- Hundreds of Nigerian fishermen have fled the Bakassi Peninsula as harassment and violent attacks by Cameroon’s gendarmes have increased, reports have said.
Local reports said an estimated 300 new arrivals in the Ekpri-Ikang returnees’ camp have raised the number of Nigerians who fled the peninsula to over 700 persons in the last two weeks.
Most of the displaced persons returned to Nigeria in a hurry and came with virtually no property as they were said to have merely smuggled out of the Creeks. However, the returnees, who came with their wives and children, said owing to the “unwarranted harassment and brutal approach to Nigerians, they took a very serious risk running away from the peninsula.
They vowed that even though they are professional fishermen who have lived all their lives at sea, they will never return to the peninsula unless the Nigerian government finds a way of pressurising the Cameroonian government to respect the Green Tree Agreement.
Bakassi’s sovereignty was finally transferred to Cameroon by Nigeria on 14 August 2008 following the signing of the Green Tree Agreement in June 2006 in New York, United States, bringing an end to a territorial dispute, which almost brought the two countries to war in 1981.
The majority of the local population considers itself Nigerian, but an international court ruled in favour of Cameroon in 2002. At least 100,000 people have moved from the peninsula in recent years to Nigeria.
The Bakassi peninsular, with its proximity to Niger Delta, the heart of Nigeria's oil production, according industry experts is believed could hold significant amounts of oil deposits that would help boost Cameroon's declining production of around 90,000 barrels per day.
The Nigerian government agreed to transfer Bakassi two years ago in line with a 2002 World Court order, but sporadic gun battles, political disputes and legal battle had caused delays.
The International court of Justice gave Bakassi to Cameroon in a 1913 agreement between the colonial powers, Britain and Germany.
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