The Obong of Calabar and grand patriarch of Efik Kingdom, His Eminence Ekpo Abasi Otu, has said that the Efik were considering the invitation by the people of Southern Cameroon to form a republic as the Federal Government had sold their ancestral land to Cameroon.
The Obong, at the solemn assembly organised by the Efik Kingdom and the entire Bakassi people through the Save Bakassi Group, yesterday, in Calabar, Cross River State, after the Federal Government refused to file for a review of International Court of Justice, ICJ, verdict, said the people were weighing the options available to them.
Meantime, Governor Liyel Imoke of Cross River State, has, advised the people of Bakassi to remain calm, saying that the government and the elected representatives of the state were committed to the course and will continue to pursue it until it was redressed.
Governor Imoke, who gave the assurance, when the royal fathers and the people of Bakassi, led by the kingmakers of Efik Kingdom after a solemn assembly, went on a protest march to the governor’s office over Federal Government’s decision to hand over Bakassi to Cameroon, said that the challenge of Bakassi remained with the people and that it was a challenge that must be confronted.
He described October 10, 2012 as a very important day in the history of the people adding that as the displaced people of Bakassi and the Efik Kingdom decided to commit their challenge unto God with prayers, God will look into their plights and console them.
The governor said that in time of seeming adversity, there will still be something good, adding that the problem of Bakassi was a challenge that had stayed for 10 years, which had gone international.
Coordinator of Save Bakassi Group, Mr. Maurice Ekong told Vanguard that it was only the beginning of a long drawn battle for sovereignty as the fate of Bakassi could not be foreclosed by the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Mohammed Adoke, who was not prepared to work on the case and for Bakassi people.
He said: “We have a right to approach the United Nations with our case as indigenous people, whose culture and history have come under threat of extinction from Cameron.
“The denial of Bakassi people their Nigerian citizenship makes mockery of Nigerian government’s declaration of Citizen Diplomacy as a cardinal plank of its foreign policy. A government has a responsibility to defend its citizens and the people of Bakassi have all these years seen themselves as Nigerians, but we have been deceived on a grand scale.”
Abasi Otu, who was represented on the occasion by Chairman of Etubom Traditional Council, Etubom Bob Duke, said that they had to embrace their fate after being deceived and rejected by the Federal Government of Nigeria over the ceded oil-rich island, which they described as their heritage and ancestral home.
Also speaking at the event attended by prominent Efik sons and daughters in the country and in the diaspora, Chief Barbara James, who had liaised with the wife of the former Prime Minister of Britain, Mrs. Blair to get international lawyers and assemble materials to be presented at the Hague for the review, which the country turned down, said that already, they were taking the matter to the United Nations and African Union to agitate for self determination as well as report cases of human rights abuse.
Chief James said: “We shall rise from our shell that justice must reign. We had lost Bakassi, we had lost 76 oil wells, this injustice cannot continue. We are being advised by the wife of the former British Prime minister, Mrs. Tony Blair. We are advised at the international level.
“The Federal Government has to tell us why we were not protected. Enough is enough. We prepared a 12-paragraph document, legal brief, a very strong brief and evidence of human rights abuses to submit, but we were told that if Nigeria appealed against the judgment, it would not have good relationship with the international diplomatic corps.
“We have options, we are going to pursue these options at the United Nations and African Union. We have international legal experts advising us. This injustice will not stand.”
Also speaking, former Senator representing Cross River South, Senator Bassey Henshaw, recalled that when the Cameroon security agents were killing and maiming Bakassi people, it was the late Gen. Sani Abacha who went to repel the Cameroon soldiers to protect the people and create Bakassi Local Government Area.