Barely 24 hours after the Federal Government said the Bakassi Peninsula remains Cameroon’s territory, a militant group that goes with the name Lato Marine Force, has issued a new threat, vowing to reclaim the ceded Peninsula at whatever cost.
The group, which was formerly known as Bakassi Freedom Fighters, said it is the height of betrayal for the Federal Government to tell the world there is no going back on the Green Tree Agreement (GTA) signed with the Republic of Cameroon over the Peninsula. The Federal Government had recently issued a statement through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman expressing commitment to the implementation of the GTA and dissociated itself from the recent clamour by Nigerians for a review and subsequent reclamation.
But in a swift reaction, leader of the group, Commander Lato Marine said, “We, the former Bakassi Freedom Fighters, who had laid down arms as requested by the Federal Government has again decided to return to the creeks and fight for the liberation of our people, and the waters because our lives are in danger.” Speaking through the spokesman, Okoye Samuel, in an exclusive telephone interview with Sunday Sun yesterday, he said, “We will shed our last drop of blood until Bakassi is gotten back.
We have about 2,000 soldiers on ground and trained in amphibious warfare. “It seems the Federal Government is toying with Niger Delta territory and making use of my brain when most of us were born and brought up here. We are not slaves to Cameroon and will never surrender our land no matter the consequences. Please, let them know that Bakassi belongs to Niger Delta and anything being done without our knowledge will be resisted totally.
We will get back our land. It is our land.” He added: “In spite of all entreaties to government through series of letters on the plight of Nigerians leaving there, they gave a deaf ear and insisted that the Bakassi belongs to Cameroon. They don’t care about the security of Nigerians because, with the announcement they have finally allowed Cameroon to intimidate, harass and kill innocent Nigerians.” Okoye regretted that since the ruling, the government had not done anything as promised to relocate the displaced people even when hundreds of lives had been lost, including some children and parents.
According to him, “After Nigeria has fulfilled its part of the bargain, the Cameroon government bluntly refused to comply with the ruling by re-enforcing the territorial waters with Gendarmes, thereby making it extremely difficult for the Nigerian fishermen to do business on the waters. And this affected the youths. “So, we have decided to go into arms struggle once again and fight to liberate our people. We are willing to fight for the protection of our displaced people. In the last four weeks, we have been fighting with Cameroon.
Already, Cameroon has taken over the waterways from Akwa Ife river after the paramount ruler’s press briefing,” he said. Insisting that they are not part of Bakassi Self-determination Front, he disclosed that since the declaration of the move for the independence of Bakassi, Cameroon forces have killed not less than 12 innocent Nigerians doing business at the Peninsula and they told us to go and tell our government that they are ready for them.
The group, which claims to be the only surviving force within the territory, called on all well-meaning freedom fighters to join hands with them to achieve the common goal and interest of getting back the land. Recalling the fight over Bakassi in 2005, the group said it has been waiting for this kind of opportunity as they have already mobilized for the battle because Cameroonian authorities are also getting ready. “In 2010, it was our unit that went in an exchanged fire with Cameroon Gendarmes when they arrested over 46 Nigerians and clamped them into detention. In a reprisal attack, we arrested their officials in exchange for detained Nigerians.
They offered us money and we refused and later 23 of them, Nigerians, were released. For now, over 3,000 Nigerians are still in detention in Cameroon. So, we will do it again for the sake of our brothers and sisters still living there,” he stated.