Akpan Etukudoh Asare
Some members of the Vegetables/Tomatoes Buyers Association at the Nigeria/Cameroon border in Ikom, Cross River State have disclosed that they often bribe the boys fighting for the actualisation of Ambazonian Republic in Cameroon with assorted bottles of strong drinks, cigarettes, other Nigerian goods and the sum of 100,000 Francs equivalent of N50,000.
An official of the association who spoke on condition of anonymity said they must do this each time they want to convey vegetables, including tomatoes and others to Nigeria.
He said this is because of the lingering armed conflict ongoing in that country which has greatly hampered their business and has also accounted for poor supply of tomatoes and other vegetables in Nigeria.
He said the order by the federal government has also terribly affected business at the Ikom border which used to be a bubbling trading outpost.
The official said that it is only his union that is still able to do business because they ‘have paid their dues’ to men of the Nigerian Customs Service at the border and they do not disturb their trucks.
“Yesterday, the Ambazonian boys ordered a No Movement in Cameroon, that is why we have not been able to enter to get our trucks.
“Usually on other days when the hostilities are not as pronounced as these last few days, we would normally give the boys 100,000 Francs which is about N50,000, many bottles of hot drinks, wines, and other things to pacify them and they would open the way for our trucks to pass.
“These days, business has suffered much at this border. We have only been getting two trucks per day as against up to ten. But yesterday, we were lucky to have eight trucks”, he said.
At Ikang border in the southern part of Cross River, local traders at the Ikang International market in Bakassi LGA complained that their stocks of wares have since exhausted and they are unable to replenish due to the closure of the border.
Mr Peter Ene, a native of Ikang said he and his wife usually buy edible items and drinks from Cameroon and also sell Nigeria goods, mostly farm produce across the border but they have not done so in the last one week.
He said, he like his colleagues have been seriously affected and has not been able to pay their bills and feed their children..
Public Relations Officer of Nigerian Immigration Service in Calabar, Patrick Ishabor said that most of the officers from the state command of NIS at the various border points have been replaced.
He said following the closure of the borders by the federal government, the NIS headquarters directly sent officials from Abuja to take over from those that have been manning duty posts at Mfum, Ikang, Ikom and many other points.
Speaking about the porous nature of the Cameroon-Nigerian border in his office when he received a delegation from the Naval War College, Governor Ayade said there were 27 identified routes where arms were being smuggled into and out of Cameroon and criminals used same to perpetuate crimes in his state.
He said it was very dangerous for his state and it has made the state to be vulnerable to attacks.