The Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Bakassi, who had lived their lives as fishermen, are embracing farming, as a new occupation.
They say it is helping them pick up the pieces of their lives after they were displaced from their ancestral home to Cameroon.
Channels Television’s correspondent, Imani Odey, visited a farm at Akwa Ikot Eyo Edem, in Akpabuyo Local Government Area of Cross River State and reports that, the IDPs are fully into farming of Watermelon, Garden Egg, Vegetables, Pineapple, Plantain as well as Piggery.
Their major challenge, however, is how they will control weed and pests affecting the production rate of the produce and they are calling for assistance from governments at all levels.
A 30-hectare land donated freely by their host community is presently used for farming. The community has asked them to develop the land and turn it to a new home for them.
The history of the displaced Bakassi People can be likened to one referred to as, refugees in their own father’s land.
As a people abandoned and neglected by circumstances beyond their control, they have lived in inhumane conditions at Saint Mark’s Nursery and Primary School Akwa Ikot Eyo Edem, Akpabuyo Local Government Area of Cross River State since 2013 and are awaiting the full implementation of the Green Tree Agreement which is yet to be fulfilled.
A leader of one of the camps where the IDPs see as their homes took Channels Television around their farms.
First of the farms visited was a land acquired beside the camp where the elderly ones in their midst farm.
Then the journey of over one hour on bike begins to the 30 hectares volunteered by their host community to them free of charge for developing and then settlement.
“We donated 30 hectares of land to the IDPs in our land because of what happened to them. It is for free. They are not to pay. This land remains for the IDPs to build houses, hospitals and whatsoever they want and the governor says he will do it for them.
“The community doesn’t want anything in return because we gave them for free and all the community joined hands to give them,” a leader of the community said.
Garden of Eden
The road network to the farm from the camp, however, is a challenge facing them which they want the government to help them address even though the community have tried to open a temporary bush track.
While they await government’s input, each IDPs household made monetary contribution and hired a tractor to clear portions of the area which will form part of the farmland pending when the State government sets in to develop the land for them, as promised by Governor Ben Ayade during one of his trips to the camp to have a feel of what they have been passing through.
Few kilometers from the farmland was another farmland for the Bakassi IDPs where pineapple, Watermelon, Garden Eggs and other crops are planted.
One of the farmers said: ”We call this, the Garden of Eden. So, now the particular area is Garden of Eden where it is the beginning of Bakassi farming. Formally, we enjoy our seafood – fish, periwinkle, crayfish, but one reason or the other made us to change our occupation. It is a painful situation when we recall our ancestral home because we are blessed with mineral resources, crude oil, fish and all”.
The farming business, the camp leader added, was at the moment not profitable, as buyers come directly to the farm to purchase the crops at a giveaway rate of 200 Naira for one watermelon following the bad nature of the road.
“The challenge that we are facing here is that we don’t know how to weed and remove these grasses because when the UN taught us how to farm, they used sprayer to show us how to kill some grasses but we don’t have money even to eat. It is difficult for us to eat and to get chemicals and control weed in the ground that is why you’re seeing that (weed).
“Our garden eggs and watermelon are suppose to be doing very well, but we don’t know how to control weed. It is a first experience in our lives, since we discover all these minor challenges,” he said.
Another Bakassi Returnee, Essien Okon, however pointed out that as much as he liked farming, fishing was something he loved to do.
“Since we don’t have boats and other things that we can use for fishing, we prefer farming because now in Nigeria we don’t have food so we have to go into farming so that, we can have something to eat,” he told Imani.
Following this venture by the people of the Displaced Bakassi Peninsular, it behooves on the government to encourage these ones with the necessary farming tools in-order to serve as an encouragement to them.
They are however thankful to the UNHCR for their assistance so far.
“As it is now, as a good player on the international scene, Nigeria has subscribed to the Green Tree Agreement (GTA) and on our own part as a country we will continue to abide by the provisions of the agreement,” Mr. Moro said.
“For one reason or the other, resulting from little skirmishes here and there, the Cameroonian gendarme has attacked some innocent Nigerians. That report is being presented to government and the Nigerian government will take appropriate action to redress the situation” he added.
The most recent attack occurred over a week ago when Cameroonian soldiers allegedly opened fire on Bakassi indigenes at Efut Obot Ikot, a settlement in the peninsula where they preferred to stay, the Chairman of Bakassi Local Government Area, Ekpo Bassey, said.
He said a camp provided by the Cross River state government for the displaced persons had swollen to 1,800.
The Minister appealed to the people of Bakassi to remain calm as the federal government was determined to ensure their safety in the face of the ruling of the International Court of Justice at The Hague and the federal government’s acceptance of the ruling.
Mr. Moro said the presidential committee on the Displaced Bakassi People had presented a progress report to Vice-President Namadi Sambo on Thursday with a promise that the final report would be ready soon.
He assured that the displaced Bakassi people would find succour in the recommendations of the committee, which would be implemented by the Federal Government.
“I think at this moment we should not be attempting to segment solutions. The present crisis that we find in Bakassi is a Nigerian crisis and the Nigerian government is taking every step in conjunction with the state government to address the situation,” he said.
“And so, the right thing to do is to look up to the decision of government as to what to do with the Bakassi people, because the Bakassi people are Nigerians.’’
The Cross River State government has frowned at the Cameroonian authority for not living up to their billings in the Green Tree Agreement (GTA) reached between the two countries at The Hague, following the forceful eviction of over a thousand people of the old Bakassi from the ceded area.
It has therefore called on the Federal Government to urgently expedite action in its effort to permanently resettle the people in a location of their choice, once and for all.
The Deputy Governor of Cross River State, Efiok Cobham, made the appeal during his visit to the temporary camp where the displaced Bakassi people are in Ikot Eyo Edem, Akpabuyo local government area of the state.
Mr Cobham, expressed his displeasure about the forceful eviction of the Bakassi returnees by armed Cameroonian gendarmes despite the GTA which allows the people the right to choose their resident.
The deputy governor decried the sad development which he recalled happened in 2008.
“As a signatory to the GTA and a member of African brotherhood”, he said, “It is unfair for Cameroonian government to treat fellow African brothers this way. It is saddening because it is a violation of human right, which they have fallen short of.”
Over 1,000 Bakassi indigenes are currently housed in the temporary camp following the recent eviction.
Pained by the hazards the Bakassi indigenes have been exposed to, Mr Cobham annonced that plans are underway by the state government to temporally move them to a more conducive environment at the Bakassi resettlement camp in Ekpri Ikang, while awaiting a permanent resettlement by the Federal Government.
Senator Florence Ita Giwa yesterday confirmed 17 people missing and many displaced at the St Mark Primary School, Eyo Edem in Akpabuyo Local Government Area of Cross River State where refugees are camped.
Senator Giwa who visited the refugee camp said the people were those attacked by the Cameroonian Gendarmes in Efut Obot Ikot village.
According to her, the people, last month, had to escape, spending several nights in the forest and eventually crossing the Akwa ye Efe River to Akpabuyo where they are presently camped.
She said: “As I speak to you, I cannot believe what the gendarmes did to our people. So many women cannot find their husbands while many children cannot find their mothers. So far, we have counted 17 people who are still missing.”
She further blamed the international community of “keeping quiet” despite Cameroon’s refusal to abide by “The Green Tree Agreement”.
According to her, “our Cameroonian brothers have not respected that agreement and are daily attacking and killing our people and the international community is keeping quiet.”
Vice-President Namadi Sambo on Wednesday presided over a meeting on the resolution of the loss of the 76 oil wells by the Cross rivers state government in his conference room at the state house, Abuja.
The meeting which examined the judgement of the Supreme Court ruling on the matter requested the Revenue Mobilization and Fiscal Commission (RMFC) to make presentations as to the way forward.
While making the presentation, the chairman RMFC stated that the commission has been meeting to find ways to advise government on the need to provide succour to Cross-rivers state due to the financial discomfort it suffered by the judgement of the Supreme Court.
He further stated that Section 5 (7) RMFC Act stipulates that for the purposes of the act and for avoidance of doubt, where any state of the federation suffers any loss which is outside its control, the stabilization funds shall be used to give succour to such a sate.
Furthermore, the meeting examined the new security challenges posed at the Bakassi peninsula on the loss of innocent lives through the activities of some foreign bodies and noted that as the Green Tree Agreement is nearing expiration, measures need to be to be taken to address such security challenges.
The Vice-President directed that a detailed report with relevant evidence be provided to enable government act decisively.
Bakassi indigenes on Wednesday appealed against the dismissal of their suit to void the Green Tree Agreement, by a Federal High Court in Abuja.
The plaintiffs had in a motion ex-parte, sought for an order voiding the controversial Green Tree Agreement (GTA), Nigeria entered with Cameroon in 2006 as they applied for an order of mandamus that would compel the Federal Government to by any means available to it, repossess, occupy and take full legal and administrative control of the Bakassi Peninsula.
Presiding Judge, Justice Gabriel Kolawole however dismissed the suit for want of jurisdiction, noting that the plaintiffs, failed to file an affidavit in support of their suit.
Justice Kolawole stressed that a careful perusal of the processes before the court, showed that the plaintiffs only filed a verifying affidavit; an action he said was contrary to the rules of the court.
Justice Kolawole added that the court lacked the jurisdiction to delve into the substantive matters that were raised in the suit, saying the issues were “political and highly volatile.
Nigeria lost any chance of appealing the ceding of Bakassi to Cameroun on the 10th 0f October 2012, following the refusal of the Federal Government to appeal the ruling delivered a decade ago.
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has expressed concerns that documents on which the federal government reached the decision not to appeal the Green Tree Agreement on Bakassi was not made public.
Stating that it will never support litigation without good reasons, the President of the NBA, Mr Okechukwu Wali is of the opinion that organizations like the NBA should have been carried along in the committee as the apex body for legal minds in the country.
He claimed the bar is unable to tell the kind of documents which according to the federal government showed that there were no new evidence to appeal the case with the International Court of Justice.
The NBA president also added that the association will monitor the spending of the N17 billion relief money provided by the federal government in a bid to keep managers of the fund accountable and also prevent bureaucratic bottle necks.
The NBA also condemned the killing of Nigerian students in Mubi and Aluu communities saying that its shows a total failure of the nation’s security system.
Mr Wali also joined the calls for the creation of state police, saying the need to seriously consider the creation of state police is now, adding that the state police will drastically reduce the rising crime rate in the country.
It urged government at the various levels to ensure that the criminals are brought to book.
Indigenes of Bakassi in Cross River state, have file a suit against the Federal Government before a Federal High Court in Abuja, as they seek an order that will void the Green Tree Agreement that Nigeria signed with Cameroon in 2006.
The Green Treat Agreement presided over by the United Nations, was accented to by former President Olusegun Obasanjo and the agreement affirmed Nigeria’s hand-over of the oil rich region to Cameroon.
In a motion ex-parte moved by their counsel, Mr Festus Ogwuche, the applicants sought an order that would compel the federal government, to by any means available to it, repossess, occupy and take full legal and administrative control of the Bakassi Peninsula.
The motion was filed pursuant to Section 1 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights Enforcement and Ratification Act Cap 10, laws of the federation of Nigeria, 1990, as well as order 34 rules 1(a), 3(1) and (2) of the Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rules (2007).
The suit was endorsed by nine executives of Free Bakassi Association, who sought the order to compel the federal government, President Goodluck Jonathan and the Attorney-General of the Federation, who were all joined as respondents in the suit, to “unilaterally resile and revoke Nigeria’s obligations under the Green Tree Agreement entered into between Nigeria and Cameroon in green tree, New York, USA on the 12th day of June, 2006.”
The Bakassi indigenes say the agreement is invalid and in breach of Articles 1, 2, 20, 21, 22 and 24 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, Article 1 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Article 1(2) of the UN charter, and the UN declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples, and being inconsistent with sections 1-3, 2(1) and (6), 13, 14(1) and (2)(b), 17(1), (2)(b), (c ) and (d), sections 19(a) and 9d0, 21(a) of the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria (as amended).”
The applicants, argued that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) gave its judgment on the protracted dispute over ownership of the oil rich Bakassi Peninsula, based “on archaic and anachronistic colonial declarations, and communications between colonial officers.”
More so, the applicants said they were neither consulted before former President Olusegun Obasanjo endorsed the Green Tree Agreement, saying they were totally kept out of the picture prior, during and even after the execution of the agreement.
Presiding Judge, Justice Gabriel Kolawole adjourned ruling on the application for October 9th , saying he needed time to carefully peruse the court processes in view of “weighty national issues raised therein.”