Imoke Assures Bakassi Returnees; Commits State To Clean And Green Environment

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CALABAR, CROSS RIVER, June 07, (THEWILL) - Bakassi returnees at Ekpri Obutong resettlement camp Bakassi Local Government Area have been assured of the Cross River State Government assistance to make life comfortable for them.

Governor Liyel Imoke stated this while on a working visit of the area, saying that Government will look into their plight by providing them water, electricity, health centre and financial assistance to eke a living for themselves.

The Governor, who was accompanied by his Deputy, Mr. Efiok Cobham and Mr. Vincent Aqua, Director-General State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), urged them to send their children to the nearby primary school and directed Mr. Saviour Nyong, Chairman Bakassi Local Government Council to supply the pupils with books and uniforms.

Imoke said though Government can not give every one of them money to start business since they expressed fears of not going back to fishing because of harassments by Cameroonian gendarmes on the high sea, Government would look into their plight by creating a reliable programme for them as the allocated part is not safe for fishing.

He also urged the Bakassi Local Government council to move its legislative arm to the area as well as cut the grass within the area.

Earlier, the spokesman of the returnees, Mr. Innocent Asuquo Bassey said they were stranded in the area as they have no means of livelihood as the sea is no longer safe for them to fish because of harassment from Cameroonian gendarmes and appealed that they be given some financial assistance to start business.

Bassey appealed for the provision of a health centre, primary school, electricity and pipe borne water to enable them live a comfortable life.

Meanwhile, Cross River State has affirmed its commitment to develop and maintain a clean and green environment.

Governor Liyel Imoke stated this in a keynote address on the occasion of the 2010 World Environment Day celebration in the main bowl of the State Cultural Centre, explaining that these programmes, which are to be implemented between the 2010 to 2013 fiscal period, include the development of the urban cities consistent with the symbio city concept.

According to the Governor, other projects include utilization of efficient and renewable energy sources. Development of waste to energy plants, development of biological sewage treatment plants and the construction of engineered landfills, adding that the State’s carbon sink is also being expanded through the urban tree planting programmes, urban beautification projects and the city capping project.

The Governor disclosed that the State’s Forestry Commission law has also been reviewed to strengthen the commission’s institutional authority for effective management of the forest resources, stressing that a proper legislation and regulating framework would be put in place to drive the vision.

"To ensure that our efforts are not futile, this administration established the Anti Deforestation Task Force in 2009 to enforce a two year moratorium on logging. We are also engaged in planting five million indigenous species of trees annually for the next four years. This project is aimed at regenerating the degraded forest cover and thus reducing the negative impact of climate change," he said.

Imoke remarked that as a Government, the State has demonstrated its commitment to the sustenance of the planet through well thought-out environmental policies, standards and programmes and it has been greatly supported by the Federal Ministry of Environment and various NGOs, many of them who call Cross River home, adding that all have a responsibility to preserve where they live not just by maintaining the aesthetic integrity which the State is well known for but also through a more acute awareness of the impact of their lifestyles on the future of the planet.

Dr. Julius Okputu, Commissioner for Environment in a welcome address, noted that by the reason of observing best environmental practices, Cross River has been internationally recognized by UN REDD programme as a member of Environment Protection Task Force, adding that before the end of the year it will be given a status of an observer of the project in Nigeria and Africa.

According to Okputu, to sustain the effort so far, the State intends to plant 100 million hectares of trees in 10 years and admonished school children, whom he referred to as the State’s ambassadors, to imbibe as a deliberate practice, the conservation and prevention practice to ensure sustainability of the State’s bio-diversity.

Mrs. Grace Rawnsley, General Manager CERCOPAN enumerated the objectives of the NGO to include protection of the rain forest and environment, explaining that the annual Environmental Carnival in the State has contributed significantly in creating awareness among children and promised to keep the tempo.

Highlights of the celebration included drama sketches by school children on Forest Protection, multi media presentation on the State Bio-diversity Assets by Mr. Odigha Odigha, Chairman Forestry Commission and the planting of trees by the Governor, Deputy Governor, members of the State Executive Council and Service Commanders.