AKWA IBOM INDIGENES CONSIDER CAMEROON’S CITIZENSHIP
….As Stakeholders Call For Boundary Delineation
By Abasifreke Effiong, Essien Inyang & Itoro Bassey.
Indigenes of 16 communities in Mbo mangrove island of Akwa Ibom State, whose communities are allegedly annexed by Cameroon, are considering taking up citizenship in Cameroon to save themselves from repeated molestation by the Cameroonian authorities.
In a meeting between stakeholders in Mbo Local Government Area and representatives of the National Boundary Commission (NBC), the affected indigenes called on Federal Government to officially delineate and demarcate Nigeria’s maritime boundaries with Cameroon, adding that if it is done, it will forestall further annexation of their communities and molestation of their people by Cameroon military.
They decried the laxity exhibited by the Federal Government in correcting the nation’s boundary with Cameroon 13 years after the judgment of the International Court of Justice.
Some of the stakeholders at the meeting were former Commissioner for Information and Governorship aspirant in the 2015 election, Prince Chris Abasi Eyo, former Surveyor General of the State, Mr. Eyo Esin, former Transition Chairman for Mbo, Mr. Solomon Effiong, member representing Mbo State Constituency in the House of Assembly, Mr. Samuel Ufuo, Mbo Transition Chairman, Sir Cyril Etuk, village heads, youths and women from the affected communities.
They lamented the persistent harassment by the Cameroonian military, in their words, “we have been confronted my our youths who themselves or their family members have repeatedly been molested, raped, or exploited by Cameroon Gendarmes, to grant them a leaf to fight back at Cameroon; overtime we’ve said no. We won’t say no all the time. If we are not protected by our government, then we will have to protect ourselves and territory”.
They called on the Federal Government to establish a military base at the current operational boundary of Nigeria and Cameroon until December when Presidents of both countries had fixed for the final demarcation of their maritime boundaries.
“We encourage the Federal Government to establish a joint security base at the border between Nigeria and Cameroon to stop Cameroon authorities from further invasion of our homes. Funding of such operations should not be done as peace – time security funding. The atrocities committed by Cameroon Gendarmes are unabated because security provided by the Nigerian Navy at Forward Operation Base at Ibaka is not compact. It is embarrassing that whenever security of the communities is threatened and you reach out to the Navy at Ibaka and you will be told by the officers that there is no diesel to power their boats. On many occasions it is the locals who contribute money for diesel for the Navy”.
Some of the names of communities annexed by Cameroon, according to the stakeholders, included Ine Odiong, Inua Mba, Ine inua Abasi, Ine Usuk, Ibekwe, Itung Ibekwe, Akwa Ine Nsikak, Ine Ekeya, Ine Ebighi Edu, Ine Etakisib, Atabong, Akpakanya, Ine Okobedi, Ine Atayo, Ine Akpak and Abana.
The NBC’s fact- finding team led by Mr. Moses Onyoh also met with the village head of Abana, Chief Nyong Etim Efa, who told the team that though he was appointed a Village Head by Akwa Ibom State Government, he has also been given certificate as Village Head by Republic of Cameroon, adding that the Cameroon authorities have been collecting taxes from the locals.
“The Cameroon Gendarmes have placed taxes on all the communities. In Albana, we are demanded to pay N500,000 per month. The last time they came to collect the money and found out that I didn’t convene a meeting to raise the tax, they raped my wife, beat me up and later detained me in their cell. For our youths who resist them, they cut their fishing nets into pieces and seize their outboard engines. We are weakened by repeated molestation from Cameroon Gendarmes. We are seriously considering taking up citizenship in Cameroon, since Nigerian government cannot protect us.”
One of the victims, Etim Asuquo Eyo, who narrated his ordeals in the hands of the Gendarmes during the last invasion of communities in the Mbo mangrove island, said he together with members of his village were left with no source of livelihood.
“On Saturday February 27, 2016 we experienced the worst onslaught on our people. The Gendarmes raided our homes, raped our wives, seized 10 outboard engines (eight 40hp & two 15hp), eight bags of crayfish, and stole money from our homes. After the incidence, it has been difficult to eke a living. We don’t have money to buy new outboard engines and fishing nets,” he said.
The NBC team later visited the Forward Operation Base of the Nigerian Navy in Ibaka where it was received by the Commanding Officer, Captain A. J. Siyanbade, who told the delegation that there was no community currently within Nigerian territory which the FOB Naval command did not have access to, adding that Abana, one of the communities allegedly annexed by Cameroon was not within their area of operations.
In his words, the NBC Team Leader, Mr. Moses Onyoh, assured residents of the mangrove island of an immediate intervention by the Federal Government.
The contention as to where Nigeria has it boundary with Cameroon keeps blazing more than a decade after the ICJ’s judgment.
From our findings, the International Court of Justice after ceding Bakassi peninsula to Cameroon, in article 18 of its judgment pegged Nigeria’s boundary with Cameroon on the maritime at Rio Del Ray River, called Akpa Usakedet by the locals.
Nigeria’s current operational boundary with Cameroon is on the Yafe River, formerly called Akwa Akpa Ikang ye Effiat by locals. This is about 40 nautical miles away from Rio Del Ray river where the ICJ gave as Nigeria’s boundary with Cameroon on the North- East of the gulf of Guinea.