Efik ethnic group, the largest ethnic nationality in Cross River South senatorial district with a sprinkle of kinsmen in Akwa Ibom, Abia States and South America, has served the Federal Government of Nigeria a notice to pursue and become a sovereign state.
A statement issued yesterday in Calabar by the Efik Eburutu Royal Fraternity Forum and signed by its Chairman, Chief Eyo Bassey Eyo-Cobham and secretary, Ekpe Ekpenyong Essien (Jr), said the decision to secede had the overwhelming support of the Efiks at home and in Diaspora after due consultations.
“We, the Efik ethnic nationality have resolved to pull out of the geographical expression called Nigeria which has, for over 100 years now, turned us to punching bags socially, economically and politically,’’ the statement distributed at a press conference addressed by the group said.
The Efik people explained that the resolve to pursue an independent state was caused by a series of unpleasant developments against them by the federal government and listed what prompted the secession option to include secret ceding of Bakassi Peninsula; undue government interference in Efik kingship and throne; and an attempt to cede more Efik territories to the Republic of Cameroun.
On Bakassi, the group said the peninsula “which was an integral part of Efik Eburutu Kingdom as shown in all available records, was secretly and heartlessly expunged from Nigerian map in October 1960, filed in United Nations and African Union (AU) secretariats and ceded in 1975 to Cameroun without the consent and knowledge of its owners-the kings and chiefs of Efiks of Calabar and Bakassi.’’
“This action has demonstrated that our people are not wanted in Nigeria, and as a people, we do not want to belong to Cameroun.
“The effect of this ceding has brought untold pain and sufferings to Efik Eburutu people. With this, the spirit of our ancestors who were, as it were, buried in the now ceded territory are roaming, refusing to be appeased.”
The aggrieved ethnic nationality also claimed that government, over the years, had interfered in the selection and enthronement of a new Obong of Calabar, a development which had bastardised the stool rendering the Obong of Calabar less influential in the Nigerian state as he was now seen as a king without a kingdom.
They alleged that the appointment of five paramount rulers in Efik kingdom without reference to the tradition of the people was unacceptable as “those installed have refused to be accountable to the Obong of Calabar and grand patriarch of the Efiks who is the embodiment of our ancestral institution.
“Today, the Efik monarch, the Obong of Calabar, has no traditional authority and domain due to the bastardisation of the throne and the entire Efik kingdom by Nigerian governments.”
Despite the ceding of Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroun, the forum said more Efik territories were being lined up for hand over to Cameroun as evident in the creation of New Bakassi Local Government Area out of the three wards of Akpabuyo Local Government Area and backed by Law N0. 7 of April 12, 2007.
“It was said that the amalgamation of the southern and northern Nigeria protectorates in 1914 was meant to last for only 100 years unlike the French and German colonialists but ‘’the colonial Britain authorised the many ethnic groups therein to administer by their respective customary laws on the British indirect rule system’’.
“With such developments and other oppressive acts and tendencies of the Nigerian state, we the Efik Eburutu people say enough is enough and have decided to take in our destiny in our hands peaceably by pulling out of Nigeria. Our Bill of Rights in our Memorandum dated 16th June, 2014 is ready.
“Our peaceful aims and objectives of self determination for full autonomy are in tandem with Articles 1, 3-21 of the UN charter of which the Federal Government of Nigeria is a signatory,’’ the statement said.