By NOELA EBOB BISONG
Uncertainty currently looms over the Tiko seaport located in the South West Region of Cameroon. Whether the port will thrive or just be dying in the weeks/months ahead, only time can tell.
The SUN, for the past two weeks, has been investigating an exclusive beat on the current state of affairs at the Tiko seaport often referred to as Tiko wharf and interesting details have been uncovered. There is currently an uneasy relationship between port authorities of the Douala Autonomous Port, the Limbe Port subdivision) and the Special Amphibious Battalion (BSA) stationed within the premises of the Port.
The crux of the matter
What is at stake at the moment is the fact that the Special Amphibious Battalion is requesting government to carve out 17 hectares of land belonging to the Tiko Port, for the creation of a military base, including other aspects like sports infrastructures, schools etc. According to the BSA, this will enable it have a permanent base in Tiko to help it better guard the maritime coast of Cameroon.
However, the request is giving officials of the port sleeplessness, as the move is considered a way of bringing about the subsequent death of the Tiko Port. When contacted by The SUN to speak on the matter, sources at the Port maintained sealed lips, possibly for fear of victimisation.
Nonetheless, The SUN gathered that upon the instruction of the Prime Minister, Head of Government, Chief Dr. Joseph Dion Ngute, a meeting was held last April 7, 2020, in Tiko under the supervision of Fako Senior Divisional Officer, coordinated by the Divisional Officer for Tiko subdivision, Anuafor Clement Asongwe, to wade into the deadlock.
During the said meeting, The SUN gathered that a strong argument was put forth by officials of the Port, who frantically held that if the BSA request is granted, then the Tiko Port will be left with nothing more than two hectares of land, which will be insignificant to its sustainability.
Equally, a number of other reasons were advanced as to why the request should not be admitted by government, including among other things the fact that:
-the port has a number of infrastructural/rehabilitation projects with a couple of partners which is in view of creating employment and reducing poverty, notably the ETRACO LTD
-the ISPS Code is not in favour of the creation of a military base within a commercial port
-BSA has objected to the establishment of a mixed-control post comprising gendarmes, customs and port elements
-BSA opposes the recruitment of guards by the port to guard merchandise
-BSA is allegedly involved in reprehensible acts against truck owners safe-guarding their vehicles at the port
-the move by implication means the subsequent death of the Tiko Port, which will equally wipe away the benefits locals have been accruing from the port since its creation back in the colonial days.
Equally, pundits are of the opinion that such a move only goes to describe how well the marginalisation train continues to characterise the English part of the country, as the Tiko Port will just be dying after the Tiko Airport and other one-time glorious developmental giants of Anglophone Cameroon like POWER-CAM, Marketing Board, Cameroon Bank etc, which citizens of this part of the country only remember with nostalgia, arguments which have provoked separatist sentiments currently responsible for the ongoing socio-political tensions rocking the North West and South West regions since late 2016.
While the Tiko Port is in favour of a strong defence and security weight of Cameroon, The SUN has gathered that what officials of the Port prefer is for the purely technical service of BSA to remain at its present site within the Port, but that BSA should be re-located elsewhere permanently.
They have gone ahead to suggest possible sites like neighbouring beaches around Tiko including AVION, BARIBO, TIKO WHARF, BWINGA etc. Also, the Bimbia area is said to be a better option as it presents a more suitable view of the ocean and can better track all sea entries into the Tiko Port. Land to host BSA in Tiko could also be gotten from the Cameroon Development Corporation CDC for its permanent settlement.
Enter Fako SDO
In a chat with Fako Senior Divisional Officer, Engamba Emmanuel Ledoux on the subject, he told The SUN that the government is still considering what is at stake, before taking a decision on the matter. Engamba assured that since both the Port and the BSA belong to the state, whatever decision that will be taken at the end of the day, shall be in the interest of both.
It is in this same line that Chief Mesoso Peter, Mayor of Tiko also spoke. He said it is necessary that both parties come to a compromise for the benefit of the municipality.
The Tiko Port has been in existence since colonial days, and it remains a boost to activities of the town. While its sister-side the Tiko Airport had long past away in the wake of a Unitary state, the Port has kept on giving locals of the area a feeling of pride and a sense of belonging. The BSA on its part was anchored at the Port during the days of the Bakassi crisis with the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the 80s, as a logistic base for the army to do shipment to and from Bakassi. It should be recalled that the battalion was given the authorisation to occupy the space for three years during the Bakassi war, by the General Manager of National Ports office of Cameroon, late Tchouta Moussa.
In later days, the Battalion, an infantry unit of the Rapid Intervention Battalion was created in 1999. The Battalion surveys the frontiers of the nation’s seashore. The Amphibious soldiers carry out spontaneous patrols on the sea to guarantee the security of populations resident around the Tiko shores. It is currently in need of a permanent settlement.
With regards to the issue, The SUN has gathered that the ministries of Defense and Transport and the top management of the Autonomous Port of Douala, under the supervision of PM Dion Ngute have been holding several meetings in Yaounde. Fingers remain crossed to see what unfolds in the coming days.