News / Africa

Nigerians Face Deadline to Decide on Leaving Cameroon Territory

FILE - Children on Bakassi Peninsula in Cameroon (2008 photo)FILE - Children on Bakassi Peninsula in Cameroon (2008 photo)
x
FILE - Children on Bakassi Peninsula in Cameroon (2008 photo)
FILE - Children on Bakassi Peninsula in Cameroon (2008 photo)
Residents of Bakassi - an oil-rich territory legally ceded by Nigeria to Cameroon in 2002 - have until August to decide to become Cameroonian or leave the territory. Most residents consider themselves Nigerian.

Access to the Bakassi Peninsula, located on the Atlantic coast on the Cameroon-Nigeria border, is mostly by speed boats that navigate between the rich mangroves.

The area has been heavily guarded by Cameroonian soldiers since their country took control of the territory from Nigeria on August 14, 2008.

The International Court of Justice had awarded Bakassi to Cameroon in a 2002 ruling.  Nigeria eventually decided not to fight the ruling and ceded control, over the protests of many Bakassi residents.

Sporadic attacks from rebels made Cameroon's government deploy forces to maintain law and order.  In one attack in February 2011, two Cameroonian soldiers were killed and 11 others were declared missing.  A group called the Bakassi Freedom fighters claimed responsibility, vowing that Bakassi will find no peace under Cameroon's rule.

Nigerians constitute 90 percent of the 300,000 people on the peninsula and will have to obtain residence permits and be treated as foreign nationals living in Cameroon if they decide to stay after the August 14 deadline given to them by the ICJ.

Many of the Nigerians are still undecided on if they will leave or not.  Forty-year-old Glory Benson, a Nigerian teacher, says they have a lot of worries.

"Let us just go to the aspect of women that are pregnant. For the women to deliver here is not an easy task.  So we want the government to provide a midwife in the hospital here that can be helping us.  To be sincere the life here has been very good in terms of security and every thing," Benson said.

The Bakassi people live in small fishing settlements like this one. (VOA / S. Olukoya)The Bakassi people live in small fishing settlements like this one. (VOA / S. Olukoya)
x
The Bakassi people live in small fishing settlements like this one. (VOA / S. Olukoya)
The Bakassi people live in small fishing settlements like this one. (VOA / S. Olukoya)
Most Nigerians who live in the territory are fishermen.  They have created an association to take care of their needs.  Their president James Nande, who is about 50 years old, says the main problem that may force them to leave is that Cameroon's government has taken little care to protect their huts, threatened by waters from the Atlantic.

James Nande says the only problem they have is that water from the ocean is destroying their houses and adds that he is worried because that is where he struggles to raise money and send his children to school.

Ever since the ICJ ruling, the payment of taxes was suspended, but beginning August 14, residents of Bakassi will have to start paying their share.  James Nande says although some of his fishermen colleagues have been protesting, he wants them to respect that civic responsibility.

He says when the time comes, they will have to pay, adding that even in Nigeria when somebody gets to the standard of paying taxes, he has to pay, but in their village, Djabani in the Bakassi Peninsula, people have not been paying.

Nigerian-born Tom Efiom repairs engine boats in Bakassi.  He wants to return to Nigeria but only if is assured that he can get another job.

Efiom says he will not go to Nigeria because he has no handwork to do there.  He says for the time being, it is only in Cameroon that he has the job of an engine boat repairer, and that even though he is living in Cameroon, people use Nigerian currency, the Naira, because CFA Francs used in Cameroon are difficult to come by.

The legacy left by Nigeria is still very present.  Nigerians trained many health staff and teachers who are now working for Cameroon.  Even though Cameroon has sent its own teachers to the area, pupils and their parents still prefer the Nigerian system of education they have been acquainted with.

Muffu Chong Pierre, the 35-year-old teacher at a Djabani primary school created by Cameroon, said she and her colleagues are trying to convince parents to keep their children in school.

"The parents are very mobile, they are not stable.  They travel with their children to sell.  When we struggle to bring up the children, as soon as they know how to read and write, the parents take them to Nigeria at times.  When we find it very difficult to get the children at school, I personally and my staff we move from door to door.  We do hhat they call educational evangelism, so as to encourage the children to come to school," Pierre said.

Cameroon has been struggling to make the people, especially the children learn national symbols like the national anthem.

Cameroon still has to guarantee the fundamental rights of Nigerians, before gaining full control of Bakassi, according to the ICJ verdict and the Green tree agreement that Cameroon signed with Nigeria under the supervision of the United Nations.  

Tanda, a Cameroonian expert on Bakassi, thinks that the peace process is right on course.

"The peace process is progressing, the population is getting to know the Cameroon administration better and better. There is consciousness now that acts of vandalism, piracy or questioning Cameroons sovereignty does not pay. And we are hopeful that by the month of August, things will be much better," Tanda said.

In line with the ICJ ruling, as of this August 14, Cameroon will govern Bakassi like any other part of its territory.

You May Like

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Video Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid