By Happiness Ifiok
The Cross River state government on Monday granted amnesty to the Bakassi Strike Force, which over the years has been protesting against what they regard as injustice, neglect and marginalization of the Bakassi people.
Addressing the ex-agitators at a military base in Ikang Bakassi, Cross River state, where they laid down their weapons and charms, the state governor Ben Ayade charged them to fully repent of their old ways and become law abiding citizens, “today I have a duty as a father and also have a responsibility as a governor. As a governor my responsibility is to ensure the security of the state, as a father it’s my responsibility to protect all citizens.
And so there’s a complex relationship between my office and my traditional roles. It is non acceptable, on no circumstance is it allowed for a citizen to bear arms, irrespective of the substance, the value, the philosophy of the action. I speak to you as governor of Cross River state; on the other hand I speak to you as a brother. I admit you into amnesty with all sincerity. Just picture innocent lives that have been lost either through kidnapping or sea piracy because you had to raise money to sustain your struggle. It could have been your own child or your sibling, when you sit back and reflect on the lives lost occasioned by your struggle, you will see your remorsefulness, your deep sense of regret should be strong to make you never to return”.
Governor Ayade who sympathized with the ex-agitators over their struggle, noted that the people of Bakassi have really suffered since their ancestral land was ceded to Cameroun, just as he promised to ensure that the people will be integrated into the society. “On my part and on the part of the state, as your brother I’ll do all I can within my power to ensure that you have a guaranteed source of income because I know so much about the sociology of life, I know so much about the challenges you face. It is my responsibility that I will support you to the best that I can because it is my role. We shall join hands to engage with federal government and raise all the issues you have raised, all the issues of the green tree agreement including all other agitations that are specific to Bakassi, and specific to the issue of the ceding of Bakassi and the need for federal government to focus on the Bakassi Deep Seaport which will get a lot of you gainfully engaged”.
Also speaking, the Commander of Operation Delta Safe, Rear Admiral A. O. Suleiman, who in collaboration with the state government initiated the idea of dialogue as a means of resolving all issues concerning the group, noted that the amnesty was unconditional. Rear Admiral Suleiman who further called on the Commander of the group Benjamin Ene (aka G ONE) to ensure that his boys do not return to the creeks to cause mayhem, stressed that the wrath of the law will fall heavily on them if they fail to adhere to the memorandum of understanding signed.
On his part, the Commander of the Bakassi Strike Force Benjamin Ene, who commended the state government and every other person who have worked towards the actualization of the amnesty, promised that the ex-agitators shall stick to the memorandum of understanding signed with the state government. “I and my boys now ex-agitators some of whom are awaiting releases from various detention facility to join in the amnesty program appreciate this overture and have laid down our weapons never to go back into arm struggle/ insurgency, but to remain law abiding citizens and pass any of their grievances through the allowable lawful means and medium. We viewed the ceding of our home as a betrayal by the Nigeria state who sold Bakassi in the first place without our consent as a people, we have today resolved to give peace a chance and call on all to do same”.