Cross River State governor, Mr. Liyel Imoke
...Describes secession bid in Bakassi as unnecessary
By Jude Okwe in Calabar and Damilola Oyedele in Abuja
Cross River State governor, Mr. Liyel Imoke, has described the July 10 judgment of the Supreme Court which validated the federal government’s decision to cede 76 oil wells that once belonged to the state to Akwa Ibom State as punitive and a major setback to his government.
The governor made the comment during a visit to the state by members of the House of Representatives Committee on Treaties and Agreement on Friday, noting that the loss is another failed opportunity to address the plight of the Bakassi people.
“The recent experience with the Supreme Court Judgment seems to show that Nigeria has taken a punitive measure against the state,” he said.
According to him, the handover of Bakassi to Cameroon in 2008 by the court’s interpretation meant Cross River has ceased to be a littoral state and has therefore lost its revenue from the oil wells which have been given to Akwa Ibom, whereas its geographic location has not moved as boats and vessels have been berthing in Calabar daily.
He said the Committee’s visit would provide it opportunities to get the facts and see what the implications of the treaty have been. He disclosed that the Green Tree Agreement provided for a transition period of five years and a joint administration of the area in dispute, but regretted that the territory was handed over in 2008 even though the judgment was delivered in 2002 with no regards to the agreement.
“The Agreement and the subsequent ceding and hand over of Bakassi were not domesticated by the National Assembly as provided in the constitution,” he added.
Leader of the delegation and chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Treaties and Agreements, Hon. Yakub Bush Alebiosu, said they were in the state on a fact-finding visit following the controversy which the ceding of Bakassi to Cameroon has generated.
Alebiosu revealed that their visit was prompted by several reports which the committee had received on the Green Tree Agreement between Nigeria and Cameroon, adding that it would give his committee an opportunity to have first hand information before making its remarks and recommendation to the House.
Also on Friday, the federal government dismissed the move by some Bakassi indigenes to declare the territory a sovereign state. A highly-placed government official who asked not to be identified described the bid as one that would have no effect.
“It is of no effect, how can Bakassi declare itself independent of Nigeria? They say they are declaring war; on who are they declaring war and for what reason?” he said.
A group known as Bakassi Self-Determination Front had on Thursday pronounced Bakassi an independent state and went ahead to hoist a flag which it described as its national colours. The group also launched a radio station.
In a broadcast on the station, the group’s “commander-general”, Ekpe Ekpenyong Oku, said: “Please, for the umpteenth time, we plead with our people to leave Abana now.
“The fight is going to be the thickest and fiercest now that our brothers from the northern and eastern borders have fully arrived. Bakassi we hail thee.”
He warned travelers to stay off the Bakassi Peninsula’s coastal route on August 11 and 12. “There will be no sea movement so that you don’t have cause to regret.”
But despite his misgivings, Imoke has appealed to the people of Bakassi not to take laws into their hands in their quest for justice and equity.
Imoke described the bid by the Bakassi group as unfortunate. A statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Christian Ita, said the Imoke administration believes in the peaceful resolution of the Bakassi crisis and views the development as unnecessary.
"In line with this posture, the governor has appealed to the people of Bakassi not to abandon dialogue."
He said the visit of members of the House of Representatives' committee on Treaties and Agreements to the state is an indication that the issue was getting the right attention from the appropriate quarters.