WHY BAKASSI INDIGENES MAY NOT VOTE THIS YEAR
UN, govt tasked on resettlement
OWING to their inability to participate in the ongoing voters' registration, the indigenes of Bakassi in Cross River State may not be allowed to exercise their voting rights during the general elections in April.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) led by Mr. Mike Igini in the state has not allowed the Bakassi people to register because the electoral body has rejected the new names of villages in the new Bakassi, which have replaced the old names in the nation's constitution. The non-registration is coming amid calls on the United Nations (UN) and the Federal Government to properly resettle the people of Bakassi eight years after ceding Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroun.
Already, for lack of accommodation and permanent place of their own, over 200, 000 Bakassi returnees out of the 250, 000 Bakassi people have gone back to Cameroun, according to Senator Florence Ita-Giwa. The Bakassi crisis is deepening with the face-off between the Bakassi returnees and their hosts from Ikang in former Akpabuyo Local Council over the names of the wards in the new Bakassi.
Addressing some reporters yesterday after a peaceful rally by the Bakassi people, the Paramount Ruler of Bakassi, Etinyin Etim Okon Edet, said: 'The issue of Bakassi has been on and the UN and the Federal Government have allowed it to be so. If they (Bakassi people) were properly resettled, there will be no problem. We have not been resettled since the World Court judgment.'
He said: 'The government of Nigeria should be able to say this is a green area in the same Ikang and allocate it to the Bakassi people. Today, here we are and we have lost our political seats, our ancestral homes, no compensation and our names are all gone.
'Even the UN has not done anything to help us and the problem now lies with the state. The state that made the Law No. 7 of 2007 did not relate with INEC and it was just a palliative for the political developments then.
'If the people of Ikang are rejecting us with our names from Bakassi while did
they not reject the name Bakassi? So it is possible to bring Bakassi for them to
enjoy. This is the time to hold the Federal Government to do the
'As the political leader of Bakassi, I am obliged to carry out the wishes of my
people, which is their request to be properly registered during this voters'
registration going on. It is their wish to be properly registered in the areas that would be demarcated for them with their identities in place, that is from Abana to Odiong. '
Also, addressing the over 1,000 returnees of the Bakassi people that had besieged her house, Florence Ita-Giwa said: 'As their leader , I am obliged to carry out this duty to ensure that they are not disenfranchised, to ensure that they are duly and fully registered so that in future these people as bonafide Nigerians can vote and be voted for.
'We are not quarrelling with our relocation to Ikang. Relocation has taken place, painful as it was, we accepted it and tried to settle down there. But over the years we have been talking about proper resettlement, which up till today has not taken place. And the outcome of that is what we are seeing today. We have really managed this restiveness otherwise it would be worse than this, because our people are very law-abiding. From here we are going to storm the streets of Calabar. Our leaders have tried. In fairness to the state they have tried in terms of relocation. But resettlement has not taken place. These people are not asking for too much. They are not asking to be taken out of Ikang.
'They (Bakassi people) are asking that all the vast land area in that place, can
you demarcate an area for us which we call our own, from Abana to Odiong, so you give us our materials so we go there as full citizens of this country andregister there and when it is time to vote, we can vote and be voted for.
'As it is now, if they do not register, they would not be able to vote and be
voted for. If you go and mix them with people other than their specific area
when election comes, obviously you know what happens in politics. When go you to a place where people are numerically stronger than you, they use their numerical strength to trample on you and you never win an election.