By Andy Esiet, Calabar.
Ex-Bakassi Strike Force (BSF) militants’ today, October 25 took to the street and for hours barricaded the two gates î to the Cross River State Governor’s office demanding for the full implementation of the I oI Understandinì (MOU) which includes î of allowances amounting to over N100 million and others.
This protest by the BSF is in the series of protests and strikes that have bedeviled he state for the past three months. Local government civil servants had two months ago locked the New Secretariat of the state protesting the non payment of their salary for over a year. Similarly civil servants in the state under the organised labour comprising Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the Joint Public Negotiating Council (JNC) sine October 12 have been on strike pressing home many demands while just last week women sweeping the streets of Calabar also took to the streets demanding payment of their six months salary.
The BSF led by its former leader, Mr. Ene Benjamin Effiom (otherwise known as G1) had fought against the loss of Bakassi to Cameroon and the resulting woes that followed, thus it was believed that with the laying down of arms, the United Nations and other actors that packaged the Green Tree Agreement (GTA) will come out and ensure that all issues raised and agreed are implemented to the later. It was also hoped that the displaced people of Bakassi will at last be given proper place of abode and livelihoods as the dreaded militants on December 17, 2018 pulled out of the creeks and surrendered their heavy arms to the state and federal governments through the military after a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed. But so far that MOU has not been implemented by the Cross River and Federal Governments causing fresh anxiety in the state and the Gulf of Guinea.
With this fresh protest, the almost three years old MOU signed between the Federal, Cross River and Akwa Ibom states governments on one hand and the BSF militant group on the other is heading to the rocks as already some of the camps vacated by the BSF militants have been taken over by some unknown groups that have been causing lots of menace on the waterways and the Gulf of Guinea thus posing a great threat to business and international trade.
As about 8 am, the militants, dressed mostly in black, carrying fresh leaves stormed the Governor’s office and blocked the road, refusing vehicles to pass near the area and persons were not allowed to go in or out as they threatened to pull down the gates leading to the governor’s office but for the intervention of some ex-militants (Bakassi Boys) who prevailed on their members not to.
Led by one Timaya, the protesting ex-militants created some scenes even with the presence of the State Commissioner of Police and some policemen at the gate and the road leading to the Governor’s office protesting the non-payment of their money which was supposed to have been paid since December 2018 when they pulled out of the creeks and surrendered arms to government but so far nothing has been paid.
They said, “this government should have allowed us to remain where we were rather than bringing us to come and suffer. We are not going anywhere until the governor settles us. This government is not sincere with the amnesty thing. Government must pay us our money today”.
Timaya said “since 2018 the governor has reneged on its agreement. After we laid down our arms in December 2018, we went for training and the governor promised that we were going to be given starter packs and be integrated into the system. Instead of fulfilling his promise, the governor went and put up a sign-post in Bakassi to say he has paid us. He has since refused to attend to us and we are very angry”
The Permanent Secretary in the office of the State Security Service, Mr. Alfred Mboto had offered them N500, 000 as transport and for hours pleaded that they should go while the government looked into the matter, but they got angry and insisted they were not going to collect it. In the process Mboto, not pleased with the action of the ex-militants left and for some of the ex-militants hit the gate repeatedly insisting that the government must settle them.
Before he left, Mboto had told the protesting ex-militants that the state governor, Senator. Ben Ayade was working on their case and would soon meet with their leaders to sort things out.
But with the intervention of some of the ex-militants, the over 100 boys were calmed but promised to come back and be more deadly if their matter was not looked into.
Recall that in 2019, the former leader of the BSF had issued a press statement in Calabar and thanked the state government and others for making the amnesty possible but said, “the Ex-Bakassi strike force after disarmament has been neglected and abandoned by the Federal Government, Akwa Ibom State and Cross River State Governments as it relates to the re-integration and useful engagement of the boys” contained in the MOU.
“There has been a severe breach of the MOU and certain promises and the government has not kept to its terms. That since we left the creeks, the place has been left open for all forms of criminal activities and while we remain here waiting for our re-integration which has not come forth, may I declare that I and my boys have nothing to do in the creeks any longer nor in arms conflict and hostilities, so anybody caught should be dealt with in accordance with the law. But to justify that, I appeal for the Federal and State Government intervention in the Amnesty programme”.