Host community sacks Bakassi Returnees, destroy farm settlement
By Uket Oka (Calabar)
Bakassi Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS) of Bakassi in Cross River State have again been displaced and severely attacked by their host community from the state government’s acquired farm settlement in Ikpa Nkanya Eyo Edem of erstwhile Akpabuyo Local Government Area of the State.
The leader of the returnees, Chief Etim Okon Ene, made this known Monday, while speaking with journalists in Calabar, Cross River State capital.
Chief Ene, who is also the Camp Leader said he was in Calabar to seek for the state government’s intervention on their current predicament.
He explained that the Bakassi returnees were attacked and driven out from their farmland by the indigenes of Ikpa Nkanya Eyo Edem community who are their host.
He hinted that, the returnees had received training on greenhouse farming skills with the support of the United Nations, facilitated by an NGO, ‘Care for Social Welfare’ adding that their crops have been doing well to the envy of the host community.
Chief Ene also explained that trouble started when the host community later demanded for inclusion in the farm project, alleging that, “the state government is yet to pay them compensation for the land acquired as farm settlement.”
“In fact, some leaders of the host community, upon realising that the farm project has become a reality sought to stop the project and demanded 30% inclusion even though 5% inclusion was given for their women who joined the training of 200 Bakassi women by the UN Programme on Women Household Empowerment Project.,” Chief Ene stated.
The Camp leader, who said he recently regained freedom, disclosed that he was arrested and incarcerated on alleged trumped up charges of conspiracy to murder in the leadership tussle of the host community of which neither him nor their leader was a party.
“When I was not around, they went further to use communal authority and vigilante group to stall the project, pursue and scatter our people, kill the ones they catch, break our stores, cart away everything, destroy our make shift oil mills and cassava processing mills stealing everything in sight.
“They also sought to redirect the project from our settlement to their own side of the community as well as banning our people from every farming activity; our only means of subsistence.
“Our prayer is for the state government to intervene to enable us go back to our farms, the source of our food and sustenance,” he said.
The returnees’ leader further disclosed that they had since registered as a cooperative called Bakassi Returnees Less Privileged Multi-Purpose Co-operative Society Limited which helped them to get donor supports from different bodies.
Ene said: “The state government under the administration of former Governor Ben Ayade built and furnished 50 units of 2-bedroom flats as estate for Bakassi returnees in Ifiang. It was handed over to us and we had some flats being occupied by up to ten families in one building. Unfortunately for us, the Ifiang people vandalized the entire estate in the guise of ‘End SARS Protest’ in 2020 and we had to return to the settlement that was acquired by the state government in Ikpa Nkanya.”
Our continuous plea and cries attracted Care for Social Welfare, an NGO which brought in the United Nations that trained 200 of our women for the first of phase of Women Household Empowerment Project. They proceeded to procure tools, seedlings, fertilizers, chemicals and equipment, employ the service of Cross River Basin Authority tractor for ploughing a-10-hectare land for practical investment,” he further explained.
The leader of the Bakassi returnees lamented that all of these have been destroyed by their host community.
“We have lost the following in the recent attack, 10.000 stands of water melon plants, 200,000 stands of peppers nursery, 10,000 stands of cucumbers, 5,000 stands of pepper farm (harvested), 100 stands of paw-paw damaged, 1,000 stands of plantain harvested by them.
“Damages at our garri mill include Fryer, Presser, Grinding machine, Shifter, Damages of shelter.
“At our Poultry Store/Fertilizer Store, we lost 3,000 bags of farm yard manure from chicken, 100 birds, 200 cartons of insecticide among others,” he enumerated.
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