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Bakassi: Revisiting plights of returnees in IDPs camps



Army Offers Free Medical Checks To Bakassi IDPs

Photo: Army Offers Free Medical Checks To Bakassi IDPs

The recent call by Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State for Federal Government and other external support in the rehabilitation, resettlement and reintegration of Bakassi returnees who have been kept and maintained in two Internally Displaced Person (IDPs) camps by the state government is timely and auspicious.

When the word, Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp is mentioned in Nigeria, Government, International community and general public only refer to such camps in North-eastern states of Borno and Yobe. 

They forget about the IDPs camps for Bakassi returnees characterized by poverty, hunger, malnutrition, misery, helplessness, sickness etc.

The extreme difficult conditions faced by over 5,000 Bakassi returnees have made it necessary to integrate this matter into the front burner of our national and international discourse for help and assistance to be extended to these returnees by:

1. Federal Government, 

2. other states Government, 

3. Non-governmental organizations, 

4. development partners, 

5. Donor Agencies, 

6. UN Agencies, 

7. Foreign governments, 

8. Corporate bodies, 

9. Religious bodies, 

10. humanitarian organizations and,

11. the general public.

Sequel to the ruling of the International Court of Justice in Hague 2002 which formally ceded the disputed oil rich Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon and the failure of Nigerian Government to appeal the judgment within the 10 year period allowed by law, the Cameroonian Gendarmes in the process forced and chased the Bakassi people from their original ancestral lands to the Cross River territory in the most inhuman and cruel manner which led to the deprivation of the material properties they own, means of livelihood and death of the Bakassi people. 

In fact, they were forced to leave the Bakassi territory empty.

The returning Bakassi people were kept in two newly established IDPs Camps at St. Mark Government Primary School and Government Secondary School Akwa Ikot-Eyo Edem in Akpabuyo L.G.A of Cross River State by the state Government as a temporary settlement pending when a permanent settlement would be provided for them. 

Ab initio, things appeared rosy for them. The school environment and its facilities appeared conducive to them.

The Cross River State Government provided them with food items and relief materials. 

Health centers were also established at these camps by the state government which also took care of the schooling of the children. 

But with time, the state government started facing financial hardship that it could no longer cope with a matter that falls within the purview of the Federal Government.

In the course of time, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) came to the help and assistance of these returnees by providing them with some food items and relief materials at different times and stepped up the assistance with the provision of 200 acres of UNHCR farm land at Ikpa Nkanya, Akwa Ikot Eyo Edom, Akpabyo L.GA which the returnees have not fully possessed and utilized.

The houses built for the returnees by UNCHR through the state government at Abutu Ikot Effiom Community were seized by the Natives who are demanding for compensation for their land. 

Government should continue to talk to the Natives and find ways of compensating them to enable the returnees have refreshing homes after all they are brothers and sisters.

Equally, the Department of International Development Cooperation (DIDC) trained 200 of the returnees made up as follows; 100 for tailoring, hairdressing etc while the other 100 were trained for farming and later equipped with seed money by DIDC to start small scale businesses. 

Training and empowerment of 200 people were considered inadequate for the numerous returnees in the camps.

Prominent leaders in the Area like Senator Florence Ita-Giwa and Chairman of Akpabugo L.G Dr. Patrick Ene initially extended some relief materials to the camps.

The Cross River State Governor Ben Ayade recently announced the state’s government earmarking of N200M as its counterpart funding in partnership with Lafarge Cement Company for the construction of Houses for the returnees. 

Though these help and assistance were extended to returnees, they were not done on permanent basis and considered inadequate for people who were forced out of their ancestral homes and deprived of their stable means of livelihood.

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