Bassey Inyang in Calabar
In apparent frustration with the federal government alleged 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 76 oil wells and the non-reimbursement of what the state has spent on federal roads as some instances of unfair treatment to 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 emphasised clearly that Cross River State must continue to enjoy stabilisation support in perpetuity for the loss of oil wells 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.
According to Ayade, “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 demobilisation exercise, the burden therefore rests wholly on the shoulder of Cross River State. Now as you are moving into the rehabilitation and reintegration phase, here we are being called upon again to provide the financial support for it to be achieved.
“Let me send you a message to the National Security Adviser (NSA) and indeed President Muhammadu Buhari 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 the federal government and how our own people have been allowed to gradually regress to where they to 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 State done wrong in this country? Please send this message to the president that we want to know what we have done wrong, particularly now that you have noticed that some camps are coming back to life again after the disarmament and demobilisation.”
Continuing, he said: “Just an amnesty, Cross Riverians cannot benefit from it. Have oil wells become everything? If it is oil well, we have also issued a report showing oil deposits in the state both on 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 River people? What have we really done wrong?
“You took our oil wells and land; we are not even in Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), and ordinary amnesty you cannot provide for Cross River people? We have been on our knees begging that we have found oil in our area, can you give us discretional licence to partner a third party to explore and pay loyalties to the 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 to survive and realise its deep vision projects, including the Bakassi Deep Seaport and the 274kilometre superhighway, he pleaded that if the state has in any way offended the federal government, the state should be forgiven.
He said: “Cross River State has come under so much abuse recently. Must they kill us because we are peaceful? If there is anything the state has done to the federal government, let it forgive us 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, would be ready in a month time.
Earlier, the Commander of Operation Delta Safe, Akirinade, lauded the governor for his commitment to peace, security and development of the state.
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 demobilisation were done successfully, the rehabilitation and reintegration which are the most critical phase is yet to be achieved, which is why I appeal to you to see to the fulfillment of this exercise.”