Former Akwa Ibom State Governor, Obong Victor Attah, has laid the blame for Nigeria’s loss of the oil rich Bakassi peninsula, squarely on former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Obasanjo, he said, for ulterior motives, ignored his advice and paper presentations that could have prevented the negative judgement the country got at the International Court of Justice, ICC, The Hague.
Obong Attah stated this in an exclusive interview with Ripples Nigeria in Abuja, insisting that the former president ignored and shut him out because he did not want Bakassi oil wells to come to Akwa Ibom State.
He said, “The determination, was to keep Obong Victor Attah out because if we succeeded, Akwa Ibom would want to claim the oil wells. This is because Obasanjo had determined to give them to Cross River State. They kept me out and refused to take any of the documents. They however went to The Hague and fumbled”.
The former governor was reacting to questions on the recent demand by another militant group in the Niger Delta, the Bakassi Strike Force, aka Esighi Group, asking the Federal Government to reclaim Bakassi, if it wants it to lay down its arms.
According to Obong Attah, Nigeria misdirected itself badly on the issue of Bakassi, even as he insisted that there was nothing he did not do to ensure Bakassi was saved.
“There was nothing I did not do to save the situation. Even if we lack ancient history, we should remember the villages were fishing villages, where people go to for fishing and come back after the fishing season. That place was called Apabana and is now Bakassi. All the villages were named after existing towns and most of them were in Akwa Ibom and not even in Cross River State.
“I tried my best and it came out in a paper I presented to show that those people had their roots and Bishopric in Eket before it moved to Oron. They owed everything to Nigeria. You must also remember that at that time, Western Cameroon was part of Nigeria. I also tried to remind everybody concerned that the Certificate of Occupancy for the military barrack in Bakassi was signed by a military governor in Akwa Ibom.”
The former Governor, who said he was not claiming that his papers would have won the case for Nigeria, however said it would have helped the country make a better case at The Hague, which he noted could have changed the outcome.
He added that the situation led to Cross River State losing all the oil wells despite the fact that some oil wells were left for the state in his proposal.
Speaking on whether the demand of the Bakassi Strike Force was feasible, Obong Attah said: “We have a situation here where a decision had been taken by the ICC and honestly, I am not a lawyer to know if anything can be done. I will only advice that if through good legal advice and through political negotiation, we discover that reclaiming it is not feasible, we should just gnash our teeth and bury it because we cannot go to war and reclaim it.
Speaking on the renewed agitation for restructuring and fiscal federalism, Attah said that though he would readily not want to use the word restructuring because it has been severally misused, he insisted that fiscal federalism is an idea whose time has come.
He also frowned at the decision of President Muhammadu Buhari not to implement the report of the 2014 National Conference, saying the report holds the key to reducing the current agitations in the country by half.
Obong Attah said: “I feel sad that President Muhammadu Buhari, who is doing very well, should insist that he was not going to look at the report of the 2014 National Conference. He needs to look at it because there are aspects of the report that, if he can implement, will automatically take care of the demands by groups such as IPOB, MASSOB, Niger Delta Avengers, Joint Liberation Council and all others. Everything will calm down. We have all these agitations because of feelings of injustice and feelings of being cheated.”
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