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Cameroonians Credit African Diplomacy for Thursday's Bakassi Handover

Barring any unexpected incident, Nigeria will Thursday handover the disputed oil-rich Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon. The Nigerian government has deployed more troops and police in the area to ensure a peaceful handover.

The International Court of Justice ruled in 2002 that Nigeria surrenders the disputed territory to Cameroon. Cameroonians are anxiously looking forward to today's official handover of Bakassi.

Bertha Ndoh is advisor to Cameroon Prime Minister Ephraim Inoni. She told VOA Cameroonians are thankful that Bakassi is being relinquished without a major war between two countries.

"To Cameroonians, it's a joy and a victory in which the two countries – Cameroon and Nigeria - are resolving this conflict without war. We want to thank the former head of state of Nigeria, former President Obasanjo and of course our President, Paul Biya that they have come together and are trying to resolve this conflict without a war. We also want to thank the former United Nations Secretary General, His Excellency Kofi Annan for heading this diplomacy," she said.

Ndoh said the Cameroon government is anxious to bring development to the Bakassi province once it has been handed over.

"When it has been handed over to us, it will then become our territory, and then Cameroon is trying to see what we can do in terms of developmental projects. In fact there are so many in the pipeline, especially the roads that will lead from Kumba to Mundeba and right to Bakassi. And also there are other projects like water which is very important and schools and health," Ndoh said.

Most of the people living in Bakassi consider themselves to be Nigerians, and some of them had filed a lawsuit to try to stop the handover.

Ndoh said the Cameroon government would like for those Nigerians in Bakassi to remain there even after it had been handed over to Cameroon.

"I think in Cameroon there is a government policy that people would want to live wherever they want, and I think it would be for individuals to decide, and wherever they decide to be, I think it would be find. If they want to be in Cameroon or if they want to go back to Nigeria, that would be their own decision. But to us Cameroonians, I think they are welcome," Ndoh said.

While welcoming the handover, some Cameroonians hope their government would do more to expedite development not only to Bakassi but to other provinces like Akwaya in the southwest of the country, which they said have been neglected.

Ndoh said making sure that Bakassi is developed is part of the prerequisite for the handover.

"I think that is one of the resolutions that Cameroonians have to see to it that the place is developed, and the head of state and the government are doing their best. Of course in every one of the provinces there are projects in the pipeline, including Akwaya," Ndoh said.