LEADER of the Bakassi strike force, Simple Benjamin, has said that he is a freedom fighter and not a terrorist as widely believed.
Benjamin, who stated this in a press statement made available to the Nigerian Tribune, said it was rather unfortunate that months after demonstrating willingness to work with the Federal Government, his community and people had been taken over by the military from the 13 Brigade.
The militant leader said since Bakassi was ceded to Cameroun without recourse to human right act, the people of Bakassi decided to take their destinies in their own hands.
He said: “In spite of that, certain measures were stipulated as conditions for handing over; these measures were in the Green Tree Agreement, which the Federal Government and its Cameroonian counterpart refused to implement to the letter.
“This, indeed, has brought untold hardship, frustrations and challenges to the good people of Bakassi. This is the cause of my struggle; to liberate my people by drawing both the government and the international community’s attention to the plight of the Bakassi people.
“In my struggle, I have never destroyed any national asset nor terrorised any part of this country. So why has the military decided to take over my community and our people, do they expect us to shut up and continue to endure the suffering meted to us by Cameroonian government?
“Again, I want to unequivocally state that I am not a terrorist as people outside are made to believe, but I will not sit down and allow my people suffer from intimidation, neglect and oppression. I only request that Bakassi people should not be treated like second class citizens.
“We demand that the modalities stipulated in the Green Tree Agreement be followed to the letter and logical conclusion. We again demand the withdrawal of military presence in Bakassi because we are civilized people who know our rights.
“Finally, if these demands are not met, then the Federal Government of Nigeria should expect that Bakassi people will continue this agitation even in generations yet to come. Our right to self determination is sacrosanct; we will continue to agitate for it.”
When contacted, the Army Public Relations officer, 13 Brigade, Calabar, Capt Kayode Owolabi,
told the Nigerian Tribune that all those, including the militant group insinuating that the army had violated human rights should come out with hard evidence or keep quiet.
He said the group was trying to divert attention in order to continue with their nefarious activities targeted at smearing the image of the army.
Owolabi said: “Bakassi was just about 30minutes drive from Calabar, so anyone can go there and find out if all those things the militants said are true; if they are real, they should come and make that position known instead of hiding to perpetrate lies.
“How are you even certain that the person who called you is exactly who he claimed to be. They have a target in mind and that is why they are using these tactics to divert attention. Bakassi is just 30 minutes drive from Calabar, if they have evidence that the army has violated human rights, they should bring it out and they should stop hiding. Let them stop hiding their identity and come out if they can; it is total falsehood and a blatant lie”