By Andy Esiet, Calabar
Nigeria may do a referendum on the people of Bakassi to decide their fate 20 years after ceding the territory to Cameroon at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague.
A Senatorial aspirant for Cross River South senatorial district, Mr. Victor Effiom Ekpo who gave the promise yesterday in Calabar as he unfolded his senatorial blue print said the Bakassi people have suffered long enough and time for them to smile again will come the moment he is elected.
He said, “I am going to partner with the executive because it’s the executive that will work with the international community to get all these things done as Cross River State may not really have the power. We as Cross Riverians, we had it in mind to go file an appeal but we didn’t have such powers to appeal the World Court judgment.
“It was the responsibility of the Federal Government to do that of which they refused for reasons best known to them. We will try to see if there would be a window for a referendum because you can’t forcefully make your people move to another country against their will”.
“By referendum, i mean that we will call the people of Bakassi and make sure people living there should have a say and right as human beings. The Federal Government of Nigeria and the Cameroonian government did not take the people into consideration and so we will see how we can pass a law on the floor of the House to find their input and give the people living there a choice to belong to either Nigeria or Cameroon” .
Recall that as part of the 2006 Greentree agreement it had provisions for Nigerians who chose to remain in Bakassi Cameroon and do business or return to Nigeria but unfortunately most Nigerians were harassed and chased away by the Cameroon ganderms and those who came back have not been properly integrated hence the agitation for a referendum.
On how he will get the motion or bill passed in favour of Bakassi, Ekpo said, “I have a very strong power to lobby and I’m going to lobby the executive to ensure that the bill we will send to the senate will be implemented. It’s so sad that what happened had happened. His Excellency tried and put one or two structures in place buandals under the guise of EndSars vandalized the place.
“We are going to go into renegotiation with the landlords in those communities to see how we can settle those who refused to join Cameroon. We are going to set up a committee and see how we can attract the Federal Government to at least do the needful” .
He stated that s a senator representing the good people of the South, if elected I will create a very good cordial relationship with the governor of the state to see how we can compensate the owners of the land, locate and rehabilitate the returning people. The issue we are having now is that the senator representing the South is not working with the government of Cross River state.
“But if I am elected senator by the special grace of God, one of the key things I will do will be town hall meetings with my constituents. I will sit down with them, hear what we are going to do and then set up committee for strong implementations. But as I said earlier, l will be working with the executive because if you fight the executive, you won’t get anything done even when the bill is passed”.
On the issue of compensation, Ekpo said “I will work seriously to ensure that the money is paid to them for compensation. You don’t just release a territory without compensation and when I’m elected, I will work very seriously to ensure that they are compensated”
As regards the Greentree agreement, he said “I think it should be ratified because when you talk about what happened before and the present state of things, it’s no longer the same and that is the essence of saying I will set up a new committee so that we look into the main problem of the Bakassi people” .