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Interview: “PAMOL’s Expansion Will Help Populate Bakassi”

Doh Bertha, Chairperson of the Coordination and Follow-up Committee of Priority Projects in the Bakassi Peninsula, talks on efforts to develop the area since Cameroon took total sovereignty in 2013.

 It is a year since Cameroon took over total sovereignty of the Bakassi Peninsula. As the Chairperson of the Coordination and Follow-up Committee of Priority Projects in the area, can you say Cameroonians are occupying it?

Not really, as Nigeria still counts the highest number of residents in the peninsula. For us to have full occupation of Bakassi, we need to move Cameroonians into the area. Two schemes are being put in place to resettle Cameroonians there. Most of the fish from Bakassi goes to Nigeria and we want to halt this practice. We are trying to get fishermen from around the country to settle in Bakassi. We therefore want Bakassi smoked fish to be sold in Cameroon.

The second scheme is to expand the activities of PAMOL to Bakassi. This is going to employ at least 5,000 plantation workers and the move will make us populate the area the more. The Head of State has already approved FCFA 1 billion for PAMOL to carry out the expansion. We are following-up to see that all these projects are carried out.

What else has the State invested in the peninsula?

The State has invested close to FCFA 20 billion in Bakassi with the assistance of partners like the French Cooperation, UNESCO and European Union, which have put in close to FCFA 1 billion. A lot has been done since 2007. We have the Ministries of Basic and Secondary Education that have constructed classrooms. We have health centres in Idabato, Ngosso, Isangele, Kombo Abedimo built by the Ministry of Public Health. The Ministry of Fisheries, Livestock and Animal Husbandry has also put in place ovens for the drying of fish and cold houses for the storage of fresh fish.

The Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and the Family has constructed Women Empowerment Centres. Other ministries concerned include those of Energy and Water Resources, Territorial Administration and Decentralisation. The National Gendarmerie and the Delegation of National Security are also represented in the area. FEICOM is also helping to put in place council halls. We have magnificent halls in Kombo Abedimo and Isangele and we are trying to put up one in Ngosso.

Not all earmarked projects have been executed. What is holding them back?

We are talking about priority projects, but not all is in place. Talking about priority, I think water should occupy an important position. We want water to flow and we are hoping that this will happen soon. We are following up to ensure the implementation of these projects, but the ministries are responsible for putting up the structures. I have reminded the Ministers of Water and Energy Resources, Public Works and Public Contracts, to award the contracts.

The famous road from Loum-Kumba-Mundemba-Isangele and Akwa is not at its best. Everything revolves around this road. The Ministers have promised that they are working to get sponsors. Electricity also needs to be extended and we have been assured that all will be done. Electricity and water provide comfort. No one will like to work in an area without these facilities; reason why we are lobbying to have these amenities as soon as possible. We need water, roads and electricity in Bakassi as soon as possible.

Your work is to follow-up but reports say that some of these projects are still poorly executed. Does this mean that your teams have not been doing their work?

We are following-up, but we also advise on what to do. It is true that some of the structures were there before my appointment. We also advise on what the people want as priority. Even though the ones that have been done are priorities, but we also have to advise. In the maritime zone, (Barracks, Ngosso, Idabato), soil studies must be carried out. When you hear that some of the structures were not properly done, it is because the soils were not studied. Some structures have been sinking because of a lot of water and erosion.

I asked for some of such structures to be re-built. In our last meeting, we advised that all poorly- executed projects should be re-done. The sand used in some of such projects was not good and I can imagine why. Some people blame it on the high cost of transport as there is no public transport from Mundemba to Isangele or Akwa.

We therefore advise ministries to provide transport facilities to their staff. Those going to maritime zones should have their boats. Movement by private boats is expensive. Ministries should execute projects between November and March, otherwise it will be difficult. Bakassi is a difficult zone, but projects can be implemented well if planning is carried out on time.

Is money allocated for the projects enough?

If there are complaints about the poor execution of some projects, it is partly because the funds allocated were not enough. The cost of transport is to blame. The amounts for projects elsewhere cannot be sufficient in Bakassi because of the high cost of transport. If FCFA 8 million is allocated for a project in Limbe, it should be tripled in Bakassi. We advise that money allocated for projects in the peninsula should be doubled.  

Only Nigerian radio and TV signals are received in Bakassi. What is being done about the problem?

Ministries have to work in synergy. If telecommunication has to be extended to the area, there must be electricity. The Minister told me everything is underway to have electricity in the Bakassi Peninsula and we are waiting.

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