By Dayo Johnson
FOLLOWING the chasing away of over 200, 000 Nigerians from Bakassi recently by Cameroonian gendarmes, the Ondo State government Tuesday inaugurated an inspection committee on indigenes of the state displaced as a result of the judgment of the International Court of Justice, ICJ, over the Bakassi Peninisula.
Speaking at the inauguration in Akure, the Deputy Governor, Alhaji Ali Olanusi said the state government is concerned with the security situation, welfare and plight of the people of the state who were adversely affected by the Green Tree Agreement between Nigeria and the Republic of Cameroon.
Leader of the Inspection Committee on Bakassi, Mrs. Moremi Soyinka-Onijala who briefed the Deputy Governor on the activities of her committee said the committee was saddled with the responsibility of investigating allegations of harassment against Nigerians in the Bakassi by the gendarmes, see whether they had breached the Green Tree Agreement and make appropriate recommendations to the Federal Government.
She explained that â€œmost residents of the areas are indigenes of Akwa-Ibom, Bayelsa, Rivers, Cross-River states.
But in a swift reaction, the state government inaugurated the committee headed by Chief Sola Ebiseeni as its chairman while the members are the chairmen of Ilaje and Ese-Odo local government areas of the state, the special adviser to the governor on Niger Delta, permanent secretary, Office of the Deputy Governor, representative of the Ministry of Finance, and representatives of the political and economic departments.
The Deputy Governor said government was concerned with the security situation, welfare and the plights of the indigenes of the state affected by the new arrangement. He therefore, urged the committee to swing into action immediately and map out strategy for the smooth intervention on the plights of the people.
He advised them to liaise with members of the inspection committee on the security situation in Bakassi peninsula in the presidency for coordination and collection of data on the affected people.
Responding, Ebiseni lauded the efforts of the state government, saying that setting up the committee to work with the Federal Government further showed the commitment of government to the development of the people.
Ebiseni said the recent reports had indicated that some of the indigenes of the state were among those stranded in Lagos, Akwa-Ibom and other riverine states in the country.
He described the opportunity as a call to duty and promised that members of the committee would not fail in the call to serve humanity.
The leader of the committee, Mrs Moremi Soyinka-Onijala said â€œMy committee had been to the camps of the returnees to assess their plights and pathetic conditions. Many of them said they were driven away by the Cameroonian gendarmes who they alleged, did not allow them to take their belongings with themâ€.
â€œThe returnees did not want to return to Cameroon. They are ready to settle down in their states of origin but they needed assistance in terms of funds. They canâ€™t even trace their respective towns in Nigeria so they needed government urgent intervention,â€ She added.
Soyinka Onilaja stated that the Federal Government was ready to partner with the various state governments whose indigenes were affected by the development, in order to resettle and empower them.
She noted that â€œthe Nigerians in Bakassi should not have been subjected to Cameroonian civil administrations, police authorities, customs and immigration laws until 2013 when the Green Tree Agreement would end.
â€œNigerians in the Peninsula should still be enjoying their special privileges and rights as citizens of their own countries. The follow-up committee set up by the Federal Government shortly after the agreement was signed, did not do their jobs hence the gendarmes were maltreating our people.â€
â€œSome state governments have started assisting the returnees in their camps by sending their children to school, feeding them and providing medical care. But they needed permanent shelter and skill acquisition centres to enable them learn new trades.â€