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International Court to Issue Ruling in Cameroon-Nigeria Border Dispute - 2002-03-27

Nigeria and Cameroon will present final arguments Thursday in a case involving a longstanding border dispute between the two countries. The case, which will be decided in the International Court of Justice, seeks to resolve a row in which both countries have amassed troops in the oil-rich Bakassi Peninsula.

Hearings have been held over the past month, with both countries arguing their claim of sovereignty over the Bakassi Peninsula, which some believe may contain large reserves of oil. For years, Cameroon has accused Nigeria of illegally occupying the peninsula and a portion of land around Lake Chad.

In a complaint filed in 1994, Cameroon demanded that Nigeria remove its troops from the Bakassi Peninsula and pay reparations to the Cameroonian government. Nigeria responded by saying Cameroon should pay restitution for "attacks" by Cameroonian forces.

The dispute has triggered clashes between troops on a number of occasions over the past nine years. It is not clear how many people have died in the skirmishes. Fighting flared in 1996, with Nigeria accusing Cameroonian forces of launching attacks, which have injured civilians.

The two nations exchanged prisoners in 1998, but tension has remained high between the two neighbors.

The Nigerian government has accused Cameroon of preparing to explore for oil on the Bakassi Peninsula, in violation of an international court order that banned both countries from doing exploratory work in the area until the dispute is settled. When it filed its complaint in 1994, the Cameroonian government asked the court to determine maritime and land boundaries separating the two countries.

At the time, Nigeria protested Cameroon's move to put the matter into the hands of the court, saying the quarrel should have been left for the countries to resolve between themselves. The dispute dates back more than a century, when Britain and France, as colonial powers, drew a new border to separate the Nigeria and Cameroon territories.