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Cablegate: Nigeria: Former Bakassi Residents Adequately Cared

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RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHOS #0358/01 2521136
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 081136Z SEP 08
FM AMCONSUL LAGOS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0157
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHYD/AMEMBASSY YAOUNDE 0177
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH AFB UK
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RHMCSUU/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEWMFD/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 LAGOS 000358

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE PASS USTR FOR USTR AGAMA
STATE PASS USAID FOR GWEYNAND AND SLAWAETZ
DOE FOR GPERSON,CHAYLOCK
TREASURY FOR DFIELDS, AIERONIMO, RHALL
DOC FOR 3317/ITA/OA/KBURRESS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PREF CM NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: FORMER BAKASSI RESIDENTS ADEQUATELY CARED
FOR, FUTURE UNCERTAIN

REF: A. STATE 71955
B. LAGOS 243
C. LAGOS 317
D. ABUJA 1626
E. ABUJA 1632
F. ABUJA 1636

1. 1. (SBU) Summary: While the Red Cross and others estimate
that 9,500 families or between 40,000 and 70,000 people have
left the Bakassi Peninsula for Nigeria since the completion
of the August 14 handover to Cameroon, only a small fraction
of that number of people were observed in a recent tour of a
resettlement center in Cross River State on August 19.
Repeated questioning about where the present whereabouts of
the remainder of the former Bakassi residents produced only
vague answers about being "with family." Poloff was told
that there were no other resettlement centers despite press
accounts to the contrary. Facilities and security at the
center were minimal but adequate. Residents did not express
any particular desire to return to Bakassi, however, an
unofficial spokesman for the residents said that they wanted
to be allowed to settle wherever in Nigeria they wanted
rather than in the housing under construction for them, which
he claimed did not meet their needs. End Summary.

2. (U) On August 19 Poloff and PolSpec visited both the old
and new resettlement centers for former Bakassi residents at
Ekpri Ikang in Cross River State. Poloff was told by Red
Cross staff and State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA)
workers and residents that this was the only operating
resettlement center, but the press has reported a number of
others allegedly operating in other states. Although both
the Red Cross and a unofficial spokesman for residents
speaking in the presence of a large crowd who nodded assent
estimated that 9,500 families had been displaced from Bakassi
it appeared that no more than 2,000 people were housed in the
Ekpri Ikang center. Asked where the rest of the displaced
persons were living produced only vague gestures and
references to being "with family."

3. (U) Conditions at the center were basic, but adequate.
Several police officers were on duty in a small gatehouse at
the entrance, but Poloff and Polspec were allowed access
without difficulty. Residents appeared to be free to come
and go as they pleased. At the entrance to a former school,
a Red Cross office had been set up, and a representative
there said that residents' major complaint was depression.
There was no evidence of unrest or anger among the center's
residents. The residents were housed in unfurnished, former
classrooms of the school, and slept on the floor. The
school's sanitary facilities were functioning adequately.
The center had a walk-in clinic manned by one doctor and
seven nurses. No patients were in bed and the nurses said no
one in the center was suffering from a serious illness.
Officials said a primary school operated in the center, and
that food was delivered daily by the SEMA. No reserves of
food are kept at the center and no mention was made of how
long food deliveries will continue. Other than the
representatives of the Red Cross and SEMA, no other aid
organizations, domestic or international, or NGOs were in
evidence at the center.

4. (U) According to Dr. Theo Osin Onyuko of the Cross River
State Youth Assembly, Bassey Ekpo Bassey, the traditional
ruler of Calabar, and Charles Ayassang, spokesmen for the
Rivers State residents of the resettlement center, most of
the displaced families from Bakassi have roots in other Niger
Delta states and only moved to Bakassi in the last few
decades. Ayassang said that most of the displaced families
moved to Bakassi in the last half century. (Note: Nigerians
will customarily claim strong ties to their "home state" even
several generations after leaving it for other regions. End
Note.) Assayang insisted that almost all residents at the
center wish to return to these other states and not settle in
Cross River State. The crowd collected around Ayassang

LAGOS 00000358 002 OF 002


nodded in agreement with this statement.

5. (U) Poloff and PolSpec then visited homes being built in
Ekpri Ikang by Cross River State with federal money for
people displaced from Bakassi. The structures are small,
one-story duplexes,each with a single room, bath and small
kitchen. Total area was estimated at 50 square feet.
Nigerians present claimed the houses were inadequate and they
complained about lack of privacy and room for children.
Ayassang stressed that his people were fishermen and did not
want to live inland. He argued that rather than building
houses for them inland in Cross River State, the Federal
Government should give each family money to build their own
home anywhere they wanted to live.

6. (U) Comment: Either many of the former Bakassi refugees
have already relocated on their own initiative, or there are
other resettlement centers operating in other areas which the
people at Ekpri Ikang did not know about or did not want to
talk about. The people still at the center may be those who
hope to get some kind of financial settlement from the
federal or state government to compensate them for their
move, whereas those who have already relocated may have
stronger ties elsewhere in Nigeria or lower expectations for
government support. The houses under construction do not
appear to meet the needs of those in the resettlement center,
and may act as an incentive for the displaced to seek
permanent relocation elsewhere. End comment.
BLAIR

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