By our reporter
Internally Displaced Persons in Bakassi IDPs are crying for help, accusing the Nigerian soldiers drafted to Ikang Community for ‘Operation Still Water’ of harassing, and intimidating them.
The IDPs who are predominantly fishermen, protested the ill treatment meted on them by the Nigerian soldiers
through a peaceful protest which started from Ikot Effiom Obutong re-settlement camp and ended at Ikang Bakassi fishing port.
The protesters came out in their numbers and expressed their frustration and grievances over what they described as intimidation and harrassment by the soldiers.
Allegations levelled against the soldiers in Bakassi includes, flogging of fishermen for being in possession of Petroleum Product which the IDPs claimed it is used to power thier fishing boats.
Narrating thier ordeal, the General Secretary, internally displaced persons IDPs Bakassi re-settlement camp, Mr. Linus Asuquo Essien who spoke on behalf of the protesters stated that the returnees are going through economic hardship as a result of not being allowed by soldiers to buy petrol for thier fishing boats.
“Our children can no longer go to school. On daily basis our community residents who are predominantly fishermen have at regular intervals been arrested and locked up in the Cameroon republic prisons.
“Unfortunately non of our leaders in the house of parliament or in high place of authority had bothered to wade into the matter.
“We now go through hunger and starvation in the IDP camp due to our constant stay at home. Our major occupation is fishing, unfortunately,we have been barred by the soldiers from going to fish.
“We have over hundred fishermen who had been arrested by the cameroon gendarmes and locked up in their prisons just because they were engaged in fishing.
“This is why we are calling on the federal government, United Nations to come to our aide before we perish here. Cameroonians said we are strangers, In Nigeria our soldiers accused us of engaging in bunkering. Where do we go from here. He queried.
Also Speaking, Secretary General, Ikang Clan Council, Chief Essien Eyo, wondered why a Community which has 12 out of the 14 villages making up the community reside basically in the riverine area would be barred from carrying on thier fishing activities.
He maintained that things are so bad that several fishing boats belonging to the fishermen had been burnt down to ashes.
Other allegations levelled against the military personnel in Ikang includes extortion, uneccesary intimidation and harrassment of internally displaced persons who were predominantly fishermen.
The IDPs who came out in hundreds with placards, with different inscriptions boldly written, “enough is enough” we are now slaves in our own land, soldiers have inflicted us with poverty.
The IDPs called on the federal government, international Communities, to look into the inhuman treatment meted on them before things go out of hands.
“In the last 10 months we haven’t seen electricity. Yet we pay taxes. In the Cameroon,we are not allowed to fish. In our own country where our oil wells were ceded to the neighboring Cameroon we are like slaves.
“We have no food to eat,our kids have dropped out from school. Our boats are parked because we lacked Petrol to power our boats for fishing.
“They accused us of engaging in oil bunkering, even when there are no pipelines in Bakassi. The NNPC water fuel station that used to sell Petroleum Product to us now lies fallow because we are not allowed to buy petrol for fishing.” He alledged.
When contacted, the army public relations Officer PRO Capt. Dorcas Aluko stated that she was attending a course outside the state and can not comment on the issue at the moment.
However military sources in Calabar denied the allegations saying that fishermen were using thier fishing boats to smuggle petroleum product to neighboring Cameroon republic.