The local government held onto the items rather than distribute them to returnees, Akanimo said. (Local government officials said they couldn’t distribute the materials without “clearance from relevant authorities” in Uyo, the state capital).
“It took more than one year before the materials were shared and that was why some materials went missing,” said Arthur Amos, then youth leader of the Bakassi camp in Eket.
“On the day the materials were distributed, because it was in the open field in the local government secretariat, a large crowd, including market people, motorcycle taxi drivers and passersby rushed into the distribution site and picked whatever items they could carry,” the youth leaders told me. “The crowd overpowered us, and most Bakassi people did not get anything.”
Akanimo also said that out of the 120 sewing machines sent to Eket, “we only saw 87 machines,” and added that the medications supplied were all missing.
He further claimed that the former vice chairman and later chairman of Eket local government, Nsikan John, tried to bribe him when he asked further questions about the missing items.
“He took me to the Assurance Hotel [in Eket town] and he offered me money,” Akanimo claimed.
John denied ever trying to bribe him and said he handed the relief materials over to the leaders of the Bakassi returnees, including Akanimo, to share with “their people because the materials were meant for the displaced people of Bakassi.”
Efoghe of NCFRMI said he has heard of “several stories” of diversion of relief materials, including the incident in Eket, but added that “I was not the zonal coordinator when it happened [and] I wouldn’t be able to say anything to that.”
Ekpo Ekpo Bassey, the state representative of the Bakassi at Cross River House of Assembly, said it is important to provide adequate resettlement and reintegration for the Bakassi people so that they “would not feel the pain of having lost their territory, their resources, their artifacts, and their historical origin or place of their birth.”