No Election In Bakassi
GOVERNORSHIP election held yesterday in Cross River State without the returnees of the crisis-torn Bakassi Council participating.
A high court injunction, issued after close of work on Friday, eve of the election, shut the people of Bakassi out of the election.
Consequently, the people, led by former Senator Ita-Giwa, protested their exclusion from the poll.
However, there was general apathy to the election, as the turnout was poor.
Materials also arrived late, between 9am and 10am, at most of the polling units in the rural areas even though the supplies had arrived at the area INEC offices on time.
Except for essential duties, restrictions were placed on movement of vehicles, businesses and other activities.
In Calabar, accreditation started at 8am and voting commenced on time and situation was peaceful.
As early as 6am, the distribution of sensitive elections materials commenced into the 23 local government areas of the state.
But the major feature in most parts of the state visited was the obvious lack of enthusiasm on the part of voters.
In the Calabar municipal area, like the adjoining local government areas, while there were electoral officers, including members of the National Youths Service Corps (NYSC), there were no voters for early morning accreditation.
When The Guardian visited Odukpani, Akampa, Biase and Yakurr local governments, there were no voters in several polling units.
In some places, only a handful of voters were seen, waiting to be accredited, a situation some voters blamed on apparent lack of faith in the electoral system.
Yet, there was an improved participation of voters in Itigidi, the headquarters of Abi Local Government Area, where the governorship candidate of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and immediate past governor, Sen. Liyel Imoke, hails from.
Imoke, who voted at the Government Primary School polling unit at about 12.15pm, commended the peaceful and orderly nature of the election, hoping that similar feat would be recorded in subsequent elections.
Expressing confidence that he would win the election, Imoke said: “Nobody plays God but I believe we have done enough work and I believe the people of Cross River State have expressed overwhelming support for us and we are grateful to God for that. “We have been out there campaigning, sharing our successes, vision and mission for our people and they have been very responsive to those. So, anything that we do is based on what the people that we serve expect from us.”
Imoke commended the INEC for doing a good job of the election, saying, “from what I have seen so far, it looks that they are doing a great job and doing the right thing and we are quite satisfied.”
Imoke also had words of praise for the security agencies, for maintaining “very tight security throughout the state.”
“From all indications, it (election) seems to be very peaceful security-wise, because we have not had any single report of security incident anywhere in the state.
“So, I’m quite impressed with the fact that this whole exercise seems to be very peaceful, very orderly and largely democratic.”
Since the ceding of Bakassi to Cameroun in 2002 and the subsequent creation of New Bakassi from the Akpabuyo Local Government Council by the state government, things have never been the same again, as the returnee Bakassi people have been in constant conflict with their new landlords in Akpabuyo.
The returnees want Dayspring as the headquarters of the New Bakassi while their landlords and the state government give recognition to Ikang.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) recognizes Dayspring as the actual Bakassi and not Ikang because the federal government document does not recognise Ikang as Bakassi.
INEC conducted the last House/National Assembly and Presidential elections in Dayspring but yesterday’s governorship election was different, as some traditional rulers, led by Muri Edet Etim Asuquo, have dragged INEC and the Resident Electoral Commissioner to court and secured an injunction, restraining INEC from conducting election in Dayspring.
Following a suit instituted by Asuquo and 3 others, for themselves and on behalf of the Ikang people of Ikang Clan, Esighi Clan, Antigha Ene Eyo Clan and Edihi Idim Ikot Eyi Clan of Bakassi, a Federal High Court in Calabar, presided by Justice Adetokumbo Ademola, had stopped the conduct of yesterday’s poll and subsequent ones in accordance with ward delineation based on the current Bakassi LGA created pursuant to Law No. 7 of Cross River State House of Assembly and not based on the ward delineation, as existed before the ceding of Bakassi to Cameroun.
The court order, signed by the Registrar, Mr. Collins Okpa, also declared that the defendants (INEC and the Resident Electoral Commissioner) “cannot disregard the 3 wards of Ikang, as the current Bakassi Local Government Area or do anything contrary to the orders of the said judge.”
But in a peaceful protest yesterday, the people of Bakassi, led by Senator Florence Ita-Giwa, demonstrated against the exclusion of Bakassi in the governorship election.
According to Ita-Giwa, “normally, when there is election, the Bakassi people gather here (Marina beach) to travel by the sea to Dayspring Island, to go and vote. This is a ritual that we have been doing and we have done it three times.
“We crossed to Day Spring to vote during the National Assembly, presidential and State Assembly elections in April 2011. As bona fide Nigerians, we have the right to exercise our franchise where we are registered but for some strange reason, there is a twist of fate here.”
Ita-Giwa noted that for this particular governorship election, “we are experiencing what we would refer to as a ‘judiciary ambush’ in the sense that an injunction stopping INEC from going to conduct an election in Day Spring was issued at about 4pm on Friday (February 24).”
“There was not even an opportunity for it to be vacated and I believe that INEC feels they are obliged to abide by that injunction.”
She said that as a lawmaker, she did not know that the judiciary has jurisdiction over National Assembly matters and INEC matters.
“Because, I remember when I was at the Senate, I had issues and I tried to get an injunction from stopping the Senate from sitting but by the second day, it was vacated because it was said that the judiciary had no jurisdiction over National Assembly matters.
“However, I am not angry over this, but as a serious and major issue, we would like the Federal Government to intervene.”
Ita-Giwa recalled that 10 years ago, after the judgment by the International Court of Justice in Hague, the Federal Government had promised that their traditional structure and the entire people would be relocated.
“We want to know why we have not be relocated even after INEC located a place for us,” she said.
She added that, “immediately after the ceding 10 years ago, we went into self-determination; the people standing here today are those that requested for the Bakassi LGA.”
“I was a member of the constitutional conference organised during the regime of the late Gen. Sani Abacha and it was during that period I presented the case for the creation of Bakassi LGA and other Nigerians, being aware of the bondage we were going through, gave us their support.
“With the support of members of the then constitutional conference, Abacha expressively granted the location of a Bakassi LGA in Cross River State.
“We applied for the creation and it was granted to be located in Cross River State. So, there are many things that we are about to challenge. We do not know why people, who did not know how the local government came about, should now be answering the name, Bakassi.”
Ita-Giwa said the people gathered here with her “are the true people of the original Bakassi LGA before and after the ceding and I think what we are going through is that the Cross River State and Federal Government have not been serious with the issue of proper resettlement of the Bakassi indigenes.”
“Allocation meant for a whole LGA had been going to three wards and these are what we are going to start questioning. We are going to commence series of campaigns to actualise our local government and where we are located.”
Ita-Giwa alleged that the government was “inciting us against the people of Ikang,” stressing, however, that, “we do not have any issues with the people of Ikang. Ikang did not pass the judgment.”
“The only issue is that there was some semblance of marriage for some period when it is not policies and election time. The friendship ends when there is election, and it is only natural because everyone likes political power,” she said.
Reacting to the court order, Mr. Mike Igini, the Resident INEC Commissioner, said: “My attention was drawn to that very late yesterday (Friday) and you know very well that INEC is a creation of the law.
“Where there is an order of court, even if not properly given or given out of jurisdiction, the proper approach on the part of a lawful organisation is to abide by that court.
“Even when you disagree, you go to the court, to tell the court that you are wrong in this order.”
Igini stated that the principle of election all over the world is that elections are conducted where people are registered.
“You do not ask a body to conduct election where people are not registered,” he said. “I think what we have seen is what we call in legal parlance, commanding the doing of an impossibility.
“For us, we cannot pick and choose how to obey a court order, other than to go back to the court and we have started that yesterday,” he said.