President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent reassurance to his Cameroonian counterpart, Paul Biya that his administration would abide by the ruling of the International Court of Justice on Bakassi during a two-day state visit to the Central African country may have settled the lingering question.
But for indigenes and those repatriated years ago, the subsequent headache will not go away. A group known as the Ikanga Combined Council in Akpabuyo Local Government, where some of the Bakassi returness were settled amidst lingering topographic and identity issues, during the week end besieged the premises of their representatives in the Cross River State House of Assembly to press home some of the unresolved issues affecting their livelihood in the LG The Chairman of Ikang Combined Council, Mr Aye Henshaw during the visit to the lawmaker, Hon. Ekpo Ekpo Bassey, regretted the discrepancies in Cross River State Law N0. 7 of 2007.
The law had designated three Ikang Wards of the then Akpabuyo local Government Area, the resettlement area for the returnees from the erstwhile Bakassi Local government area that was ceded to Cameroon. This followed the signing and implementation of the United Nations Green Tree Agreement between Nigeria and Cameroon during the President Obasanjo regime. According to Henshaw: “These three wards were delineated into 10 political and administrative wards and were meant to accommodate the 10 wards of the ceded Bakassi peninsula instead of the present situation where they are lumped into five out of the 10 wards” Aye stated, “Amending this law appropriately to provide a level playing ground to both the host communities and the returnees remains the panacea to the increasing wave of discontent, youth restiveness and militant currently pervading in the local government area.
The social discontent of the Ikang people of the present Bakassi is compounded by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) policy of dichotomy and disenfranchisement of our people despite a Calabar Federal High Court Judgment. “It is appalling and contemptuous for INEC to insist that the present Bakassi LGA remains as code 04 under the global positioning system (GPS) mapping of the country especially during elections when the Ikang area constituting the present Bakassi LGA by law is captured as code 03 under Akpabuyo LGA.
Even after surrounding our land as well as political and traditional institutions for re-integration of our brothers, our people are now left to wonder what they have done wrong and which local government they really belong to politically” The Chairman of the combined council noted that disenfranchising the Ikang host communities during elections with its over 6, 000 registered voting strength is not acceptable hence their call on the elected representatives to urge him do all it takes to address the ugly situation including the proper geographical demarcation to the boundaries between Akpabuyo and the present Bakassi LGA that will capture the 3 Ikang wards in the national GPS as required to put an end to the disenfranchisement of our people by INEC and their agents.
Responding, their host and member of the Cross River State House of Assembly, representing Bakassi State Constituency, Hon Ekpo Ekpo Bassey called on the Federal Government to implement the Bakassi Resettlement report. Federal Government had in the days after the ceding of Bakassi to Cameroon set up the committee headed by the Cross River State Deputy Governor, Effiok Cobham, on the report. But surprisingly, some years back and up till now the report is yet to be implemented.
The Honourable Member who made the call when Ikang Combined Council paid him a courtesy visit in the Assembly, explained that the House has already passed a resolution on the review of all the state laws regretting that for over twelve years, the laws of the state had not been reviewed given room for misplaced of justice.
“It is unfortunate that some people of Ikang have been disenfranchised”, he said. The Council however, said “As host communities, we are predominately farmers and fishermen, yet we have provided sufficient land to adequate resettle our displaced brothers, losing our available land for agriculture with destruction to our ecosystem without recourse to our land rights and adequate compensation. We have taken time to highlight the socio- economic, political and administrative bottlenecks militating against the development of our area and indeed the entire Bakassi LGA with a view to assisting you in raising advocates that will ameliorate the imbalances and disaffection felt by our people”.
-Several Years after a report was submitted and backed by legislation on the resettlement of repatriated Bakassi people in Akpabuyo LG in Cross River State, the people are still unsettled and frustrated but are now pushing for the report’s implementation, reports Edem Edem in Calabar