By Joseph Kingston, Calabar
In order to ameliorate the psychological and mental torture Bakassi people are currently passing through by reason of the ceding of their ancestral homes and the loss of every other inheritance, the federal government should pay compensation to the people in perpetuity or possibly, establish Bakassi Development Commission with full budgetary provisions.
Member representing Bakassi in Cross River House of Assembly, Hon (Dr) Ekpo Ekpo Bassey, made the suggestion in interview with Orient Weekend in Calabar.
He said ceding of the Peninsular to Cameroon could only be redressed with a well-planned road map for the development of the present Bakassi local government area, carved out from the three wards of the then Akpabuyo local government area, so as to accommodate the displaced Bakassi people whose ancestral land in the peninsular was given away.
Bassey said: “The federal government should consider Bakassi as a top priority when dealing with refugees and internally displaced persons. The situation of Bakassi is the only known case in the whole of Nigeria in which people’s land, homes, farmlands, forest resources, fishing routes and everything they held dear were unjustly given out unilaterally by the federal government without the people being consulted and without government considering the plight, the future and fate of the people.
“The federal government should pay compensation in perpetuity to Cross River State for the loss of its land, forest resources, oil and gas resources, loss of the 76 oil wells and other human capital loss. The compensation will go a long away in cushioning the effects of the pains our people have been made to pass through.
“In 2008, the Bakassi people were forced to vacate their homes in the ceded territory and were lumped in a camp in Ikang for no fault of theirs. In our own case, we are not looking for relief materials as are being given out by the federal government to other IDPs camps. That is not our primary interest. We are looking for adequate compensation for the loss we have suffered.”
The lawmaker also made a case for the establishment of Bakassi Development Commission with budgetary provision, saying: “It is either the federal government pays compensation in perpetuity or they establish the Bakassi Development Commission with well spelt out budget and a mandate with provisions in terms of infrastructure, in terms of health care, education, empowerment of the indigenes and many other things.
“The federal government could also decide to fund the Bakassi local government directly. I mean direct special funding. The funding could be from stabilisation fund or any other subhead that could address the issue.
“We are calling on the federal government to do something quick about the matter because, Bakassi is a special case which cannot be swept under. The lingering effects of the unwarranted ceding of the ancestral land of Bakassi people should be cushioned.”