The Bakassi Strike Force, a militant group in the Niger Delta, on Tuesday expressed a desire to lay down arms if the concerns of Bakassi returnees are addressed under a scheme midwife by international mediators.
A leader of BSF, Simply Benjamin, aka “Humble Lion G1” in a telephone interview on Tuesday, said that the grievances of the group had nothing to do with vandalism of national asset.
He said it was regrettable that military authorities had killed several innocent people under the guise of fighting members of the militant group.
He urged the federal government to withdraw the military from his community as they were in the struggle for self-determination and posed no threat to national security.
Mr. Benjamin, who spoke from his camp in the creeks of Southern Cross River, said that unlike other militant groups, they had no record of destroying oil installations and were not involved in molesting innocent citizens.
He said that despite offering to work with the government to address the concerns of the Bakassi returnees, the military had been on his trail.
He said that his group had been agitating against the poor implementation of the Green Tree Agreement after Nigeria ceded Bakassi to Cameroon, which left Nigerian in the peninsular without proper resettlement.
“Our grievance against the federal government has to do with the way Nigeria ceded our ancestral land to Cameroon without recourse to the feelings and rights of the people to self-determination.
“Under the Green Tree agreement, there were steps to be taken to ensure that the fundamental rights of the returnees were protected but the government has not fulfilled its obligations under the agreement.
“We have not resorted to destroying national asset(s) like other Niger Delta militants because it does not make sense, if we destroy assets that yield revenue, how will the federal government get money to fund the projects we yearn for?” Mr. Benjamin said.
Meanwhile, the Joint Military Force deployed to the Niger Delta, Operation Delta Safe, said that it has degraded the capacity of the group and has ntensified operations to flush out members of the group.
The military said it raided several camps and shrines used by the militants and discovered over 25 decomposing human skulls and killed no fewer than 15 suspected members of the armed group in cross fire.
Olaolu Daudu, spokesman of the Joint Force, had in a statement said that troops raided the BSF camp on October 29.
“Troops of Sector 4 deployed at Efut Esighi in Southern Cross River State during anti-militancy operation raided Efut Esighi forest and killed a notorious militant popularly known as Okon Iyo while he was trying to escape.
“Similarly, troops discovered the dead body of one of the Bakassi Strike Force militant who was earlier engaged in Efut Esighi but escaped with gun injuries.
“His body was seen in a bush close to the main road in Effionsa, Bakassi Local Government Area. Meanwhile, troops also raided the compound of a suspected member of Bakassi Strike Force; Mr Otobong Sunday Essien, at Road 27 Resettlement Center Bakassi.
“A Motor Bike was recovered from his compound. In addition, troops intercepted a Passat wagon car owned by a suspected Bakassi Strike Force militant known as “G1”. He is the sentry Commander of the group,” Mr. Daudu said.
He said that troops deployed at Ikang border while on patrol at Ikot Offing Ambai in Akpabuyo LGA in Cross River discovered militants’ shrine and also apprehended the Chief Priest of the group.