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Angry Voices In Bakassi 

By Yerima Kini Nsom

A combined team from the Centre for Environment and Development, CED, and journalists including this reporter jabbered freely as they hit the road to Isangele in the Bakassi Peninsula.
The 60 kilometer stretch from Mundemba to Isangele constructed by the Civil Engineering Corp of the Army recently, is a snaky meander. The road zigzags through a topography of undulating hills in the forest until it unveils the posture of Isangele that hitherto could be only accessed by sea.

The journey was smooth until the team met a black car matriculated "CA" coming from the opposite direction. A charcoal black man seemingly in his 40s beckoned the team in Double Cabin Four wheel drive pick-up to stop. He did so with a sneer of cold command.

"Who are you people and where are you going to? I am the Divisional Officer of Isangele. Nobody should come here without my knowledge," he bellowed as he alighted from the car. Despite this, the team greeted him with unprecedented bonhomie as they explained their mission to Isangele. "You know Bakassi is a sensitive area and you could be spies," he barked as he asked for the team’s mission order to examine the consequences of exploration and exploitation of petroleum oil in Bakassi.

After examining the authorisation number from the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Decentralisation, MINATD, the man nodded disapprovingly. At first, he heaved a sarcastic grin but things turned sour again as soon as his black lips began to unveil his sparkling white teeth. His grimace changed and a foggy expression suddenly subdued the contours of his face. He copied the reference number of the authorisation, promising to verify. But not before he said in a sarcasm-loaded statement that: "Bakassi has become a password for everybody to make money by pretending to fight for the people’s wellbeing".

He threatened to stop the team from going to Isangele but changed his mind. "When you go, report yourself to the gendarmes," the administrator instructed. The man curiously did not care to know the identity of individual members of the team in his gendarme attitude. The D.O’s erratic behaviour was seemingly the herald of anger and frustration that this reporter witnessed with the people of Isangele Sub Division.

"We have answered questions from many journalists and other people about our situation in Bakassi but nothing has changed about our agonising plight," one Isanguele resident, Daniel Clement Anki thundered as he was quizzed by The Post.  "Mr Journalist, what will I gain after answering your questions?" One Daniel Mosongo questioned rhetorically. They were acerbic that Isangele still looks like an abandoned area. He said the population of Isangele sub Division is estimated at 20.000 inhabitants, most of who have migrated to other places. Isangele Sub Division is made up of Oron, Bateka, Amoto and Massako.

Daniel Mosongo said there is no pipe borne water in the area because the taps constructed during the Bakassi crisis no longer function. To him, they are living only by the grace of God because the nearest hospital is in Kumba which is over 180 kilometers away. The hospital in Isangele lacks equipment especially those for surgical operations. That is why, he said, the rate of infant and maternal mortality has continued to rise in the area.

Mosongo, who is the local section President of the ruling CPDM party, said government behaves like a mother who would put food into the hungry child’s mouth and withdraw it, allowing the child to die of hunger. "They installed a generator that flashed electricity for 10 days in 2003. We are in perpetual darkness," he complained.

Equally unveiling the plight of the people of Isangele, Clement, a teacher, said even the Government Bilingual Secondary School, GBHS government created has no teachers. Only the principal and his Deputy are there. The rest are two graduates of Isangele origin who are doing voluntary work. The duo, Alphonse Amah and Theophile Anjeh told The Post they have been teaching without salaries hoping that government will do something for them.

The Post learnt that many teachers sent to the area, stay away because of the lack of social amenities. It is equally reported that since there are not many teachers, parents now prefer to send their children to school out of the area. Qualifying all the reports about heavy investment in Bakassi as a charade of public deceit, they said Isangele has not had much of the investments. "We need a tarred road and several other facilities, so that civil servants sent here should not run away," they said.

Like other places in Ndian, the people of Isangele are carrying a basket of grievances against government that they are not benefiting anything from the exploitation from the area.  Mayors of the five sub divisions of Bakkassi are said to be living under the spectre of the people’s anger for not receiving oil royalties. The mayors are Prince Mosongo of Idabato, Caro U Mewanu of Isangele, Patrick Aboko of Kombo Abedimo, Emmanuel Sangi of Bamusso and Cornelius Edonde of Kombo Itindi.

In the psyche of the average man in Bakassi, government propaganda on huge investment in the peninsula subverts the sad realities of the people. "SHELL, TOTAL, AdAX Petroleum, Kosmos Energy and many other oil companies have been operating for long but we don’t benefit anything from them," said one Mosongo. He said each time an oil company comes, it would tell the local administrator to warn against fishing in areas where it is carrying oil exploitation.

The people told The Post that besides the soaring effects of climate change in the area, the chemical used by the companies has destroyed millions of eggs of fish. "We have been fighting with the Chief of Isangele, Chief Daniel Anki Ambo, to see if we can benefit from royalties.

But each time we complain to officials of the companies for not taking special measures to employ people from the local communities the companies usually bring it middlemen to recruit the locals. The middlemen would ask for bribes ranging from small amounts to FCFA 50.000. When the local people would be unable to pay, they go to places like Limbe and Douala and employ people there," said Clement Anki.

All We Need Is A Tarred Road

The cry for tarred roads continued to appear in the demands of the people everywhere we went in Ndian Division. When The Post met the Mayor of Mudemba, Elizabeth Iselle Bekomba, she chorused: "Everything we need is a tarred road. People die of hunger here because there is no road to transport food especially in the rainy season. Many patients die because our road sometimes is virtually impassable," she said.

Just how poor the Mundemba Council is, is reflected in the life style of the Mayor. The Mayor goes about her daily business on a motor cycle. "The only company that has been helping our council is PAMOL. PAMOL bought me a car, Rav 4, but it later broke down. While looking for a means to repair it, I go about on a bendskin (motor cycle).

The Mayor was equally bitter that despite the fact oil companies are operating in the area, the council is not benefiting anything from oil royalties paid to government. "I think all the nine councils in Ndian should have royalties. The issue of oil royalties has been my cry. I also raised the matter when the Governor came here during his tour.

 "Mundemba has nothing. Government has made numerous promises about tarring our road from Kumba," said the CPDM Youth wing President for Ndian I, Philip N. Orume. Ndian inhabitants say it is unacceptable that government has exploited oil in the area for close to four decades without tarring the road to divisional headquarters, Mundemba at least.

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