By Kanjal Godshield
Cross River governor, Ben Ayade on Friday chided the United Nations and the Federal Government for ceding the oil rich Bakassi Peninsular to the Republic of Cameroon without seeking the consent of the people through a plebiscite.
Ayade, who stated this while receiving the Country Representative of United Nations High Commission for Refugees, Mrs. Angele Dikongue Atangana in his office in Calabar, Friday, said the people of the state were still angry over the ceding of the peninsular.
He said the ceding of the peninsular was done without a plebiscite, thus unjustly depriving the people of their ancestral home and turning them into refugees in their own land.
The governor, who struggled to hold back emotions, said: “Your Commission is undertaking a worthy and noble cause. I thank you for your humanitarian assistance and expression of emotion, but the people are angry in the way and manner they have been treated. They have been deprived of their heritage and livelihood.”
According to the governor: “The people of Bakassi were not given the opportunity to choose where they would want to belong and I am telling the United Nations that this is an unsettled issue and no amount of dollars can settle the issue. The people have now been split between Cross River and Akwa Ibom as well as Nigeria and Cameroon. As the agony of the people continues, their plight cannot be wiped away by dollars,” he reiterated.
“Take it that the people feel very disturbed and unhappy and if this had happened in any other part of the world, there would have been war today. This is totally unacceptable and is not done in the modern society. Today, Cross River is traversed by internally displaced persons, who are refugees in their own state,” he said.
Continuing, the governor said “the displaced people of Bakassi are suffering and if United Nations had anything in mind, it should have started from there and if anything needed to be treated as an emergency, it is the Bakassi because the people live in such sub-human condition. The state will work hard to strengthen things and we will partner the commission to achieve its aims.”
Earlier, Angele Dikongue Atangana, commended Cross River for accommodating refugees from Cameroon and said the Commission was touched by the plight of the displaced persons of Bakassi, adding that, while everything is being done to ensure the resettling of the Cameroonians in their country of origin, the Commission would collaborate with the state to make life comfortable for the people of Bakassi who are internally displaced in the state.
Atangana explained that the Commission spent about $200,000 in the first half of 2013, and that it has worked out modalities to introduce vocational training for the people with the assistance of development partners as a means of giving them a sense of livelihood, saying that, they should not be seen as stateless people but be recognized as citizens or nationals of Nigeria who are rightly settled in their motherland.