By Ibanga Isine
Leaders of 16 mangrove island communities in Akwa Ibom State have threatened to join Cameroon if the Nigerian government fails to stop Cameroonian gendarmes from constantly molesting them.
Already, the community leaders alleged that Cameroonian authorities have taken over their ancestral lands. The communities allegedly annexed by the neighbouring country include Ine Odiong, Inua Mba, Ine Inua Abasi, Ine Usuk, Ibekwe, Itung Ibekwe, Akwa Ine Nsikak and Ine Ekeya.
Others are Ine Ebighi Edu, Ine Etakisib, Atabong, Akpakanya, Ine Okobedi, Ine Atayo, Ine Akpak and Abana.
The affected communities are part of Mbo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, in southern Nigeria.
During a meeting with the village head of Abana, Nyong Etim Efa, a fact-finding team from the National Boundary Commission, led by Moses Onyoh, was told that the Government of the Republic of Cameroon had imposed taxes on Nigerians living in the 16 affected communities.
Mr. Efa said though he was appointed a village head by the Akwa Ibom State Government, he had also been given certificate as a village head by Republic of Cameroon.
The Cameroon Gendarmes have placed taxes on all the communities. In Abana, we are demanded to pay N500, 000 per month,” the village head said.
“The last time they came to collect the money and found out that I didn’t convene a meeting to raise the tax, they raped my wife, beat me up and later detained me in their cell,” he said.
“For our youths who resisted them, they cut their fishing nets into pieces and seize their outboard engines.
“We are weakened by repeated molestation from Cameroon Gendarmes. We are seriously considering taking up citizenship in Cameroon, since Nigerian Government cannot protect us,” Mr. Efa said.
Another resident of the island community invaded, Etim Eyo, said they were left with no source of livelihoods.
“On Saturday February 27, we experienced the worst onslaught on our people. The gendarmes raided our homes, raped our wives, seized 10 outboard engines, eight bags of crayfish and money,” Mr. Eyo lamented.
“After the incident, it has been difficult to eke a living. We don’t have money to buy new outboard engines and fishing nets.”
At a meeting at Enwang, the headquarters of Mbo Local Government, prominent leaders of the area called on the federal government to officially demarcate Nigeria’s maritime boundaries with Cameroon.
While decrying the failure of the government to correct the nation’s boundaries 13 years after the International Court of Justice ruling, the people vowed to launch a counter offensive anytime they were attacked by Cameroonian soldiers.
Some leaders of the area who attended the meeting were former Akwa Ibom Commissioner for Information, Chris Eyo, former Surveyor General of the state, Eyo Esin, former transition chairman for Mbo, Solomon Effiong, member representing Mbo in the House of Assembly, Samuel Ufuo, , Mbo Transition Committee Chairman, Cyril Etuk and village heads, youth and women from communities affected by the annexation.
Attempts to speak with the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Information, Aniekan Umana, and the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, failed as none of them responded to calls by PREMIUM TIMES.
The Senator representing Eket Senatorial District, Nelson Effiong, could not also be reached.
Source: All Africa