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NEWS DISPATCHES > Nigeria/Cameroon: Uncertainty Over Bakassi Pullout

11 Aug 2006

Some local Bakassi chiefs are about to torpedo the Greentree accord signed in the U.S between president Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria and Paul Biya of Cameroon. The accord signed June 12, 2006 was to practically implement the ruling of the International Court of Justice at The Hague in which the court defined the international boundaries between the two countries. The October 2002 ruling that awarded Bakassi to Cameroon was aimed at putting an end to the frequent bloody skirmishes over the ownership of this oil-rich Peninsula. As time went by it became apparent that it was easier passing a judgment than implementing it practically. Saturday August 12th is the date on which Nigeria is expected to have completed withdrawal of her estimated 3000 troops from the area as a first step towards the eventual transfer of complete sovereignty to Cameroon. But barely a few days to the expected departure of Nigerian troops, some chiefs of the area have initiated actions that are generally perceived as disruptive to the process of the peaceful transfer of Bakassi. Firstly it was reported that seven Bakassi chiefs namely Orok Eneyo, Emmanuel Effiong Etene, Ndabu Eyo Nakanda, Emmanuel Asuquo, Ita Okong Nyong, Richard Ekpenyong and elder Tony Ene Asuquo went to an Abuja high court on July 21st to challenge the Greentree accord. A few days ago, the BBC reported that a group calling itself ‘The Bakassi Movement For Self Determination’ has declared independence for the region. It was no surprise to learn that the interim leader of the so- called ‘Democratic Republic of Bakassi’ is Tony Ene, one of those that went to Abuja court.

Under the arrangement, Nigerians that constitute over 90% of the population have a choice of remaining in Bakassi with their Nigerian nationality, taking up Cameroonian nationality or moving to resettle in other parts of Nigeria. Germany, France, the U.K. and the U.S. are to monitor the implementation of the agreement that was brokered by the U.N secretary general Koffi Anan.

Speculation is rife in certain circles in Cameroon that the actions of these individuals were some smart moves by the Nigerian authorities to delay or derail the hand-over process completely. Writing in the French Language (Cameroon) Nouvelle Expression newspaper of 9/08/2006, Edmond Kamguia said “Taking into account of what has transpired in the past and considering the urgency to regain sovereignty over Bakassi, Cameroon must stop sleeping or even dreaming that things will progress easily. The presence of big powers in the follow-up commissions is no guarantee to think that the affair has been resolved.” Another French Language columnist Mbog Pibasso was even more blunt when he expressed similar views two weeks ago under the caption “Nigeria’s plan to confiscate Bakassi.”

To be fair to the Nigerian authorities, one should not rule out the possibility that those people could be acting alone or even fronting for some foreign adventurers. It should not be forgotten that the Gulf of Guinea into which Bakassi juts is estimated to hold up to 10% of the world’s oil and gas reserves. The neighboring oil-rich Niger Delta area of Nigeria has been in the news due to armed groups that kidnap people and extort oil companies in the name of fighting for the rights of local people. The recent history of Africa has taught us that natural resources breed armed conflicts. Ask the Angolans, the Congolese and Sierra Leonians and they will show you the ugly face of natural resources. The transfer of Bakassi has to be handled with care else the land may become the theatre of some ‘bogus freedom fighters’ who in effect will be fighting a war of graft.

 Read earlier related article; Nigeria/Cameroon: Two clowns of a sort at this link


Njei M.t

Njei Moses Timah