Akpan Etukudoh Asare
Members of the dreaded Bakassi Strike Force based in the Calabar creeks whose membership strength runs above 1000 have surrendered their weapons and accepted amnesty from the Cross River State government.
The public ceremony was held at Ikang, capital of Bakassi LGA of the state which was graced by all the service commanders in the state and other dignitaries connected with security and amnesty.
Speaking at the event, leader of the BSF, self-styled General Benjamin Ene, alias G1 confirmed that his boys were over 1000 and were truly willing to surrender their arms.
He said they have been in the Bakassi and other creeks for over seven years and were really not out to fight the state government but genuinely out to fight for the people of Bakassi who allegedly suffered deprivation, dislocation, neglect and wants.
He blamed the federal government for not being genuine to their pledge. But he expressed happiness at the government’s resolve to grant them amnesty without much conditions.
Addressing the militants, Governor of Cross River State, Prof Ben Ayade sqid he has given full amnesty and pledged to fully rehabilite all members of the Bakassi Strike Force (BSF) and other unknown militant groups said to number 11.
The governor expressed happiness at the readiness of the militants to surrender their heavy weapons and embrace his peace overtures, saying the amnesty will involve full rehabilitation.
Ayade said his government was poised to place them on regular government stipends which will help to discourage them from indulging in crimes and militancy.
He said even though the cause of liberating the local Bakassi people from alleged injustice, neglect and marginalisation which they were struggling for were taken from seeming violent perspective.
The governor said by laying down their arms and accepting his olive branch they have created good atmosphere for the state government to address their grievances, and the international investors to come into the state.
H urged them not to return to the creeks and also directed that all the repentant militants should be documented for easy reach and rehabilitation.
State security adviser, Ani Eric Esin said with the amnesty the repentant militants will become free citizens to integrate into the society. He added that the event was successful because of the collaboration of the state with the Operation Delta Safe (ODS) which initiated idea of dialogue between the state and the militant groups.
Bassey Ndem, former commissioner for lands in the state and special rapporteur for the amnesty commended the state government and security forces for making the event a huge success.