CAMEROON GOVT TAKES OVER AKWA IBOM COASTAL VILLAGES AMIDST BLOODSHED, OUTCRY
… FG, National Assembly Show No Concern
… Akwa Ibom Assembly Investigates Report
There is intense outcry and bloodshed at the moment in many villages of Mbo local government area of Akwa Ibom State following the continued massacre, sea piracy and militancy in the creeks of Effiat communities.
Also, what is now termed illegal annexation and occupation of 16 villages in the Mbo mangrove island by the Republic of Cameroon is a source of great discomfort for the people.
Our reporters gathered that the mangrove island, which hosts 16 villages of Effiat clan in Mbo, is currently under the administrative control of the Cameroon authorities, a sad condition which is happening as “a result of the expansionist policy of the Cameroon government”.
On a daily basis, some of the people of the area, according to the member representing Mbo in the Akwa Ibom state house of assembly, Samuel Ufuo , are being killed by militants anytime they attempt to react to their predicament, while scores of others are terrorized, dehumanized, deprived of their rights and privileges as well as maltreated by the Cameroon government security agencies.
Ufuo, while presenting the situation of the hapless Mbo people during plenary, last week, when the report was reread for deliberation under matters of urgent public importance, expressed worry that the affected people, who are still living in their villages established when there was no Nigeria or Cameroon as countries, would be allowed to be so humiliated.
The lawmaker noted that a former member who represented the area in the National Assembly, Robinson Uwak, had in January 2015 alerted the federal government of the situation in Mbo, but no action has been taken since then to demarcate properly the maritime boundary between Nigeria and Cameroon as determined by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) during the settlement for the ownership of the Bakassi Peninsula in 2002.
It would be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari, during a visit to the Cameroonian president, Paul Biya, shortly after his inauguration as President of Nigeria last year, assured that the country will continue to abide by the ruling of the ICJ on the Bakassi Peninsula.
President Buhari had also said his administration would ensure the faithful implementation of the Green Tree Agreement, which regulates the ceding of Bakassi to Cameroon.
But Mr. Ufuo reiterated that the mangrove islands were not part of the territory ceded to the Cameroon government by the world court during the Bakassi Peninsula issue.
Ufuo’s position had earlier been raised by Mr. Uwak during his presentation to the House of Representatives last year.
Ufuo recalled with sadness that the affected natives can no longer take care of their families because they have lost their sources of livelihood.
The Mbo mangrove island is said to be blessed with numerous natural resources such as copious fishing routes and approximately 350 oil wells. This strategic economic importance, it is believed, may have brought the envy of the Cameroon government.
Our reporters gathered from the record of the votes and proceedings of Wednesday 14 January 2015 of the 7th House of Representatives then led by Mr. Aminu Tambuwal (now Governor of Sokoto state) that the House had made three resolutions on the matter which included to set up an ad-hoc committee to investigate and report within 30 days (beginning from 14th January 2015).
Others were to urge the attorney general and surveyor general of Nigeria to submit all relevant instruments being used in recent delineations by international surveyors as recommended by the United Nations, and to strongly urge the Nigeria government to re-exert its sovereignty over the troubled island with the mandate of protecting Nigerians being maltreated in the hands of the Cameroon gendarmes.
The resolutions, our reporters gathered, was made after the House received a report on the matter by the then member representing Oron (Oron/Mbo/Okobo/Udung Uko/Urue Offong Oruko) federal constituency, Robinson Uwak, where it was not only pointed out that the disputed islands were not part of the territory ceded to the Cameroon government by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) during the Bakassi Peninsula issue, but also that the encroachment has led to the loss of about 350 oil wells and gas revenues which ought to accrue to Nigeria.
According to Mr Ufuo, the resolutions were discarded following the electioneering at the time and the subsequent end of the 7th National Assembly regime in June 2015.
Describing the situation as pathetic, Ufuo said the people of the affected villages are still buying and selling in Mbo and other Akwa Ibom markets, including paying their taxes, boat licences and other levies to the Akwa Ibom state government.
“Should this annexation by the Republic of Cameroon be allowed to continue after the ongoing demarcation by both countries, Akwa Ibom state and Nigeria as a whole will lose the territory, God forbid, with thousands miles in our coastal water including mineral resources.
“Sadly to note that as a result of the illegal occupation of the islands by the Republic of Cameroon, oil and gas revenues that should accrue to the state and the Nigeria government, employment opportunities to our teeming youths are lost to the Republic of Cameroon.
“Cognizant of the 11th March 1913 Anglo-German treaties that lay this island firmly within Nigeria territory as the island lays West of the Rio Del Ray estuary which serves as the official border line between Nigeria and the Republic of Cameroon as reaffirmed by the ICJ judgment on the 10th October 2002.
” Also cognizant of the fact that the ICJ had ordered both Nigeria and Cameroon to withdraw sovereignty over areas they were not entitled to under the 1913 Anglo-German treaties. This resulted in Nigeria ceding over to Republic of Cameroon 32 villages from Adamawa (state) to the Lake Chad area while Cameroon is holding tight to Akwa Ibom 16 villages of Effiat clan in Mbo local government area, of the mangrove island “, Ufuo’s position, as earlier presented to the house of assembly, read in part.
As soon as the matter was read at the state house of assembly on Thursday
preparatory for deliberation, the House desolved into the committee of the whole to take the recommendations of the committee on security, youth and sports where it was earlier committed. But midway into the deliberations, the committee said it realised that there are current security realities which needed to be reflected in the report and recommendations.
While presenting the report of the committee on the whole, Speaker of the assembly, Onofiok Luke, said the committee considered it necessary for the entire House to go into adequate consultations as matters contained in the recommendations have security implications and which cannot be taken on the face value.
The House further rescheduled the matter for deliberation in the next two sittings which, according to the Speaker, adequate inputs would, by then, be in place in order for a sound decision and judgment to be made as it concerns the recommendations of the committed on security, youth and sports.
A tensed atmosphere was observed on Friday when this reporter, in company of two other journalists, visited the Effiat community.
One resident who managed to volunteer information anonymously said girls and women and being raped in the full glare of the public, while the perpetrators bask in impunity.
Presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina could not be reached for comments on the matter as of the time of filing this report. His mobile telephone number was switched off.
When contacted, the Akwa Ibom state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Mr. Aniekan Umanah, told our reporter that he would put a telephone call through to the Commissioner for Lands and Town Planning, Uwem Ita Etuk, to get details of the situation in Mbo.
Mr. Umanah called back shortly to say he would reach the lawmaker representing the area in the State House of Assembly before speaking on the matter. But as of the time of filing this report, he did not return the call as promised.