According to reports, no fewer than 2,000 persons who left the Bakassi peninsula in Cameroon have arrived Mbo in Akwa Ibom state and Ikang in Cross River State. This was confirmed by Prince Aston Inyang, the National Coordinator of Bakassi Internally Displaced Persons in an interview with news correspondents. He disclosed that about 1,500 persons have been received in Ikang, which is the headquarters of Bakassi LGA in Cross River State,
In a related development, Capt. Confidence Ukpoh, the son of the Clan Head of Effiat in Mbo LGA of Akwa Ibom State also said that there had been a return of over 400 persons from Cameroon who had gone to their various communities that were under the clan.
This development was preceded by the documentation of the IDPs at the Ikang border post which commenced on Wednesday and is being initiated by the Cross River State Command of the Nigeria Immigration Service
According to the returnees, they were given an ultimatum to ensure they paid an annual new tax regime of N55,000 per adult before the 6th of July or leave their homes in Abana and other communities
Inyang said, “They started arriving since Wednesday night. Over 1, 500 of them have come in through Ikang. They divided themselves into those that coming to Ikang in Cross River State and Mbo in Akwa Ibom State.
“What happened was that the government of Cameroon introduced a new tax regime which obviously majority of these people cannot meet. They said each adult, including children that are above 15-years will pay an annual tax of the equivalent of N55, 000.
“They also introduced other levies. So, at that point, some Nigerian chiefs from Bakassi who were at the meeting where the decision was taken told the authorities that the tax burden was too much on them but the authorities refused to listen.
“After that meeting, the Cameroonian authorities now came up with a policy that restricted the Bakassi indigenes from fishing in the sea. They started damaging their fishing materials. Where do they now want the people to raise money to pay? So, they thereafter gave ultimatum of July 6 that if the Bakassi indigenes are not ready to pay the tax, they should leave the Cameroon.”
One of the returnees who was residing in the Ikpa-Nkanya community in the peninsula, Nta Okon-Bassey say he had to come back with his two wives and ten children. He said:
“They have destroyed all our fishing apparatus all because they want us to leave our own ancestral land for them. About 500 of us left my community and while some of us came to Ikang, others went to Mbo in Akwa Ibom State. We came in with speed boats.”
There were also some remarks made by Capt. Confidence Ukpoh on the returnees: “They have been arriving in bits because they do not all live in the same place. We received some of them yesterday.
“So far, more than 400 have arrived. Mbo is a big place that is made up of so many communities. So, as they come they go back to their various communities. They berth at Ibaka beach from where they disperse. They said they were imposed with high taxes and that they asked them to leave if they cannot pay it.”
Contact was then made to the Vice-Consul of Cameroon Consulate in Nigeria, Mr. Godlove Tala, who stated that there was no order issued by any Cameroonian authority that prompted the eviction of Bakassi indigenes due to tax payments.
He said, “We got in touch with the authorities in that area and they said that they never asked anyone to leave. This is preliminary information. Even this tax regime thing, it does not apply to Bakassi indigenes alone, it applies to all residents of Cameroon.
“I do not think there is a peculiar regime that applies to Abana residents. We have over seven million traders from south-eastern Nigeria who are doing business in Cameroon and nobody has driven them away. If the paramount ruler has confirmed this to you, we will see what is going on.”
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