and hospitality because anyone can live in and adopt Bakassi as home. Just name it! Yet the Bakassi people became one of the earliest Internally Displaced Persons in their own homeland when there was no war or ethnic crises amongst them.
It’s true that Bakassi has everything, but parents who are genuinely concerned about her welfare. So Bakassi has remained malnourished. Those who control the political economy of Bakassi and Cross River State and Nigeria, have effectively cornered the anticipated perquisites due to the people of the island and conflated the general needs of the people of Bakassi with their personal needs. Apart from turning the indigenes of Bakassi to despicable objects of charity and pittances, successive Cross River State Governments have laid claim to building estates to resettle the Internally Displaced People of Bakassi. All of those places have been taken over by clusters of hoodlums and in reality, till today, the people of Bakassi have no place to call home, despite the little or much that the State gets from the center in the name of Bakassi.
After Bakassi was handed over during the Duke era, it was not immediately clear what the State government benefited. Under Governor Imoke, we were privileged to learn that, a lump sum of fifteen billion naira was released from the Stabilization Fund by RMAFC, to the Cross River State government, plus five hundred million naira monthly augmentation for two years, amounting to 6 billion naira, which was also paid in bulk in June 2013. In addition to another N400million Naira every month. This information was disclosed in a letter dated April 12, 2014 which the RMAFC sent to Imoke, requesting to visit the State to monitor and evaluate what the Bakassi intervention fund had achieved.
Then in May 2017, a former Chairman of the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), Aliyu Mohammed, during a visit to the State to see Governor Ayade, said as part of efforts to assuage the pains caused by the loss of Bakassi, about N38billion has been paid as special allocation to the State by the Federal Government over a period of 11 years, as compensation. But the state government insists that this amount was grossly inadequate, considering the enormity of the dislocation suffered by the people, and the attendant economic loss to the State. While I agree completely with the State government that the amount paid so far is grossly inadequate, I will also not fail to ask where in Bakassi can we find the 38billion Naira already received or its equivalent, on the ground?
Like greedy parents who neglect their malnourished children, none of our State governors, both past and present have been interested in even accepting that our State gets anything at all as compensation for the people of Bakassi. Bakassi has become synonymous with pittance and charity despite the fact that billions are coming from Abuja for the rescue of the IDPs as well as statutory monthly allocation hovering between N100m – N150m. An aggregation of all these funds and proper utilization of same will, without any doubt, change the fortunes of the people of Bakassi humongously.
While we must all add our voices to ask for more for Bakassi, even as the country currently prepares a new revenue sharing formula for the three tiers of government, the much that has come into the State and still coming in the name of Bakassi, must be spent on the people of Bakassi and not elsewhere.
Citizen Agba Jalingo, a journalist and rights activist is a Cross Riverian and writes in from Lagos.
NB: Opinions expressed in this article are strictly attributable to the author, Agba Jalingo and do not represent the opinion of CrossRiverWatch or any other organization the author works for/with.
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