The voices they tried to silence
The military personnel that stormed Anasa Beach in the course of our work had questioned whether there were any Bakassi returnees at the beach, insisting our real motives were hidden.
They had essentially accused us of using claims of investigating the Bakassi resettlement issue as guise for a possibly sinister agenda.
But they were wrong. Absolutely wrong.
At Anasa Beach we found revealing voices essential to the heart of the story. Voices still burdened by the anxieties not only of dark recollections but of a persistent reality confronted daily across two divides.
Our timing was perfect. Just before the disruption of the process by the security operatives, we had just successfully concluded the second of our two planned interviews.
A returnee speaks of death, horror and a life besieged
Asuquo Etim wore the strains of adversity like a robe. He looked forlorn, bitter from his still-fresh painful experiences.
A fisherman all his life, Asuquo now has to contend with a new reality, one where he is away from his fishing base in Cameroon as an unsettled returnee in Nigeria living only on the modest benevolence of a few sympathetic people.
He narrated his ordeal as displaced fisherman. He said the Gendarmes in Cameroon had forcefully evicted him and other fishermen leading to some casualties because they could not afford the new fishing levies.
“More than 10 persons died; I’m here because the suffering there is too much.
“Our people are missing; we don’t know where they are”, Asuquo said, referring to the enforced displacement of Nigerian fishermen in Cameroon.
“They (Gendarmes) wait for us, and remove our engines because we have not paid the tax of N55,000 per boat.
“They’ve stopped us from fishing where we usually did; they have chased us away from the sea and made us restless on land”, he added.
Asuquo lamented his helplessness. He said they had approached the Nigerian government to intervene with no response yet.
He also mentioned Senator Florence Ita-Giwa and the Paramount Ruler of Bakassi as two prominent people they had approached to find a solution.
“The Paramount Ruler said we should try to cope there or return home if we can’t”, he said.
“Here there is no food, no job, no relief materials; even the house they provided in the camp is not safe.
“Without handouts from kind people, we can’t feed. Sometimes we have to weed grass to make little money”, he painfully revealed.
He said the returnee allowance of N5,000 had stopped being paid for over 9 years, a development he said worsened his situation since he could not fish on the Nigerian side of the waters because his fishing equipment were in the possession of the gendarmes who had seized them.
Asuquo took a deep breath before saying, “Our educated brothers and sisters who are supposed to represent us in government have failed us. All we have now is God. We can only take one day at a time; if we live, we live.
“I don’t know if government wants us to die there; we are tired”.
There was no hesitation as Asuquo responded to the reported killing of 97 Nigerian fishermen. He confirmed news of the recent deaths of some fishermen at the hands of the gendarmes but without specifics on the exact number of casualties and nature of the deaths.
He said the bereaved families were of a different village and so he could determine the figure, while claiming that some were still missing from the gendarme attack.
Asuquo did not flinch as he made these weighty accusations. It was as if he were expressing a widely known fact. There was no deliberation or display of a unique sense of proportion. To Asuquo, the revelation was a typical part of his woeful story.
Just as we thought the interview had ended, Asuquo became visibly subdued; he had a pressing request he could not leave unsaid.
He said that the Cameroonian government had a regular practice of tracking down Nigerians resident there who granted interviews criticizing it and making sure they paid dearly. He was too sacred to risk his face appearing in the interview.
‘Our children are stolen and sold’
Duke Ekpenyong, a fisherman returnee from Cameroon, spared no one as he tried to situate the source of his misfortune. The Nigerian government, the restive youths on the Nigerian side and Cameroonian authorities were all recipients of his scathing remarks.
Duke said all he had ever known was fishing, having been born to a fisherman dad whom he lost while growing up. He pursued the fishing business vigorously. Fishing was his buffer against poverty and crime.
“Gendarmes came to our fishing port to enforce the tax collection. I had to return because I could not afford it. We were already paying other taxes.
“We pleaded with them to collect N10,000 but they refused. I can’t afford N110,000 for my two boats. I had to come back a month ago”, Duke said with a note of angst and despair in his voice.
Life is harsh and hard here
He accused the gendarmes of arson, violence and murder. “They killed some people, set fire on fishing port, destroyed the boats”, he said.
“Life is hard”, he continued, “We don’t have a home. My wife and three children are squatting; I sleep at the beachside everyday”, his voice becoming more intense. “No money; my children do not go to school”, he added.
He said he had lost his apartment at a resettlement camp when he returned to Cameroon with his family some time back.
Duke lamented the lack of security at the camps when he stayed there. He gathered his thoughts and made a damning revelation. “Bad boys used to come to the camp and steal our children to sell”, he said.
The reaction and request for clarification must have made magnitude of his claim obvious to him. Duke had pointed to the possible existence of the primitive and inhuman trade in persons, no less children!
He repeated his claim with even greater emphasis.
He said reiterated that insecurity at resettlement camps was a serious challenge, one that had led to the flight of many returnees.
Duke pleaded for intervention in health, education and economic empowerment.
He said it was inexplicable that the camps did not have health centres or schools, a situation that fueled the sad reality of children being out of school and engaging in child labour, with many resorting to traditional medicine and self-medication when ill.
‘We are like fish out of water…slaves…animals’
Chief Asuquo Effiong spoke matter-of-factly. He did not mince words.
As a leader in the camp at Ikot Effiom, he understood the issues. He fumed at government’s neglect, and deeply expressed the pain of not being properly resettled.
“We’re like fish out of water since we came out from the Bakassi peninsula.
“We are suffering; we are slaves here. Our children are dying and there is no help from government”, he said.
Effiong continued, “We’re here like animals; no food, no relief materials. Even when relief materials are brought, people from neighbouring villages come to disrupt things and ensure we don’t have access to them.
“We don’t have water. During dry season, it is so difficult to get water.
“There is no light too.
It’s been over four years now since we last received the N5,000 meant for returnees. Our kids are out of school because there is no money. I have nine children and they have been out of school for years”, he said as he became visibly more agitated.
‘We’re suffering, we’re like slaves here’
Effiong said he barely survived by helping out in farms to clear weed and harvest crops, earning only pittance from these.
He looked especially traumatized by this new reality, a stark contrast from a time when he could fend for himself in dignity through an occupation handed down by his forbears.
Coping with the terms of occupation set by the hosts has been difficult, Effiong revealed. He gave insights into the challenges experienced with the host community.
“Owners of the land won’t give us access to the farm or the palm trees; they don’t allow us harvest anything in the camp.
“We can’t even bury our children or loved ones without permission from those whose land was taken by the government”, he said.
Effiong was not done, he spoke also of political inequity, “We do not belong to any ward in election; no political attention at the estate here”.
His last salvo was reserved for the United Nations whom he accused of utter disregard for the displaced people and a longstanding show of lack of commitment.
“We have visited the UN office to get them to fulfil all the promises made during the ceding of the peninsula and to also push for the enforcement of the Greentree Agreement without any positive outcome”, Effiong voiced in a desperate tone.
A young widow plunging to the depths for survival
Glory, a widowed mother of four cut a forlorn figure. She had been through a lot. Her life, she revealed, was a daily battle for survival. Not just hers, but for her children’s. She was barely coping. They hardly had a good meal. The children had been out of school. And limited self-medication was their only answer to the pangs of ailment.
“We have never seen any good thing here. Feeding is difficult. There is no water.
“My children are out of school”, she said.
“What I’m wearing is what I just used to carry fish for women at Ikang. That’s what I do now. I also weed farms. But the pay is so small.
“Before Bakassi was lost, I was selling at riverine area. We lost our boat and goods at the former Bakassi. Some our children died and left us”, her words prompting sighs.
“Life is so difficult at the camp; no food; no water.
“Since 2013 when we came here, we have not received any relief material.
“If not by the grace of God that I carry load to make 50 naira or 100 naira, I would have been a thief now.
“The returnee allowance has been stopped for years now.
“No hospital inside the camp; when my children are sick, I buy paracetamol at Ikang to give them.
“There is no school here too; my children have not gone to school since 2013”, her lamentation flowed.
Glory had her demands: “Government should pay that N5000 and also come here to do a proper resettlement and take care of us”.
‘If I had been allowed to stay at Bakassi, my life would’ve been different now’
Etebo, a young woman who had seen so much in so little time.
Born in Baksassi and schooling in Calabar, both parents thriving in the fishing business, life seemed okay until, “I heard they were evicted from Bakassi”, her teary voice said.
“I stopped going to school when I was about entering SS1. My sisters and I started selling meat to help out.
‘We lost our dad too. My father was killed by the gendarmes in the Bakassi peninsula. When he went to get periwinkles, he was shot because people were not allowed to go there.
“I became babysitter, a house help in Calabar, but was forced to return to the camp after poor treatment.
“I was roaming about helpless. Now I have many children; I have no husband, I’m helpless”, Etebo divulged.
Gendarmes killed my father
“I regret how my mother was displaced and now we’re suffering.
“If had been allowed to stay there, life would have been different; I would not have dropped out of school.
“None of my four children are in school. We’re suffering.
“My children, sisters and mother are in one room.
“There’s no food, no light, no health centre in this camp.
“I really pray for government to help us; we’re helpless”, Etebo said.
Her sense of helplessness was palpable. She begged us to interview her. She seemed desperately in search of an escape from a life beset by deprivation.
A frail Bayelsan speaks of unending neglect
Easter Donme, a 67-year-old Ijaw man from Bayelsa has been part of the Bakassi story.
He looked frail and sad and burdened.
“I came here in 2010. We have been suffering till date.
“There is no water, no food, no light.
“There’s no money to buy food. If not for the help of good Samaritans, most of us will not see food to eat”, he said.
‘The governemnt doesn’t care’
He revealed that relief efforts were being compromised by politicians.
“Sometimes they’ll bring food meant for us and divert it to the new Bakassi returnees at Ita-Giwa’s place.
“Food meant for us is diverted on the road”.
Donme spoke of the lack of amenities at the camp and accused the government of failing the people.
He said the people were not interested in the campaign to relocate them to Dayspring led by Ita-Giwa, saying all they needed was a proper resettlement.
“We don’t want to go to the river again. We don suffer for river before we come to land.
“She (Ita-Giwa) wants us to go to the river; we said no, we don’t want Dayspring. There’s nothing that we’ll see in the river again”, he vigorously stated.
He described the experience of Bakassi people in Cameroon, saying “Cameroon government too is disturbing us.
“Most of us have lost our properties; they remove engine boat and burn properties; many died”.
The challenge of insecurity at the camp was of particular concern to him. Donme narrated how militants prevented distribution of relief materials to displaced persons, and at the peak of their powers last year, sacked all non-Bakassi indigenes from the camps, renting their houses out.
“We were many here-Ijaws, Deltans, Bayelsans, people from Riversand Akwa Ibom.
“Militants drove us out. They didn’t want to see us here. They told us to go back to our states.
“I ran to fishing port till things settled.
“This happened last year.
They gave Ijaw houses to people to rent.
“God say nobody should die that’s why we’re still living.
“Now no more Ijaws here, just me, my younger brother and an ex-militant with his wife, a returnee”, he recalled.
He said his entire family was in Bayelsa, and stated how difficult things were since the N5,000 returnee allowance stopped coming about four years ago.
Donme had heard the story of the reported killing of 97 fishermen on radio.
“I saw the returnees who came back after that incident at the time; Ijaw people too.
“They said some people died but they don’t know the number.
“I was told they asked them to pay tax; they called them for a meeting first.
“When it was time, they said they won’t pay because where the crayfish dey, dey near one of the oil platforms inside the ocean and BIR (Rapid Response Brigade) don’t allow them fish there.
“So they said if they don’t allow them to fish there and make money to pay the tax, they won’t pay”, he revealed.
Donme looked tired. Tired from years of struggle and from the pain of dashed hopes. But he could not afford despondency. He made sure to register his appeal for intervention after sharing his ordeal.
‘The UN must intervene if there will be peace’
“I’ve been back since 2004; I had returned to come and buy fuel when I got the information of the ICJ ruling.
“I refused to go back because I knew how the gendarmes were treating Nigerians.
“If you see it, you will cry. They tax everything. You pay taxt for fishing, you pay tax for crayfish, you pay tax on fire wood.
“Everything we did there we paid tax for”, Bassey, a Bakassi leader in his sixties said.
He was visibly pained by the treatment the returnees received from the host communities.
“In this land the owners are still disturbing us.
“They’re fighting with my people over palm trees; they kill us over palm trees.
“The UN must intervene to resettle us properly.
“Let the UN come in and pay them off and resettle us properly”, he appealed.
Bassey continued, “Militancy is still active here.
“They break into houses, kidnap children and women, rape women and kidnap men.
“If you can’t pay the ransom, they kill you.
“if the army and police posts could be in the camps, it will help”, he suggested.
He called for real intervention. “We do not want government to merely bring relief materials or money. We want them to fix the issues.
“No school, no water, no light, no market in the estate”.
Bassey said he had been discussing with his people in Cameroon whom he said were at the receiving end of aggression.
He said the treatment was in violation of terms of the Greentree Agreement.
“Our people don’t know how to farm. Our work is fishing, that’s why many stayed behind.
“They threw all their nets and equipment into the water because they refused to pay the N55,000 per boat.
“Cameroon government should allow our people to be in peace.
“They should end the taxes.
“Cameroonians come here to do business and there are no hassles.
“They use only a pass here while we we use both international passport and passes over there.
“Meanwhile the Greentree Agreement is not like that.
“Let the UN step into it so there can be peace”, he advised.
He spoke about the reported killing of 97 fishermen.
“I saw some injured people.
I didn’t see the bodies; they said they were left behind”.
Bassey also spoke about the poor infrastructure and blamed corruption for failed relief efforts.
“Our roads are terrible.
“The people on top divert relief materials to friends. The IDPs receive nothing; they only see the relief materials in the news.
“We have not set eyes on the state governor”.
He contrasted the Paramount Ruler with Ita-Giwa, thus: “Paramount ruler built houses and a hotel here, St. Mary; he wants the place to develop; he understands the situation as the former Local Government Chairman of Akpabuyo.
“Ita-Giwa has no house here. She has nothing here in the whole of bakassi, even the ceded area.
“Her house is only in calabar and she claims to be representing us; mama bakassi indeed!”, Bassey concluded mockingly.
What we need is a proper relocation/resettlement…..empowerment of youths……training and set-up cash….build schools, and hospitals in the camp, provide water, market and improve security
‘We have nowhere to go; we have no home—no home there, no home here’
Etete Simon spoke bitterly about suffering in Cameroon and at home. He accused Cameroonian authorities of violent oppression while blaming government officials and politicians on the Nigerian side for abusing the trust of the people by seeking only their selfish interests.
“There were no boundaries in the waters before but Cameroon government later set boundaries and restricted us.
“Normally fishes don’t stay in one place so we have to track their movement.
“They’ve stopped us from getting to crayfish.
“We are beaten; some die.
“Equipment is destroyed inside the river, inside Atlantic Ocean.
We have nowhere to go
“If you go to a hospital there, nobody will take proper care of you so we rush back and some die in the process.
“Lots of people have died.
“Since the ceding, our government’s interest has declined.
“I went to Abana three weeks ago and the colonel of BIR ordered the removal of the flags of Nigerian chiefs they appointed over the disagreement.
“The so-called Ita-Giwa, before she came to Cross-River, she claimed Odukpani before later claiming Bakasssi.
“We listened and supported her but she could not perform.
“When government sent 100%, we didn’t get 10%.We have not benefited anything.
“Our leaders only protect personal interest and not the interest of the masses”, Etete angrily narrated.
His voice dropped, his brows relaxed as he declared, “We come here, no proper care; we go there, maltreatment, they seize fishing materials, kill our people; tax everywhere.
“We have nowhere to go; we have no home—no home there, no home here”
Relitigating the ceding of the peninsula: ‘The territory belongs to us…There is tears and blood on the land’
Okon had fire in my eyes. He was excited at the opportunity to argue his case. “I have been praying for this opportunity”, he said.
There’s blood in the land
“Our fathers never told us the peninsula belonged to Cameroon.
“Cameroon has encroached into our land; the ceding was flawed.
“If not that we honour our leaders, we would have fought the battle ourselves.
“But despite out trust and loyalty, government still failed us”, Okon expressed in shaky voice fueled by anger.
“There is tears on the land and blood on the land.
“The gendarmes victimize us because our leaders do not follow up on issues.
“Till today there is no clear boundary between Cameroon and Nigeria.
“The Greentree Agreement has been abandoned too”, he said.
Okon then focused on issues surrounding the resettlement.
“The real camp is in Ikot Effiom.
“Why should the governor take a camp to Akpabuyo which is outside bakasssi?”, he asked, referring to the new camp at Akpankaya where the governor had pledged to several housing units.
“Children have stopped going to school because gendarmes have stopped us raising money from fishing.
“If a free person cannot survive in a recession, how can a refugee survive?
“Even the N5,000 we were collecting stopped over 4 years ago.
“But Borno State IDPs are receiving proper treatment.
“Give us water. Give us good hospitals. Give us good education. This is the role of government.
‘We had to leave Cameroon for our own safety; people who are there are those who want to die.
“Don’t wait till we are all dead before you (FG) come”, he stated pointedly, as if the government stood before him.
A chief in Cameroon, a helpless refugee in Nigeria
We’ve been denied our rights
In Akwa Obutong sat a despairing Bakassi chief in front his decrepit house that told a story of neglect and abject poverty. His house was not alone.
The entire settlement was defined by sparse ramshackle apartments lost in an abandoned area loosely connected by a narrow stretch of undulating grounds that could barely accommodate a bike.
It took an obstinate ride on a rugged bike amidst several disembarkments for us to reach the location.
The chief said their location was where the first set of returnees had settled and was in fact the original headquarters of Bakassi Local Government, but that they had been abandoned.
There was only a single primary school that told of government presence.
“I am one of the chiefs in Bakassi.
“We came as they asked us to but there is more suffering here.
“The cheating of us is too much here and the suffering too.
“What is the decision of government about us here?
“None of us here has been given any training or skill acquisition; no empowerment to fend for our families.
“Back then in Bakassi we could send our kids to school even to university; but now we can’t afford it.
“We are suffering and in hunger.
“This is the first place, Akwa Obutong; the first Bakassi headquarter.
“We have been sidelined. All those developments happening elsewhere in Bakassi should be happening here.
“The people at the top are diverting projects elsewhere.
“The road here should have led to the jetty but the construction is still pending.
“No change up till now.
“Despite the number of surveys done, no construction of any road here”, the elder chief concluded.
The bleeding heart of broken mother
The chief’s wife looked distressed. She could barely wait her turn to bare her heart. She had much lamentation to do.
“No good thing comes here”, she began.
“Since they brought us from the former Bakassi, there’s nothing government has done here.
“Look at the house we’re living in”, she said as she directed our gaze with her head, turning backwards.
“There is no money.
Nothing good comes here
“The N5,000 given to train the children stopped coming since four years ago.
“My eyes can’t clearly see and I can’t go to the hospital.
“Government should come and help us.
“Thank God you’re here and you’ve seen things for yourselves.
“To find food to eat here is not easy.
“The name of this village, Obutong, has been used to make money elsewhere.
“Our youths have no work in government or any place.
“We have been neglected”, she moaned.
She asked again, “look at the house”, before repeating, “Please help, please help, please help”.
‘Since our land was sold to Cameroon, government has been deceiving us’
Government has been deceiving us
“Bakassi is a place our forefathers had.
“Abana and entire Bakassi is where we all grew up, inherited, fished and fended for our families.
“But before we knew it, government sold the land.
“Now we have no place”, the returnee fisherman complained.
“That’s why on 14 August 2008 we ran and came to settle here.
“Government promised to take care of us.
“Our children have not been able to go to school
“No food here, no source of livelihood.
“The N5,000 we were using to support our families is now gone for four years now.
“Because of the suffering and hunger many returned back”, he lamented.
He spoke of the importance of the settlement at Akwa Obutong, thus, “To be very candid, the first place Bakassi people settled was this place.
“Look around whether you will see any government presence.
“That is why you see us living like this.
“Is it possible that the owner of the place can live like a slave and be suffering?
“Since our land was sold to Cameroon, government has been deceiving us”, he fumed.
Before he was done, he made sure to inform us of the risk appearing in interviews posed to returnees, a now familiar fear expressed among returnees.
“When a chief was interviewed and his face showed, he was arrested when he returned to the peninsula; he is now in serious trouble”, he stated.
A plea from the shadows: In the hideout of a ‘fugitive’ in desperate search for justice
We were led to the hideout of a recent Bakassi returnee caught at the heart of the crisis involving Cameroonian enforcement authorities and Nigerian fishermen.
From his hideout, he spoke of how he narrowly escaped capture and possible fatal attack by Cameroonian soldiers.
He left his wife and children behind and escaped to Nigeria as soon as he got the chance.
He revealed that a certain chief was kidnapped by Cameroonian authorities and was still missing.
He pleaded for intervention from the UN and Nigerian authorities towards the release of the missing chief and his reunion with his family.
Tale of a missing Nigerian chief
Revelations on a hidden bank at Akwa Obutong’s share of the Atlantic
Our guide led us to the water in Akwa Obutong said to be flowing from the Atlantic.
He told of how the waters brought in thousands of returnees feeling life in Cameroon.
It was an important part of the link between the two worlds, and a place essential to the story of the people.
‘Government took our land and gave to the Bakassi returnees and they’ve not done anything for us’
Prince Ekpeyong, the overall youth leader of Bakassi, spoke of loss and betrayal.
An indigene of the host community, he said government had failed to keep the promises it made to them when it took their land and handed to the Bakassi returnees.
All we have are failed promises
“Right from 2007 when they brought Bakassi back here, we as host community have been giving them land; in Ekpri Obutong and Ikot Effiom.
“There have been a lot of challenges from government.
“They failed to deliver on all promises to host community.
“How can they bring a people and suppress the owners of the community?
“Like this our ward Ward 4, we have not contested for any political office like councilor, no political representatives, no appointees too.
“We as the owners of the land have not benefited anything from Bakassi.
“We’re not happy the way things are going in Bakassi as host.
“As host community, all what government promised to do like compensation, scholarships to our children and a lot of things were not done.
“It’s painful when we look at our land.
“Government came and took our land and they’ve not done anything for us.
“Government did not pay for the land”, he said.
Ekpeyong also spoke of political inequities.
“Some of our people who registered in 2003 belong to Akpabuyo, others who registered 2004 belong to Bakassi; we don’t even know where we belong.
“We’ve not participated in national election; they say we belong to Akpabuyo, the old Bakassi name, Abana.
“The constitution does not recognise the state law—Law no. 7 that brought Bakassi here.
“Only local government election is being done here for us to participate.
“They say our Ward 4 belongs to Abana”, he concluded with dismay.
Three traditional rulers of host communities: One unified front
His Highness, head of an Obutong clan, His Highness, Chairman Arbitration Panel, Bakassi,
and His Royal Highness, head of Ikang clan, all sat down to interact with us.
Integration and inclusiveness are the way out
They spoke on a wide array of issues regarding the flawed resettlement, the relegation of the host communities, and the failure of government to resolve the issues of conflict between the host communities and the returnees.
Their discussions were anchored one major point, the need for real integration between the peoples.
Bombshell from SEMA officials: ‘There are conflicting interests in Bakassi…Politicians divert relief materials’
Officials of the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) in Cross River State made damning revelations of highly compromised relief distribution efforts.
Aide workers allege Ita Giwa, others try to influence allocation of relief materials
They disclosed how the process had been hijacked by politicians of conflicting interests with the returnees left to suffer.
A high-ranking NDDC official says, ‘They have to tell us what they want before we can intervene’
At the NDDC office, a high-ranking state official told us that the policy of the commission was not to take the initiative in implementing projects for any people.
He said the Bakassi people had to write to tell them what they wanted.
“We might provide water and it would not be acceptable because what they actually wanted was light”, he said.
‘About N1bn released during Donald Duke’s time for Bakassi returnees was diverted’
A staff of the Cross River State Newspaper Corporation provided useful insights. He was not afraid to tie failed aspects of the resettlement of the Bakassi people to specific names and actions.
N1bn went to people’s pockets
He long monologue contained the following: “Federal government released about N1bn during the dying days of Donald duke’s tenure; it was diverted by federal and state officials. It did not get to the people.
“Ita-Giwa’s push for Dayspring is flawed.
“Politicians have ulterior motive; the land belongs to other people, even where they are now was formerly Akpabuyo Local Government.
“The Greentree Agreement is faulty.
“It said Nigerians can remain and live their normal lives but gendarmes beat them, kill them, attack them, tax them, ask the fishermen to pay N100,00.
“The agreement should have said ‘go’, but since the UN said stay in your ancestral home, it caused a lot of problems”.
‘Dayspring island is uninhabitable…It’s quest is born of elitism’
A fuming government official faulted politicians clamouring for Dayspring.
He said, “Dayspring is not inhabitable.
“We don’t have the resources to develop it; it’s an island.
“No one is permanently resident there.
“It comprises fishing camps in a riverine area.
“A place where fishermen frequented in the past.
“They used to go there, take camp there to dry their fishes and then come back to sell. It’s a camp.
“The quest for dayspring comes from an elitist place; control freaks are behind it.
“The quest to control is driving it….she (Ita-Giwa) just wants a virgin island so as to control things”, he said.
‘In true African culture you give support to the weak…but our case is different’
Hon Ekpo Ekpo, a member of the Cross River State House of Assembly representing Bakassi, spoke at length on wide-ranging issues around the Bakassi question.
He revisited the long, complex history, and blamed former President Olusegun Obasanjo for hurriedly pushing through the ceding of the peninsula even when the ICJ ruling had not been domesticated by the National Assembly.
Dayspring project is a fraud
He also spoke about the challenges experienced by the returnees, the problem of poor infrastructure, the politics and debate around Law 7, INEC and the Nigerian constitution, as well as the responsibilities and failures of the government and the UN in resolving the issues.
Investigative Team: Chinedu Chidi (Assistant Editor)
Akin Obakeye (Audio-Visual Producer)
Moses Bassey (Guide/Camp leader)
***This investigative project by Ripples Nigeria was conducted in partnership with the Ripples Centre for Data and Investigative Journalism.
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