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Bayelsa tops list of returnees from Bakassi

Posted by By Ofonime Umanah, Calabar on 2006/08/28 | Views: 561 |

Bayelsa tops list of returnees from Bakassi

A fresh batch of over 2,000 Nigerians were evacuated from Bakassi by the Federal Government on Saturday, with Bayelsa State natives topping the list again.

A fresh batch of over 2,000 Nigerians were evacuated from Bakassi by the Federal Government on Saturday, with Bayelsa State natives topping the list again.

They arrived Calabar a few hours after the last set of the 1,330 other indigenes of Bayelsa left the state for their homes.

Last week, the first batch of over 2,000 Nigerians arrived to tell the gory tales of how they were treated. They, however, expressed appreciation to the Federal Government for facilitating their departure.

The returnees started leaving their Barracks Road camp on Saturday but the bus which conveyed them departed the state a few hours before the arrival of the new batch.

Expectedly looking dejected and thoroughly hunger-stricken, some of the returnees swore never to go back to Bakassi, considering their experience there.

They said many Nigerians had died in the prisons in Cameroun , while others were still languishing in detention over alleged tax-related offences.

One of them who gave his name as Simeon Werinipre said, “We were treated like vagabonds. Those security men in Bakassi, the gendarmes, really dealt with us. Most of us wanted to return to Nigeria but we could not because everything we laboured for was used to pay all kinds of taxes.

“See me now, do I look like a human being? I spent more than 10 years in that place, the only thing I can boast of now is this thing points to a very dirty foam and a Ghana must go bag).”

On Friday, some of the returnees narrated their experiences to our correspondent. Mr. Anselem Ucheoma recalled how he was arrested and detained thrice even when his tax documents were yet to expire.

He said, “We were paying 80,000 CFA but after that we were paying 140,000 CFA for residence permit. It was not easy. So, when I heard that Nigeria was bringing this ship to Douala to take us out, I said instead of dying in the hands of the gendarmes, let me come back.

“Life was very difficult. Even though you have residence permit, you can’t go out freely. Even though we tell them that we are from Nigeria, they used to call us Biafra. Anything you are doing, if you have any problem with their citizen, even if you are right, you are finished.

Another returnee, from Bayelsa State, a fisherman named Joko Simeon, 31, lived in Cameroun since his youthful days.

He said, “Life there was very hard. The way the Camerounian government was treating us, oh no. Life was like hell. Apart from the residence permit, there were many documents they wanted Nigerians to pay for.

“Even if you get these papers, they will still worry you. They have a contribution for the fishermen every week. We stayed in villages. Then every village can pay at least 50,000 CFA every week.

“Then your residence permit, before you get it, it will take like over N40,000. Then before three months, the book will expire, they will arrest you again. When they arrest you, they will send you to prison.

Meanwhile, prices of crayfish and other aquatic foods may soon hit the rooftop if nothing urgent is done to arrest the recent development.

Traders, who deal in the products, said they started experiencing a skyrocket in the prices of crayfish and other seafoods after the formal withdrawal of Nigerians from Bakassi.

According to one of the traders, Miss Comfort Inyang, who spoke with out correspondent on Saturday at the Abana Beach in Oron Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, a bag of crayfish which sells for between N3,500 and N4,500 now goes for between N7,000 and N8,000.

Spokesman of the National Emergency Management Agency, Mr. Biodun Oladunjoye, said on Sunday that the agency would take care of the feeding of the returnees until when they would be taken home by their various state governments.

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