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Bakassi: Biya pledges to protect Nigerians

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Bakassi: Biya pledges to protect Nigerians

Post  Admin on Sun Aug 24, 2008 3:53 pm

Cameroon's President Paul Biya yesterday promised Nigerians living in the Bakassi Peninsula that their security and rights will be guaranteed.

Biya gave this assurance during a speech on Cameroonian national television and radio.

"This is a new era of peace and fraternity between Nigeria and Cameroon.

"I want to reaffirm that Cameroon will honour all the commitments made concerning our Nigerian brothers and sisters," Biya said.

Nigeria handed over Bakassi to Cameroon last week Thursday, prompting many Nigerian residents to abandon their homes fearing the arrival of Cameroonian troops.

About 30,000 of the residents have moved out to an area in Cross Rivers State set aside for them, but it has no access to the sea, campaigners say.

Bakassi has a rich fishing culture and the affected Nigerians say the handover has destroyed their way of life.

"The gains made in adhering to the rule of law may outweigh the painful losses of ancestral homes," said the head of the Nigerian delegation during the handover ceremony last week, Minister of Justice and Attorney General Michael Aondoakaa.

President Umaru Yar'Adua said the process was painful for everyone including himself, but added that Nigeria had made "a commitment to the international community and “we have a responsibility to keep it."

The United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon describe the transfer as "a model for negotiated settlements of border disputes."

But there is still bitterness about the deal in Nigeria. "The government has abandoned its duties," said Kayode Fasitere, the lawyer acting for some Nigerians displaced from Bakassi who sought to have the handover delayed.

About 90 per cent of the Bakassi's population, estimated at up to 300,000, is made up of Nigerian fishermen.

The territory was ceded after the International Court of Justice ruled in favour of Cameroon, ending the long-running dispute over the peninsula's sovereignty.

The court's judgement was based on an early 20th century colonial agreement between Britain and Germany.

Part of the territory was handed over to Cameroon two years ago. The Bakassi peninsula juts out into the Gulf of Guinea close to the Niger Delta. Its offshore waters are thought to contain substantial oil fields - untapped because of the border dispute - which Nigeria and Cameroon will now work together to explore.

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