In apparent frustration with the Federal Government’s neglect of the state, Cross River governor, Senator Ben Ayade has asked for the return of its 76 oil wells ceded to Akwa Ibom State in 2012 following the ruling of the Supreme Court.
Cataloguing what he described as unconscionable injustices meted out to the state by the Federal Government, Ayade listed the ceding of Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon, the ceding of the state’s 76 oil and the non-reimbursement of what the state has spent on federal roads as some instances of unfair treatment of the state.
The governor made his feelings known during a courtesy call on him by the commander of the joint military taskforce, Operation Delta Safe (ODS), Rear Admiral Akinjide Akinrinade.
He said the ceding of the oil-rich peninsula was illegal and therefore, the loss of oil wells was an act of gross injustice.
“Even the implementation of the Supreme Court judgement that emphasized clearly that Cross River must continue to enjoy stabilization support in perpetuity for the loss of oil well has since been stopped. We are tired and so we want our oil wells back,” he declared.
The governor also deplored the refusal by the Federal Government to admit members of a militant group, the Bakassi Strike Force into its amnesty programme after the state government facilitated their surrender of arms to the military.
His words: “It was even at the instance of your own (military) request that we came to the ultimate conclusion that we needed to grant amnesty. Sadly, shortly after the disarmament and demobilization exercise, the burden therefore rests wholly on the shoulders of Cross River State. Now as you are moving into the rehabilitation and reintegration phase, here we are being called upon yet again to provide the financial support for it to be achieved.
“Let me send you a message to the National Security Adviser and indeed to Mr. President, to tell him that the people of Cross River State are watching with keen interest how other people who were granted amnesty in other states are responsibilities of Federal Government and how our own people have been allowed to gradually regress to where they left to embrace peace.
“Not even one person from the entire list has been taken by the Federal Government for any form of amnesty programme nor has a dime been paid to any of them. What has Cross River done wrong in this country? Please send this message to Mr. President that we want to know what Cross River has done wrong, particularly now that you have noticed that some camps are coming back to live again after the disarmament and demobilization”.
Continuing, he said: “Ordinary amnesty, Cross Riverians cannot benefit from it. Have oil wells become everything? If it is oil wells, we have also issued a report showing oil deposits in Cross River both inland and offshore. How can a state that has a very extensive maritime boundary be told that it is not a littoral state? How can you grant amnesty to other states and give them international opportunities and exposures, bring them back, engage them and pay them monthly yet you exclude Cross Riverians? What have we really done wrong?
“You take our oil wells, take our land, we are not even in NDDC and ordinary amnesty you cannot provide for Cross River? We have been on our knees begging that we have found oil, can you give us discretional license to partner with a third party to do exploration and pay loyalties to government. Until now we have not gotten any response.”
The governor also expressed unhappiness that the state is yet to be reimbursed for interventions on federal roads even when other states have been reimbursed.
While pleading with President Buhari to assist the state survive and realize its deep vision projects including the Bakassi Deep Seaport and the 274km superhighway, he pleaded that if the state has in any way offended the Federal Government, then the state should be forgiven.
According to the governor, “Cross River has come under so much abuse recently. Must they kill us because we are peaceful? If there is anything Cross River has done to the Federal Government, let the Federal Government forgive Cross River because these things have been there even before I assumed duty as governor”.
He disclosed that the state was building an estate for the displaced people of Bakassi. The estate, he said will be ready in about a month.
Despite his frustration with the Federal Government, he promised to assist the Operation Delta Safe with N50 million.
Earlier, the Commander of Operation Delta Safe, Akirinade, lauded the governor for his commitment to peace, security and development of Cross River.
The Commander, who appealed to the governor for support to ensure the rehabilitation of and reintegration of the militants in order to prevent them from regrouping, said: “Thanks to the strategic initiative of granting amnesty to the Bakassi Strike Force. Though the disarmament and demobilization was done successful, but the rehabilitation and reintegration which is the most critical phase is yet to be achieved, which is why I appeal to His Excellency to see to the fulfillment of this exercise”.