Calabar- The Bakassi returnees in Cross River have appealed to the state government to pay their monthly upkeep allowance of N5,000 to save them from hunger and starvation.
The returnees made the appeal in Calabar on Wednesday during a peaceful protest to the state ministry of social welfare and community development.
The spokesperson of the group, Mr Duke Bassey, said that the monthly stipend had not been paid since 2013, adding that the non-payment had inflicted serious pains on them.
“We were asked to leave our ancestral homes in Abana, our fishing settlement because it has been given to Cameroun and to relocate to Obutong in Ikang.
“The government out of its magnanimity decided to be giving a monthly stipend of N5000 each to registered families; they also used to bring various food items including garri, rice and beans to share to us.
“But since 2013, they have stopped giving us anything. We cannot fish there and there is nowhere to farm; so we are just left to rot. Our children can no longer go to school.
“So we are appealing to the state government to resume the payment to avoid casualties,’’ he said.
The protesters later demanded for money to transport themselves back to their homes.
Addressing the returnees, the Chief Security Officer of the ministry, Mr Egan Irebu, told them that non-payment of their stipends by the state government was not deliberate as the state was facing financial meltdown.
He called on them to be patient with the government as it was new and just settling down in office.
“You should please calm down. The government is new, barely three months in the office.
“The new government has to be informed and we have sent a memo which he is currently considering, so, I plead that you should give him some time.
“I am sure that you will be paid as soon as the financial situation of the state improves,’’ Irebu said.
He later gave the returnees an undisclosed amount of money to transport themselves back to Ikang, Bakassi Local Government Area.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that following the ceding of Bakassi peninsula to Cameroun and the signing of the Green Tree Agreement in 2008, Nigerians living there were asked to vacate the peninsula.
The returnees are not all from Cross River as indigenes of Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa and Ondo states are also included. (NAN)