THE NIGERIAN- CAMEROUNIAN BORDER CONFLICT (THE BAKASSI PENINSULA CONUNDRUM)
The African territories that have attained independence and national sovereignty, cannot in a strict sense, be regarded as national states. They do not embrace a common past and a common culture; they are indeed the arbitrary creations of the colonialists. The manner in which European nations descended on Africa during the closing years of the nineteenth century in their scramble for territory was bound to leave a heritage of artificially controlled borderlines, which now demarcate the emergent African states. Separatist and irredentist movements are based on ethno-cultural foundations but manifest most often in struggles for resource control. An example of this phenomenon is the Bakassi Peninsula – an area rich in oil reserves and other natural resources – which became a continuous bone of contention between the Cameroonian and Nigerian states soon after independence. It is the intention of this study to demonstrate that the international agreements of the era of the scramble for Africa are sources of conflict among African states.
The Bakassi peninsular is an area of some 1,000 km of mangrove swamp and half submerged islands protruding into the Bight of Bonny, (previously known as the Bight of Biafra). Since 18th century, the peninsular has been occupied by fishermen settlers most of whose inhabitants are Efik-speaking people of Nigeria (Anene, 1970:56). Since 1993, the peninsula, which apart from oil wealth also boasts of heavy fish deposit, has been a subject of serious dispute, between Nigeria and Cameroun with score of lives lost from military aggressions that have been mostly instigated by Cameroon (Saturday Punch, Olumide, 2002: 4). The territorial dispute erupted into violence in May 1981, and intermittent skirmishes continued to take place until the matter was resolved. Nigeria apparently claimed that in 1884 the chiefs of the area accepted British protection, but did not relinquish sovereignty. It also maintains that the 1913 agreements that delimited the boundary from Yola to the sea were never ratified. The matter, however, took a legal turn on March 24, 1994 when Cameroun instituted a suit against Nigeria at the International Court of Justice, at the Hague, seeking an injunction for the expulsion of Nigerian force, which it said were occupying the territory and to restrain Nigeria from laying claim to sovereignty over the peninsular.
2. BACKGROUND AND HISTORICAL CONTEXT
The genesis on dispute over Bakassi is a legacy of imperialist colonial rule and neo-colonial regimes in Africa. For their selfish economic, political and strategic calculations, the imperialist capitalist powers, Britain, Germany, France, Belgium, Portugal, Spain, etc, in the 19th century partitioned and divided African territories and peoples among themselves without the least consideration to the language, social and cultural affinities of the African peoples. In many instances, the same ethnic nationality found itself divided into two or more colonial territories and ruled by different colonial masters. (www.socialistworld.net). (What an absurd arrangement?)
The whole boundary dispute began when the Obong of Calabar signed a "Treaty of Protection" with Britain on September 10, 1884, Britain then agreed to "extend its protection" to the Obong and his Chiefs. The Obong agreed and promised to refrain from entering into any agreements or treaties with foreign nations or Powers without the prior approval of the British Government. That is, he signed away his Kingdom as a British protectorate. All of this was before "Nigeria" was created. Note too that unlike agreements between metropolitan powers these so called protectorate agreements with African Kingdoms did not have precise definitions of boundaries. On November 15, 1893, Britain and Germany defined their boundaries in Africa, supplemented by another agreement on March 19, 1906. These covered British and German Territories from Yola to Lake Chad.
In 1900, 1903 and 1906, key declarations made - and militarily enforced - which created the colonies of 'Northern Nigeria' and 'Southern Nigeria' (inclusive of the Colony of Lagos). The Obong of Calabar was neither consulted nor did he resist. This was all conducted between metropolitan powers and they understood what they were doing. "Protectorates" became "Colonies". (www.dawodu.com/thebakassistoryPart1.htm).
In 1913, Britain - for the colonies of "Southern" and "Northern" Nigeria - and Germany - for "Kamerun" - reached an agreement on their border from Yola to the Sea. The first of these agreements was signed in London on March 11, 1913 titled: "(1) The Settlement of the Frontier between Nigeria and the Cameroons, from Yola to the Sea and (2) The Regulation of Navigation on the Cross River". The second was signed at Obokum on April 12, 1913 by Hans Detzner, representing Germany, and W. V. Nugent, representing Britain. It addressed the precise demarcation of the Anglo-German Boundary between Nigeria and Kamerun from Yola to the Cross River. There were eight accompanying maps.
For Bakassi (also spelled Bakasi) peninsula in particular, the Germans were interested in shrimps and an undertaking that Britain would not seek to expand eastwards. The British were interested in uninterrupted and secure sea lane access to Calabar, a key trading post. Since the Germans already had the option of using Douala environs as a port, they conceded the "navigable portion" of the offshore border to Britain. In exchange, Britain conceded the Bakassi peninsula proper to Germany. In other words, to get Germany's cooperation not to threaten access to Calabar, Bakassi peninsula was conceded by Britain.
In January 1914, "Nigeria" was created by amalgamation. Neither the Obong nor any other traditional ruler, Emir, or Chief anywhere in "Nigeria" was consulted about it let alone its borders. As was the practice then, it was done for British economic reasons - to extend the railway system of "Northern Nigeria" to the sea and to use excess tax revenues - derived from spirits - from "Southern Nigeria" to correct a budget deficit in "Northern Nigeria". British and German maps of "Nigeria" from January 1914 clearly show Bakassi peninsula in Kamerun. There was no resistance from the Obong of Calabar or his people or any other native "Nigerians" for that matter. (www.dawodu.com/thebakassistoryPart1.htm).
The First World War broke out in 1914. In 1916, Britain invaded German Kamerun. Among the Nigerian troops and carriers fighting for Britain were natives of Nigeria, including some from present Cross- River State. At the end of the war, all German territories were divided between France and Britain by the Treaty of Versailles. The League of Nations placed them under British or French mandate. The boundaries between British and French mandated Kamerun was defined by the Franco-British Declaration of July 10, 1919 by Viscount Milner, the British Secretary of State for the Colonies, and Henry Simon, the French Minister for the Colonies. In this agreement Bakassi and the rest of what became known as "British Cameroons" were placed under British mandate and administered coterminous with "Nigeria" but not actually merged. The old 1913 border was retained. To codify this further, another agreement was signed December 29, 1929 and January 31, 1930 between Sir Graeme Thomson, Governor of the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria, and Paul Marchand, Commissaire de la République Française au Cameroun. This Declaration was ratified and incorporated in an Exchange of Notes on January 9, 1931 between the French Ambassador in London and the British Foreign Minister. Again, maps from that period show the Bakassi peninsula within "British Cameroons", not the "Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria". Neither the Obong nor his people, nor any other "native Nigerians" protested.
The Second World War broke out in 1939. Native Nigerians also fought for Britain. After the war, the British and French League of Nations mandates over the Southern and Northern Cameroons and Cameroun were replaced by trusteeship agreements under the new United Nations - approved by the General Assembly on December 13, 1946. These UN agreements re-ratified the prior borders as codified by the previous Anglo-German and Anglo-French agreements. Maps from that period showed Bakassi peninsula in the Cameroons, not the real Nigeria. (www.pointblanknews.com, The Bakassi Crisis in a Historical Context by Idumange John.htm, February 22, 2010).
On August 2nd, 1946 Britain divided the Cameroons into two, called "Northern Cameroons" and "Southern Cameroons". The 1946 'Order in Council' contained detailed provisions describing the border separating these two regions, now conveniently administered from colonial Nigeria - but not part of it. In 1954, the Secretary of State for the Colonies issued a legal order defining the border between Nigeria's "Eastern region" and the "Southern Cameroons". Bakassi Peninsula was in the "Southern Cameroons", distinct from the Eastern region and the Calabar province and maps from that period show this very clearly.
In March 1959, the UN asked Britain to clarify the wishes of the people living in Northern and Southern Cameroons trusteeship territories in the run up to the "independence" of Nigeria and Cameroun. Maps from that period show Bakassi peninsula in the Cameroons, not the real Nigeria. On January 1st, 1960 the French Cameroons became independent. Instruments creating the new country and exchange of notes between France and Cameroun rehashed all its colonial boundaries as defined by previous colonial agreements. On October 1st, 1960, Nigeria became independent. Instruments creating the new country and exchange of notes between Britain and Nigeria rehashed all its colonial boundaries as defined by previous colonial agreements. Maps dated 1960 show that the Bakassi peninsula was clearly within the "Southern Cameroons", not "Nigeria proper." (www.dawodu.com/thebakassistoryPart1.htm).
On February 11th and 12th 1961, a plebiscite was held to "clarify the wishes of the people living in Northern and Southern Cameroons". The population of Northern Cameroons had earlier - in 1959 - "decided to achieve independence by joining the independent Federation of Nigeria", while the population of Southern Cameroons, whose plebiscite could not be done in 1959 for security reasons, now "decided to achieve independence by joining the independent Republic of Cameroon" (General Assembly resolution 1608 (XV) of 21 April 1961). Note that there were 21 polling stations on the Bakassi peninsula itself and that 73% of the people living there voted to "achieve independence by joining the independent Republic of Cameroon". (Note the blunder here. By spelling it as "Cameroon", rather than "Cameroun", the United Nations created an opening for the people of the "Southern Cameroons" to say they never voted to join "Cameroun" which is the former French territory. (www.dawodu.com/thebakassistoryPart1.htm).
In 1962, the government of Tafawa Balewa exchanged diplomatic notes with Cameroun acknowledging the fact that Bakassi was not Nigerian territory. Maps from that period showed Bakassi peninsula in Cameroun, following the results of the 1961 plebiscite.
In January 1966, Major General Aguiyi Ironsi came to power in Nigeria. He committed his government to respect all prior international agreements made by the Balewa government. Maps from that period show Bakassi peninsula in Cameroun. In July 1966, then Lt. Col. Gowon came to power in Nigeria. He too committed his government to respect all prior international agreements made by the Ironsi and Balewa governments. Maps from that period show Bakassi peninsula in Cameroun.
In 1970, moves began to be made by independent Cameroun and post-civil war Nigeria to clarify their maritime border which was vaguely defined by the 1913 Anglo-German Treaty. Maps from that period showed Bakassi peninsula in Cameroun, but the offshore boundary was unclear since there was no detailed de-embarkation of the "navigable portion" of the approach channel to the Calabar estuary. Then Attorney General Elias correctly advised the Gowon government that post-colonial Nigeria had no legal basis for contesting the Bakassi peninsula itself, but that work to delimit the offshore boundary and vague sections of the land boundary should proceed at full speed in accordance with the original Anglo-German Treaty of 1913. The technical problem thus became deciding exactly what part was "navigable" and what was not. It is this matter that was addressed on April 4th, 1971 at Yaoundé when Nigeria's General Gowon and Cameroun President Ahidjo, accompanied by large delegations, signed the "Coker-Ngo" Line on British Admiralty Chart No. 3433 "as far as the 3-nautical-mile limit." The status of the Bakassi peninsula proper was not an issue for discussion.
On June 1st, 1975, Gowon and Ahidjo signed the Maroua Declaration for the partial extension of the 1971 maritime boundary. Again, the status of the Bakassi peninsula proper was not even an issue for discussion. Maps from that period show Bakassi peninsula in Cameroun. On July 29, 1975 General Gowon was overthrown by General Murtala Muhammed. One of the first acts of that regime was to begin to question all the domestic and foreign policy decisions made by General Gowon - including the offshore maritime border with Cameroun. In the rush to smear Gowon publicly, he was held accountable for "giving away Bakassi" - an event that had actually occurred before he was born. Murtala Muhammed’s decision to renege on Gowon's agreements with Ahidjo resonated with a section of the population which had been hoping for a way to get out of its commitments to Cameroun deriving from the 1961 plebiscite and the colonial heritage dating back to 1884. Still, Nigerian official maps from that period and continuing till today except a few that were reprinted on orders from the Ibrahim Babangida government in 1991 show Bakassi peninsula in Cameroun. (www.pointblanknews.com, The Bakassi Crisis in a Historical Context by Idumange John.htm, February 22, 2010).
The rest of what transpired in 1981, 1994, 1996 and since then is well known - including General Abacha's moves to formally create an administrative set up there and all the military clashes.
3. THE SOCIO- ECONOMIC, POLITICAL AND MILITARY DIMENSION.
The peninsula of Bakassi is a tiny land strip consisting of a series of fluvial islands covering approximately 50 square kilometres and inhabited by some dozens of villages. The area in contention is a swampy peninsula projecting into the Atlantic at the Gulf of Guinea. Cameroon and Nigeria both claim sovereignty and have nourished the dispute for eight years at the International Court of Justice. Even Equatorial Guinea wants it. The dispute is, of course, about potential offshore oil resources. (Afrol News, 27, March 2002). Bakassi is an area which may contain up to 10% of the world's oil and gas reserves. It is also rich in fish which also is a source of foreign exchange earner for Nigeria and Cameroun. (www.news.bbc.co.uk, Tuesday, 13 June 2006).
But interest over the ownership of Bakassi by Nigeria and Cameroun began immediately it was discovered that the peninsular is floating on reserves of crude oil. It was only then that the elites of the two countries started making serious claims and counter-claims over the territory. In essence, the struggle by the Nigerian and Camerounian ruling classes for ownership of the peninsula is not dictated by any so-called national interest or concern for the well-being of the residents of Bakassi. The primary motive is the rich oil reserves and fishing grounds found in the area and its strategic location in the Atlantic Ocean. If the peninsula were to be of very little economic or strategic value, neither Nigerian nor Camerounian capitalist elite would have shown any serious interest in the territory. (www.socialistworld.net/doc/403#).
The Bakassi border dispute has a military and maritime side to it. Nigerian naval officers told Reuters that the loss of Bakassi would cause severe strategic problems for the Nigerian Navy by rendering the naval base at Calibre useless. "If we lose Bakassi, we lose our eastern access to the Atlantic. Our naval ships cannot move freely to southern Africa, for instance, without Cameroon's approval, one officer said. (www.news.bbc.co.uk, Thursday, 10 October, 2002).
An objective examination of the Nigeria – Cameroon imbroglio at the Bakassi Peninsula reveals three main positions:
- The Bakassi problem was a creation of the imperialists, colonialists and capitalists who for selfish reasons placed the map of Africa on a table and butchered the continent for their own economic interest. The same imperialists have intensified the conflict between Nigeria and Cameroon.
- The real issues in contention are economic and strategic. The Peninsula only became attractive when huge oil reserves were found. Again the prolific fishing grounds in the Peninsula and its strategic location at the Atlantic Ocean is another added advantage.
- There are many Nigerian émigrés in the Peninsular. In fact it is estimated that 90 percent of the inhabitants of Bakassi are Nigerians of Efik extraction. Most Nigerians in the area are either traders, or fishermen who seek greener pastures and better means of livelihood. But the Maroua Declaration signed by Gowon and Ahidjo was to compensate Cameroon for her neutrality during the 30-month civil war in Nigeria.
Below is a diagram showing the disputed Bakassi peninsular-
Map culled from The Bakassi Story by Nowa Omogui.
4. KEY PARTICIPANTS AND THE NATURE OF THE CONFLICT
The key participants in the border conflict are Nigeria, Cameroun, the Efik people occupying Bakassi and the International Court of Justice. Other participants are Equitorial Guinea based on their weak claim to Bakassi and Sao Tome and Principe based on maritime borders with Cameroun. Others are United States of America, Britain, Germany, and France.
The 1,690-kilometer border with Cameroon, witnessed several clashes. (Neither Cameroon nor Chad was a signatory of the ECOWAS protocols on the free movement of community citizens; hence greater border tensions existed between these countries and Nigeria. In 1981 five Nigerian soldiers were killed and three wounded when a Camerounian patrol boat fired on a Nigerian vessel off the contested Rio del Rey area, which was thought to be rich in oil, gas, and uranium deposits. Coming in the wake of an incursion by Beninese troops, this incident provoked public demands for compensation, for punitive measures, and even for war. The crisis was settled peaceably, tensions along the frontier continued, however, and in May 1987, Cameroonian gendarmes allegedly occupied sixteen border villages in Borno State until repulsed by Nigerian army units. Lagos then the Federal Capital Territory issued orders to state governors "to take military reprisals against any belligerent neighbouring country," and tension remained high until Ibrahim Babangida's December visit to Yaounde, capital of Cameroon, yielded mutual pledges of steps to prevent a recurrence of border clashes, including joint border patrols. In October 1989, Camerounian gendarmes allegedly abducted four Nigerian customs officials on routine border patrol duties. In mid-1990 boundary demarcation was still in process, and minor clashes between border residents and transients continued. Deeper divisions were apparent when Yaounde media charged Nigerian agitators with instigating illegal demonstrations in Bamenda and at Yaounde University in May 1990 and with seeking to incite a popular revolt; the Nigerian media made counter charges that Nigerians were being systematically harassed, detained, tortured, or murdered by Camerounian security forces. (www.photius.com/countries/nigeria/national_security/nigeria).
Nigeria took several measures during the 1980s to improve and to strengthen overall border management. After the 1981 clash with Cameroon, Nigeria decided to fence its entire international boundary, to enclose each border beacon, and to augment its immigration staff by 1,000. In the mid-1980s, Nigeria's 2,100 immigration officers were given a four-week weapons training course, new border posts were established, and modern border- patrol and surveillance equipment was procured. The 1984 border closure was designed to control widespread currency trafficking and smuggling. The borders reopened only after Nigeria set up trade corridors and joint border patrols with its neighbours and began a program to strengthen and expand customs and patrol posts. In late 1986, after signing phase two of the ECOWAS protocols on free movement of community citizens, Nigeria said it would deploy immigration officers to each local government to regulate movement in and out of the country and proposed to open 100 new control posts--there had been 45. In addition, Lagos planned to purchase aircraft, helicopters, boats, vehicles, and communication and surveillance equipment; the initial US$13 million phase included 25 speedboats, more than 1,400 Land Rovers and patrol cars, and 200 motorcycles. After the mid-1987 clash with Cameroon, the Nigerian army intensified its border patrols and considered permanently stationing units on the frontiers.
However, armed assaults continued to plague the Bakassi region over the years, and in expanded fields. For instance, in 1992-1993, faced with multiparty democratic challenges, and the growing militarism for Anglophone autonomy, the Cameroun government resorted to open oppression in which some Nigerian civilians in Cameroun were killed. Many were forced out of Cameroun during many embarrassing and harassing tax-drives. As Africa Confidential noted, "Nigeria's…decision to deploy a thousand troops on the peninsula was in turn a reaction to the harassment of Nigerian fishing vessels and traders by Camerounian Gendarmes." (www.postwatchmagazine.com). The Bakassi border dispute escalated with two more serious incidents of incursion that provoked more shooting, recording many casualties and deaths of soldiers of both countries. The first incident was the open hostility that broke the stalemate over Bakassi on February 18-19, 1994. It was after this incident that Cameroun decided to take the border dispute to the International Court Justice for its adjudication. Cameroun's application was deposited on March 29, 1994, amidst accusations from Nigeria that Cameroun was not committed to bilateral negotiations to resolve the matter locally. (ibid).
After eight years, on 10 October 2002, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague ceded to Cameroun the Bakassi peninsula. Reasons given were based on the finding (based principally on the Anglo-German agreements) that sovereignty over Bakassi did indeed rest with Cameroon. It instructed Nigeria to transfer possession of the peninsula, but did not require the inhabitants to move or to change their nationality. Cameroon was thus given a substantial Nigerian population and was required to protect their rights, infrastructure and welfare. (www.en.wikipedia.org/bakassi). The verdict caused consternation in Nigeria. It aroused vitriolic comments from Nigerian officials and the Nigerian media alike. Chief Richard Akinjide, a former Nigerian Attorney-General and Minister of Justice who had been a leading member of Nigeria's legal team, described the decision as "50% international law and 50% international politics", "blatantly biased and unfair", "a total disaster", and a "complete fraud". The Guardian newspaper went further, declaring that the judgment was "a rape and unforeseen potential international conspiracy against Nigerian territorial integrity and sovereignty" and "part of a Western ploy to foment and perpetuate trouble in Africa". (ibid).
- THE NEGOTIATION AND BARGAINING PROCESS
President Olusegun Obasanjo "denied pledging to respect a world court ruling on the disputed Bakassi peninsula," according to the BBC. (www.afrol.com). He said that he would never give such a "blank cheque". This was in contradiction to the statement he made in Paris in a meeting with the United Secretary General and President of Cameroun, Paul Biya on September 6, 2002 weeks before the International Court of Justice ruling. President Olusegun Obasanjo denied ever declaring to abide by the court ruling because of the forth coming 2003 elections. He later respected the court ruling and attended meetings geared towards withdrawing Nigerian troops in Bakassi peninsula and re-settling the residents of Bakassi.
On 2 December 2002, a United Nations-chaired panel on the Cameroon-Nigeria border dispute over the Bakassi Peninsula held its first formal session in Yaoundé. The meeting of the "mixed commission" - so named because it comprises representatives from both sides - was set to focus on establishing a programme and a calendar of work. The meeting was chaired by the Secretary-General's Special Representative for West Africa, Ahmedou Ould-Adballah. The commission was formed in response to a ruling last October on the Bakassi dispute by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which awarded Cameroon rights to the oil-rich peninsula. Following the Court's decision, Nigeria asserted that the judgment did not consider "fundamental facts" about the Nigerian inhabitants of the territory, whose "ancestral homes" the International Court of Justice had adjudged to be in Cameroonian territory. Meeting with Secretary-General Kofi Annan in Geneva in November, Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria and Paul Biya of Cameroon agreed to set up the commission to handle their differences, mandating it to consider all the implications of the ICJ's decision, including the need to protect the rights of the affected populations in both countries. (www.un.org/News).
On 3 December, 2002, a United Nations-chaired panel addressing the border controversy between Cameroon and Nigeria decided to dispatch an assessment mission to the disputed Bakassi peninsula to grasp the issues related to the countries' disagreement. The mission visited the affected areas "in order to better understand and appreciate the practical problems it would have to deal with and resolve in the course of the implementation of its mandate."
The panel also agreed to establish a sub-commission, comprising legal experts and cartographers from Nigeria, Cameroon and the United Nations, responsible for the demarcation of the land boundary between the two countries. The sub-commission also met before the end of January, 2003 and prepared a small-scale map indicating the boundary and also considered the nature and characteristics of the maps that needed to be prepared for the demarcation. (ibid)
- OUTCOME OF THE PROCESS
On 12 June, 2006 the presidents of Nigeria and Cameroon signed an agreement that settled the border dispute over the oil-rich Bakassi Peninsula. This action followed intensive mediation by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who wants to avert a potential crisis flashpoint in already troubled West Africa. “The signing ceremony which has brought us together crowns a remarkable experiment in conflict prevention by Cameroon and Nigeria,” Mr. Annan said of the agreement which provides for the withdrawal of Nigerian troops within 60 days, with a possible 30 day extension. The agreement was reached at a ceremony at the Greentree Estate in Manhasset outside New York City, United States of America and the agreement was named the Greentree Agreement. (www.mailgroundreport.com)
Under the agreement transitional arrangements will be completed in two years for the Peninsula, which was the last of four areas to be demarcated in accordance with the ICJ decision. There were also Permanent Representatives of France, Germany, United Kingdom and the United States of America, who are witnesses and who will help implement the agreement. (www.un.org/News).
Nigeria began to withdraw its military, comprising some 3000 troops, beginning 1 August 2006, and a ceremony on 14 August marked the formal handover of the northern part of the peninsula. The remainder will stay under Nigerian civil authority for two more years. (www.en.wikipedia.org/bakassi).
The Nigerian Senate ruled on November 22, 2007 that the handover of Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon is illegal. The federal government is yet to take action. The government handed the final parts of Bakassi over to Cameroon on 14 August 2008 as planned, but a court had stated this should be delayed until all accommodations for resettled Bakassians had been settled; the government did not seem to plan to heed this court order and did set the necessary mechanisms into motion to override it. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/4789647.stm. The solemn handing over ceremony was observed by delegates from Nigeria and Cameroun while the international community and states served as witnesses. The final transfer of authority took place in Calabar. Fishermen displaced from Bakassi had been settled in a landlocked area called New Bakassi, which they claim is already inhabited and not suitable for fishermen like them but only for farmers. (www.en.wikipedia.org/bakassi).
Some 3,000 pillars are being planted to demarcate the border between Cameroon and Nigeria. The U.N.-sponsored project will end in 2007. The representative of the U.N. Secretary General for West Africa and chairman of the Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed Commission Said Djinnit are overseeing the project. The placement of the markers is a significant milestone in achieving lasting peace between Nigeria and Cameroun. According to Djinnit, it is a border which is meant to bring people together, not to separate them. He says it gives people an opportunity to work freely within a context of clear borders that will prevent further disputes so that all the energies, resources of the two countries [are] channeled towards addressing the real socioeconomic problems of the people. (www.voanews.com).
The $12 million (U.S.) needed for the pillars come from a U.N. Trust Fund. Cameroon and Nigeria are each contributing three million U.S. dollars, with Britain and the European Commission providing the rest. Technical experts are using motorbikes and canoes and are trekking over mountains and through thick forests to trace the over 2000-km boundary from Lake Chad to the Gulf of Guinea. They say the undertaking is tedious but are optimistic their work will end next year says the report.
However, Nigerians doing business across the border still complain of harassment and extortion at the hands of Cameroonian gendarmes. In Bakassi, the predominantly Nigerian population says its rights are not being fully protected.
- THE AFTERMATH OF THE PEACE PROCESS
After the peace process and the return of Bakassi to the Camerounians, the people of bakassi peninsula were always complaining of harassment by the Camerounian gendarmes. Nigerians continue to flee Bakassi everyday because of these harassments. Punch Newspaper reported that the camp in Ekpri Ikang, Cross River State has swelled to 1,500 refugees. A camp initially meant for 400 people. (Punch Newspapers, 23 March, 2009).
Apart from the harassment of the indigenes, various activities have been going on in the Bakassi peninsula like the hijacking of a Nigerian cargo ship. The hijacker’s demanded a ransom of 1.5 dollars before the ship, captain and one of the crew members can be released. Two weeks before that time a group calling itself the African Marine Commando hijacked a Chinese fishing vessel in the area with seven man crew on board. (Punch Newspapers, 30, March, 2010).
The suffering of the Bakassi people is unimaginable and their call to the federal government went unheeded. People of Bakassi then reopened the case against the federal government for compensation to the tune of N456 billion. (Punch Newspapers, 17 July, 2009). It was stated that the federal government did not carter for the people of Bakassi and the Bakassi people also wanted a new local government council. Indigenes of various states like Delta, Imo States that formerly reside in Bakassi are moving back and the various state governments have providing for them, making their life meaningful.
People are of the opinion that former President Olusegun Obasanjo that ceded Bakassi to the Camerounians never had the people of Nigeria at heart. People complained of how he signed the Greentree Agreement without getting anything for Nigeria. Allegations were made that he ceded Bakassi to Cameroun and that he would even cede his hometown Owu to the Camerounian because he never had the people of Nigeria at heart. (Punch Newspaper, 21, September, 2008) Recently, the Camerounian authorities made a claim to parts of Ogudu ranch saying that their boundary stretches down to Ogudu ranch. Gov. Liyel Imoke refuted the claim but a Commission of Enquiry has been set up to look into the issue.
As at now, Bakassi peninsula is now deserted because people have left fearing for their lives. Nigeria will hand over the peninsula to Cameroun finally by 2011 according to the Green Tree Agreement, and then the tax drives and other forms of harassment will be fully initiated.
On Thursday 10, October 2002 the International Court of Justice, Hague delivered
Judgment on the disputed oil-rich Bakassi peninsula and gave ownership to Cameroun over
Nigeria. The court decision was based on the Anglo-German agreement of 11 March 1913. The court’s decision was that the boundary follows the mouth of the River Akpakorum, dividing the Mangrove Island near Ikang as far as a straight line joining Bakassi point and King point. In that judgment, the court requested Nigeria to expeditiously and without condition withdraw its administrative and military or police force from the area of Lake Chad falling within the Cameroonian sovereignty and from the Bakassi peninsula. It also requested Cameroon to expeditiously and without condition withdraw any administrative or military or police forces which may be present along the land boundary from Lake Chad to the Bakassi peninsula on territories, which pursuant to the judgment fall within the sovereignty of Nigeria.
What are the implications of this judgment for the Nigeria state? For one, there are fears that losing Bakassi to Cameroon may mean the loss of the entrance to the Calabar port to Cameroon. This is because the entrance to the Calabar port lies in the Calabar channel and going by the terms of the 1913 agreement between Britain and Germany which the World court relied upon as the authority for Cameroon’s claim to Bakassi, the channel belongs to Cameroon. Secondly, the loss of Bakassi has also placed the multi-million naira Export processing zone (EPZ) in serious danger. This is because the Calabar EPZ depends largely on this important segment, it would only mean that the port belongs to Cameroon out rightly or Nigeria will have to pay charge. There is also the danger of losing 100 million barrels of oil deposit and also four trillion cubic feet of gas deposits in the peninsula. This will be a result of the oil companies having to leave the area and relinquish the oil wells to the Cameroonians, the implication of this is that the huge revenue got from “Bakassi oil” will be lost to Nigeria. A nation striving to improve the lot of its people by adequately utilizing their sources of revenue will surely feel the severe impact of this type of judgment on the entire economy. The social implications of the ruling are that Nigerians, who have lived in Bakassi all their lives, will have to face the sad reality of having to evacuate a region that is part and parcel of them immediately. Most people living in that areas have their businesses located there and so leaving the area will mean detaching them from their source of income. Moreover, all infrastructural facilities, including hospitals, schools, recreational centres, that were originally put in place by the country stands the risk of being forfeited resulting in a fruit less effort and loss of income. Another far-reaching implication of the judgment is the strategic or security implication for the Nigerian state. The victory of Cameroon will make the nation lose its eastern access to the Atlantic. This implies that without Cameroon’s approval, Nigeria’s naval ships cannot move freely to southern Africa and for security reasons this is not too pleasant and not in the interest of the nation.
In the successive phases of the European partitioning of Africa, the lines demarcating spheres of interest were haphazard and precipitately arranged. The European agents and diplomats were primarily interested in grabbing as much African territory as possible, and were not unduly concerned about the consequences of disrupting ethnic groups and undermining the indigenous political order. Similarly to the demarcation lines imposed by the colonial powers, the International Court of Justice did not take into consideration the interests of the Bakassi indigenes when rendering its 2002 judgment. The signing of the Green Tree Agreement clearly demonstrates the ability and willingness of the international community to resolve border disputes in a peaceful and harmonious fashion, but again, did not appreciate the concerns of the indigenes of Bakassi. Nigeria and Cameroon have been commended for the matured manner they handled the Bakassi issue yet the Nigerian government cannot deny the fact that the ruling had some negative effect on the nation.
As it is well known, several boundary disputes have broken out between African states and, so far there is no acceptable criterion which may afford the best guide to a settlement of an “Unhappy Legacy of Colonialism”. It is therefore hoped that the maturity and high level diplomacy exhibited by these two countries will be emulated by other African States with similar border problems.
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