African Press International (API)

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President Biya reassures Nigerians of their security and rights after Bakassi hand-over

Posted by African Press International on August 24, 2008

By Tansa Musa
YAOUNDE, Aug 23 – CameroonPresident Paul Biya, in atelevised address to the nation on Thursday evening,reassured Nigerians living in the country of their security and rights following thetransfer of authority in Bakassito Cameroonon August 14.
Recalling that Cameroon and Nigeria resorted to dialogue and negotiations to resolve the dispute over the oil-rich peninsula instead of the use of force, Biya said the peaceful outcome of the issue will set a precedent in Africa.
It stands to reason, he added,that Cameroon and Nigeria must henceforth do everything possible to consolidate the settlement reached and seize the opportunities afforded them to develop their relations in all fields.
”In this regard, I want to reaffirm that Cameroon will honour all the commitments made concerning our Nigerian brothers and sisters who have chosen to reside in Cameroon, that is, those living in Bakassi as well as those who, in large numbers, have been livingon Cameroonian territory for many years,” he said.
”I want to reassure that their security and their rights will always be guaranteed; they will, as in the past, be able to go about their business undisturbed, as long, of course, as they abide by Cameroonian laws and regulations.”
On August 14 in Calabar, Nigeriacompletedwithdrawal of its administration and security forces from Bakassi and transfered authority in the territory in line withthe 2002 International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling and the 2006 Greentree Agreement to pursuant to that decision.
In his Thursday speech, the Cameroonian leaderpaid glowing tribute to the peoples of Nigeria and Cameroon for their attachment to peace, maturity and sense of responsibility.
He said the peaceful settlement of the dispute marked the dawn of a new and bright era in relations between theCentral African country and its western giant neighbour, anera of peace and fraternity that will enable the two nations to fight the real fight, that is for progress and development.
“Bound by history and geography to live together, and by numerous links rooted in a common culture, the Nigerian and Cameroonian peoples have every possible reason to promote mutually beneficial ties of friendship and cooperation. As far as I am concerned, I intend to lend my full support to such relations,” he stated.
The statement came amid fears expressed by Nigerians living in Bakassi that the withdrawal of Nigerian forces and hand over of authority to Cameroon may revive the Cameroonian gendarme brutality and harassment on them that resulted in the 1993 skirmishes between the two country’s forces that almost led to a full war.
It is in the wake of those skirmishes that Nigerian forces moved into and occupied the 1000 km2 oil-rich Bakassi peninsula in the Gulf of Guinea, officially to protects its citizens who make up over 90 percent of the inhabitants of the region.
Full scale war was only averted when one year laterCameroon decided to seek the arbitration of the ICJ in The Hague. In 2002, the court recognised Cameroon’s sovereignty over the disputed territory, based on a 1913 treaty between the two colonial powers of Germany and Great Britain.
The August 14 hand-over came amid growing insecurity as militant groups opposed to the ICJ ruling mounted attacks on security posts in the peninsula, killing over 50 people in the last one year.
It is this heightened security concerns in Bakassi that forced organizers of the transfer of authorityto cancel a flag-exchanging ceremony at the peninsula’s main town Abana, relocating it insteadto Calabar city, some 192 km (120 miles) away, in south-eastern Nigeria.
One of the militant groups, the little-known Niger Delta Defence and Security Council (NDDSC) which claimed responsibility for two armed attacks in Bakassi,promised more violence in the area on the eve of the hand-over.
“Our struggle will continue until our demands are met..,” said its spokesman Commander Ebi Dari.(END)



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