More issues are coming up, after the penultimate week's judgement of the Supreme Court which ordered INEC to undertake the proper delineation of wards in Bakassi. Now, natives of the local government have told the governor, Prof Ben Ayade to either resettle them in the riverine area they chose, or facilitate the removal of Bakassi from the list of local Nigerian governments in the constitution.
Last week, the state information commissioner, Mrs Rosemary Archibong, was at the project, where she was told that work had reached 70 per cent completion. The facility which is being built by the government of Ayade, is to be called orange circus housing estate.
The estate will have facilities such as schools, market, children playground, recreation centre, hospital, shopping malls, and clinic. Others are skills acquisition centre, corner shops, security unit, fire station and a resting house for the governor.
When completed, the displaced people of Bakassi would be expected to take possession of the estate.
But paramount ruler of Bakassi, Etinyin Etim Okon Edet, in reacting to government's position on the estate said his people were not interested in the housing estate because it was built on Akpabuyo land and not on Bakassi.
He said: “That is not the way to resettle a people with their institutions. Previous housing schemes failed. Why? Can't people ask questions? Have they not seen housing estates as they passed to Ifiang Oyong? Why don't they find out the people staying there? What they have done there is completely for Ifiang Oyong people. It's part of the development of Akpabuyo and Cross River State.”
Edet lamented the treatment meted to his people by the federal government and said Bakassi people would not mind if the name of the local government is removed from the constitution, since the government could not resettle them properly.
He said previous governments in Cross River refused to resettle them at a place of their choice.“Bakassi has become a "moving caravan" - from Ikot Efiom to Obutong to Ikpa Nkanya to Ifiang Oyong. Maybe, another government will take it to Yala. Building housing units cannot solve the problem of resettlement of a people who moved with their institutions.
“Empty land, green area will do. I have said this to various governments to no avail. All the housing estates built for Bakassi people failed to address the concerns of the people. The ones at Ikpa Nkanya and Ifiang Oyong will not be an exception. We have been a victim of reckless political game.
“We have been Nigeria's long suffering political orphans. The condition of the people as at today is a national scandal. We have functioned as a pawn in the cheese boards of our politicians who have exploited our situation for political gains/prominence.
“There are international laws on human displacements, evictions and voluntary resettlement of the people affected. Ayade had good intentions for Bakassi. Maybe, he was misled. He is my man and a close friend any day, but this is the truth. I stand to be corrected.
“Ayade came and met the mess, the needless mix-up, the confusion. I expected him to correct the anomalies created particularly by Donald and subsequently by Liyel. Is it not better to remove Bakassi local government from the constitution to give peace a chance, instead of the 'wonders shall never end'?
“The story of Bakassi from the point of ceding till now should be well known to Cross Riverians and other Nigerians. Nigeria lost the territory due to failure of state policy. The rights and basic freedom of Bakassi people had over 15 years been infracted upon. We lost our properties and means of livelihood. We had no option but to reluctantly accept the present relocation forced on us by Donald Duke and implemented by Imoke, even though we insisted on nearness to the river - Dayspring Island.
“As a result, the first housing units building by the federal government for Bakassi people were taken over by the very communities that were paid compensation for the acquired land at Ikot Effiom. Ministry of Niger Delta moved to Obutong (having noticed the injustice) and did another housing unit. Who are the people occupying there now? In our own case "judgement turned away backward and justice standeth afar off, truth fell on the street and equity could not enter.
“Yet, my friend, Ayade inherited the situation, did not ask questions and remedy it, he is about to compound the situation. In resettlement schemes, the people are usually involved and partake in the negotiation. It is usually participatory. So far, all the various arrangements made to resettle Bakassi people from the inception till now are not transparent and so the needs and concerns of the people have not been properly articulated.
“This housing estates at Ikpa Nkanya and Ifiang Ayong will not solve the problem but will create new problems and grievances. I plead with Governor Ayade to do holistic resettlement of Bakassi people at Day spring and complete the housing units for Ifiang Ayong people (with their traditional institution/Ekpe Shrine.
“We call on the National Assembly to indeed remove us as one of the 774 Local governments in the country instead of what is happening. We can no longer pretend after more than 15 years after the ceding.”