Gov. Godswill Akpabio
Okon Bassey in Uyo
Less than three weeks for the Supreme Court to deliver judgement on the ownership of the disputed 76 oil wells, tension has begun to mount in Akwa Ibom and Cross River States.
On Thursday, a group of people who claimed to be indigenes of Bakassi peninsular staged a peaceful demonstration in Calabar over the disputed 76 oil wells which the Supreme Court has fixed July 10 to rule on.
In a similar reaction at the weekend, the people of Mbo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State whose indigenes were said to have formed the bulk of the settlers in the peninsular now ceded to Cameroon strongly condemned the protest, describing it as uncalled for and politically- motivated.
A socio-cultural group in Mbo Local Government Area, the Ibaka Development Organisation (IDO), on Friday described the protest as an orchestrated propaganda aimed at confusing some members of the public.
The group said the demonstration by the purported indigenes of Bakassi was a cheap blackmail sponsored to whip up sentiments ahead of the Supreme Court ruling on the case instituted by the Cross River State Government.
The chairman of the Ibaka Development Organisation, Asuquo Ating, told newsmen that the protest was unwarranted since the facts of the ownership of the oil wells were clear and the said disputed oil wells were located within Akwa Ibom territory.
He reasoned that since the case was still in court pending its final determination, it was totally wrong for the people to start making unnecessary comments “with the assumption that such could attempt to influence the proceedings of the court”.
Ating recalled that the Supreme Court had in 2004 decided in a similar case brought by Cross River State that it (Cross River) was no longer a littoral state with the ceding of Bakassi peninsular to Cameroon and therefore cannot benefit from the 13 percent derivation funds.
He said those that demonstrated were not Nigerians as the said group still parading themselves as indigenes of Bakassi were stopped from participating in the last 2011 general elections in the country.
Ating stressed that the people of Cross River State should be thankful to Akwa Ibom State for allowing more than N600 million to be drawn monthly from the allocation of the Akwa Ibom State government and paid to Cross River State Government under the guise of “effect of oil exploration on the environment,” wondering why the people of the area are trading “half truths”.
On the status of the purported Bakassi indigenes, Ating argued that the issue of Bakassi returnees should be of greater concern to Akwa Ibom State than anyone else, pointing out that since the peninsular was ceded to Cameroon about 10 years ago, the brunt of managing returnees had been of greater concern to Akwa Ibom who had larger number of citizens residing there.
According to him, there is no need to heat up the polity through irrelevant demonstrations as it is not going to affect the position or decision of the court on the case.
A reliable source in the legal team of the Akwa Ibom State handling the case at the Supreme Court told Thisday that the state government was relying mostly on the judgement earlier delivered by the same Supreme Court in the case of Attorney-General of Cross River State versus Attorney-General of the Federation.
In the said judgment, the Supreme Court had held inter alia that “in considering the merit of the plaintiff’s case, it is important to bear in mind the effect of the judgment of International Court of Justice dated October 10th, 2002... with the result that Cross River no longer has a seaward boundary.
“In effect, Akwa Ibom is contending that the complete handover of the Bakassi peninsula to Cameroon in 2008 marked the collapse of the negotiations and fundamentally altered the equation.