A former Senator for the Cross River South constituency of Cross River State, Florence Ita-Giwa, has alleged that the state governor, Ben Ayade, is after her life just as she has threatened to relocate all her businesses from the region to Lagos.
Speaking in Lagos last week Monday, Ms. Ita-Giwa revealed that her life is endangered following her recent ‘exposure’ of the diversion of relief materials meant for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Dayspring Island in Bakassi, Cross River State. Ita-Giwa had alleged that a certain Effiong Udeme in collusion with some Cross River State officials shared the relief materials, which included bags of cement, wood, and packs of zinc among themselves and also sold some to the market.
But in a twist of events, Christian Ita, the Chief Press Secretary to the governor of Cross River State issued a statement on Tuesday accusing Ms. Ita-Giwa of attempting to divert attention from the counter-claims by some indigenes of Bakassi who allegedly accused her of age-long diversion of materials and the resettlement fund meant for their rehabilitation.
But Ms. Ita-Giwa has insisted that she is a victim of a personal vendetta being waged by political enemies spearheaded by Governor Ayade. She also alleged that the latter wants her dead.
“If anything happens to me, Governor Ayade should be held responsible for the text he sent to me. I would like the public to know that Governor Ben Ayade, a man whose election I supported, has been sending menacing text messages to me, warning me of the consequences of involving the Nigerian Media and Nigeria Police in the uncovering of the diversion of the relief materials by his government officials. As we speak, Cross River State is very unsafe, with assassinations and kidnapping becoming the order of the day. Under this cloud of general insecurity, nothing must happen to me. Governor Ayade and his gang of merry men should be told that they will be held responsible should I come to any misfortune. This self-serving campaign of calumny against me instigated by the state government is capable of inciting ethnic tensions which may in turn lead to the shedding of blood, a prospect I dread greatly.” Ita-Giwa also threatened to relocate all her investments in Cross River, notably her restaurant, Fusion, to Lagos State since, according to her, it appears that she is no longer wanted in her homestead.
Ms. Ita-Giwa, also known as Mama Bakassi, said trouble began after she blew the whistle on the alleged diversion of the relief materials she sourced from the National Refugee Commission for victims of a fire outbreak in Dayspring Island, Bakassi.
She noted, “From my observations, it appears to me that Governor Ayade feels threatened by my joining the APC for whatever reason. I don’t recall any other former PDP stalwart in the state who decamped to the APC being as persecuted as I am. Could it be that Governor Ayade is picking on me because of my gender or my enormous electoral appeal? I choose to believe the latter as I would like to believe that Ayade is not a misogynist, and he ought to know that I have never played gender politics.”
Below is Ms. Ita-Giwa’s response to the Cross River State government’s allegation:
“Recent events in my home state of Cross River have given me and all well-meaning Nigerians cause for concern. As you might have heard, there has been a sustained and coordinated campaign to demonize my person and make rubbish of all my efforts towards alleviating the plight of my people of Bakassi, all because I was instrumental to uncovering a dastardly plot of diverting relief materials I sourced from the National Refugee Commission for victims of a fire outbreak in Dayspring Island Bakassi by unscrupulous Cross River State officials.
Verified reports reaching me indicate that some youths have been induced to carry out so-called protest rallies against me in Ikang, the new location of the Bakassi Local Government.
The so-called protests are a follow-up to a spurious press release issued by an equally flippant entity that calls itself Coalition of Bakassi indigenes. Their statement contained a litany of lies, calculated to demean and defame my person. The following mischievous allegations were made by them:
- That I and some others were signatories to the fraudulent ceding of Bakassi ancestral land.
- That I alleged that Governor Ben Ayade and some political officers’ holders diverted relief materials meant for Bakassi victims of a fire outbreak, thereby bringing him to disrepute. Also that the Ayade administration has been releasing funds every month to a so-called Bakassi resettlement committee headed by me.
iii. That I was party to the creation of a phony resettlement camp in Akpabuyo Local Government, on which pretence relief materials are solicited and then fraudulently shared by me and my cohorts. All of these being done under the auspices of a resettlement committee headed by me which has never distributed one item to any Bakassi indigene for the past four years.
- That I instigated government agencies to recognize a so-called “Nonexistent” Dayspring Island as part of Bakassi. While in the next breathe describing Dayspring as a fishing port of the Ikang people.
- That there was never a fire outbreak at any Bakassi location and that I used it as a plot to solicit donations from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) for the sole purpose of fraudulently cornering the relief materials, and that I was out smarted by some of my cohorts. Also that the Director-General of the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) handed over the relief materials to the Head of the Bakassi Local Government Administration, who on my instructions distributed same to persons penciled down by me, rather than the poor displaced and hungry Bakassi returnees.
I have taken time to list out their frivolous allegations with a view to debunking them with incontrovertible facts and in so doing, expose their folly and perfidy.
- The outrageous assertion that I was a signatory to the ceding of Bakassi ancestral land to Cameroon exposes their mischievous ignorance. Only heads of states can be signatory to such sovereign international treaties and the last time I checked, I have never been President of Nigeria.
Secondly, I fought tirelessly for Nigeria to retain Bakassi territory and consistently advocated for a referendum on the issue. Any contrary assertion is a lie that can be easily debunked by public records of my position on the issue.
- The silly allegation that I accused Governor Ben Ayade of colluding with some political office holders to divert relief materials thereby bringing him to disrepute, gives them away as a bunch of hypocritical sycophants. At no time did I mention Governor Ayade’s name as a culprit in the crime I helped expose. As can be seen from the televised reports of the incident. Moreover, I was instrumental to his emergence as Governor as I gave material, moral and financial support to his campaign even at a time; I was estranged from the P.D.P.
Also, in fairness to Gov. Ayade, he had in the past reciprocated my support. I am not in the habit of pulling down, persons or institutions that I helped to build. I, however, can see that Gov. Ayade is now complicit in this campaign of calumny against me.
The false assertion that the Ayade administration has been releasing funds to a so-called resettlement programme headed by me is so spurious, it beggars belief.
The resettlement programme the sycophants are referring to is a resettlement committee instituted by the Imoke administration in his first term which has since prepared and submitted a report to the same Imoke administration who failed to implement one jot of the report and which has since ceased to functionally exist.
- The accusation that I set up a phony resettlement camp in Akpabuyo with the aim of fraudulently mobilizing relief materials which are then shared by me and others to be resold in the black market for pecuniary gain is laughable to the extreme. The people in the said camp are Northern Bakassi indigenes who were persecuted by Cameroonian Gendarmes, and fled on their own to Akpabuyo. I acknowledge that I have had cause to distribute relief materials sourced from my personal funds as well as mobilized through my personal goodwill to them from time to time. As long as there are hurting Bakassi indigenes anywhere, I make no apologies for trying to ameliorate their plight.
- They claim that I misled government to recognize a nonexistent Dayspring Island as part of Bakassi, while they contradicted themselves by saying Dayspring is a marshy fishing settlement in Calabar South Council that has been a fishing port of the Ikang community suggests that they may be schizophrenic.
In the first instance, Dayspring was identified by the then Resident Electoral Commissioner of INEC as a viable platform for the registration of Bakassi indigenes to become bona fide voters in national and state elections after our ancestral territory was ceded to Cameroon. I simply funded the construction of a town hall there to accommodate the voter registration that took place there.
One of my traducers who is now a commissioner in the state got elected to the State House of Assembly from there and even won an election tribunal challenge premised on the so called illegality of the voter registration at Dayspring.
Moreover, if my accusers say Dayspring is an Ikang fishing port and Ikang is the location of the new Bakassi L.G.A, then it stands to reason that Dayspring is a part of Bakassi L.G.A.
- The allegation that there was never a fire outbreak and that the story was manufactured to get relief materials from NEMA is an indictment against the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), The National Refugees Commission and The Nigerian Media who all accompanied me on the verification visit to the site of the fire incident. It must be noted at this point that evidence of the perfidy of state institutions in Cross River State began to unfold during that exercise as the Director General of SEMA who accompanied me, tried to convince me to grease the palms of the team from the refugees commission so that they will exaggerate the extent of damage in order to get more relief materials.
It must be noted that the report of the fire outbreak was brought to my notice by one Udeme Effiong Okon, a former Bakassi L.G.A Vice Chairman. It is therefore ironic that we recovered large quantities of the relief materials at his private residence in Calabar which has been evacuated by the police and is now held as exhibits of a crime.
- The final allegation that the Director General of the SEMA handed the relief materials over to the Head of the Bakassi LGA who was under my instruction to distribute the relief materials to persons penciled down by me is ludicrous. To start with, I have no relationship whatsoever with the said Bakassi LGA official. Secondly, I offered SEMA One Million Naira to charter vessels to convey the materials to the location of the fire. I should have suspected something fishy as the DG of SEMA stalled on taking up my offer. Apparently, it was more profitable for him and some officials of the state government to divert the relief materials.
Having dealt with the spurious six-point allegations by the obviously sponsored character assassins, let me deal with their principal. First of all, I have no doubt in my mind that all this is politically motivated and is being coordinated from the highest echelon of power in the state. If you recall, I had been estranged from the PDP in Cross River State for a while, even then I supported and campaigned for the election of Governor Ayade.
Recently, I declared for the APC in appreciation of the Buhari administration’s obvious high regard for Cross River State and Cross Riverians. It is on record that the Head of Service of the Federation, The Chief of Naval Staff, The Auditor General of the Federation, and the Chief Justice of Nigeria are all Cross Riverians. Indeed, we have never been so honored by any administration in the history of Nigeria.
I recall that this same Gov. Ayade confidentially asked me to support the Buhari administration and I told him that I did not need his prompting to do so on account of what I have mentioned earlier. Moreover, since I was in fact no longer a member of the PDP, I was inclined to join the APC. I am not in the habit of being in one party and supporting another.
From my observations, it appears to me that Gov. Ayade feels threatened by my joining the APC for whatever reason. I don’t recall any other former PDP stalwart in the state who decamped to the APC being so persecuted as I am. Could it be that Gov. Ayade is picking on me because of my gender or my enormous electoral appeal? I choose to believe the latter as I would like to believe that Ayade is not a misogynist, and he ought to know that I have never played gender politics.
I would like the public to know that Gov. Ben Ayade, a man whose election I supported has been sending menacing text messages to me, warning me of the consequences of involving the Nigerian Media and Nigeria Police in the uncovering of the diversion of the relief materials by his government officials.
As we speak, Cross River State is very unsafe, with assassinations and kidnapping becoming the order of the day. Under this cloud of general insecurity nothing must happen to me. Gov. Ayade and his gang of merry men should be told that, they will be held responsible should I come to any misfortune. This self- serving campaign of calumny against me instigated by the state government is capable of inciting ethnic tensions, which may in turn lead to the shedding of blood, a prospect I dread greatly.
I hereby ask everyone and anyone who has influence with Gov. Ayade to warn him to desist from escalating the issue any further. I have asked my teeming supporters to remain calm, as I have decided to adopt the civil approach of a law suit to defend my integrity which they have tried so hard to rubbish.
Cross River deserves better than what is being offered by the administration of Ben Ayade. He should rise above his Napoleonic tendencies and lead the state into her God-given prosperous destiny.
God bless the great people of Bakassi, God bless Cross River State and God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”