Essien-Ayi

A member of the House of Representatives, Mr Essien Ayi contends that it is injustice to abandon the people of Bakassi while the North-east continues to get all the attention. He spoke with Bassey Inyang

The people of Bakassi have been left without a homeland since the handing over of their land to Cameroon in 2008. What do you think should be done to address their plight?

The only option left after doing a lot of research, is for the creation of the Bakassi Development Commission. That commission should have a life span of about 10 years, and I believe that within 10 years, we should be able to rebuild Bakassi, and resettle the people properly.

What is happening in Bakassi today is not as a result of the making of the people of Bakassi, but it is as a result of the poor handling by the government and their team of lawyers at the International Court of Justice (ICJ). I sincerely believe that the issue was not handled properly. People were more interested in how much they can make. Over $600 million was spent on pursing the Bakassi issue in the time of president Obasanjo which we lost.

What annoys me most is that the country is very busy trying to rebuild the North-east. The devastation of the North-east has been the product of the so called Boko Haram who are Nigerians, and after Nigerians had destroyed Nigeria, the government is bent on rebuilding that area to the extent of setting up a North-east Development Commission. But, the Bakassi that was ceded, not because of the making of the people of Bakassi, government is not doing anything about it.

I feel so bad. And sometimes I wonder whether we are all Nigerians, because if we are Nigerians, we should be treated equally. But when you give preferential treatment to certain areas, probably because the president happens to come from that area or because they are of the same religion, I feel that the issue of restructuring should not be treated kindly.

We must pursue restructuring in all ramifications because all the wealth has been taken from us, and we are not seeing anything. Look at the roads, very soon the rainy season will set in, and you will not be able to pass the Calabar-Itu road.
All the wealth are taken from here, yet all the concentration is on the north, and then they say we are one Nigeria, we are not, we must restructure.

I have put it as four motions before now, and that is the motion for the stopping of ceding of Bakassi, the motion for the proper resettlement of Bakassi people, motion for the review of the ICJ judgment. They were moved by me, and at the end when everything had failed, I moved a motion for a referendum for the people of Bakassi to decide where they want to belong; and if they say they want to belong to Cameroon, so be it or if they say they want to be in Nigeria, so be it. All those motions passed through, but none was implemented by the government and now we are saying it is the Bakassi Development Commission. It is either they give us the commission or we decide whether we will belong to Nigeria or not. I am moving this as a bill, and it is going through the first reading.

How would you react to comments from many quarters that the regimes of President Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan failed the Bakassi people?

Obasanjo deceived us that Biya said he had election in 2005, and if Bakassi was ceded to Nigeria it would affect his election. And after his election, when he won, he went to the UN (United Nations), and demanded the ceding and they ceded Bakassi.

Jonathan invited us after my motion on a review of the judgment was passed by the house because the ICJ judgment said that after 10 years you can ask for a review. They invited us to the villa and David Mark, Senator Ndoma-Egba and others were there, and it was agreed that we should go for the review. I remember (Mohammed) Adoke (then Attorney General of the Federation) saying that he did not have enough facts. But, Liyel Imoke said the state has the facts. But, to my greatest surprise, a day after, Adoke said the time was too short for him to compile the review and that was where they killed the matter. And I know he said so because he had interest.

Are you saying the establishment of North-east Development Commission is a further demonstration of injustice against the Bakassi people?

Now the people of Bakassi are there suffering, but the concentration is on the development of North-east. Every day you wake up, you will hear herdsmen have killed and destroyed, Boko Haram have killed and abducted. But they are putting up resources to build what the same Nigerians from the northern part of Nigeria have destroyed to the detriment of the people of Bakassi who never had a hand in their predicament and they say we are one Nigeria. How can we be one Nigeria? It is either we restructure or we take decision and we will split.

What words do you have for the Ndoma-Egbas over interment of the late matriarch of their family?

I was sent by the speaker (Yakubu Dogara) to represent him. It is good for them to celebrate the death of their mother because it is always a good thing for a child to bury the parents rather than the reverse. He is very proud of them that they have been able to give their mother a befitting burial.

He is proud and happy with them. He sympathizes with them, and they should be consoled that their mother lived a fulfilled life.

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All the wealth are taken from here, yet all the concentration is on the north, and then they say we are one Nigeria, we are not, we must restructure.