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Last Updated: Friday, 3 September, 2004, 18:46 GMT 19:46 UK
Nigeria seeks Bakassi referendum
Fishing boats in Bakassi
Most of Bakassi's fishermen consider themselves Nigerian
Nigeria's House of Representatives has called for a referendum in Bakassi before it is handed over to Cameroon on 15 September.

Nigeria is due to give up the disputed region after a 2002 International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling awarded the territory to Cameroon.

Essien Ayi, who proposed the motion to the lower house, said the resolution represented the wish of the country.

He urged the government to ask for a United Nations-supervised plebiscite.

'Unprecedented resistance'

The oil-rich peninsula is home to tens of thousands of Nigerian fisherman and their families.

Mr Ayi, who represents Bakassi and Calabar South federal constituency, said people in Bakassi do not want to be Cameroonian.

"They have nothing to do with Cameroon in terms of culture, in terms of anything," he told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

He claims it is illegal for the government to cede land belonging to Nigerians which is listed in the Nigerian constitution.

After clashes in the 1990s, the territory was awarded to Cameroon in a 2002 ICJ boundary ruling based on a 1913 colonial agreement.

The two countries set up a joint boundary commission to implement the ruling, which has so far seen 33 villages along the northern land boundary transferred to Cameroon, while two Cameroonian villages have been given to Nigeria.

According the BBC's Yusuf Sarki Muhammad in the capital Abuja, after the House of Representatives adopts a motion, it is conveyed to the president's office.

There has so far been no reaction from President Olusegun Obasanjo, who has agreed to abide by the ICJ ruling.

If the handover goes ahead later this month, Mr Ayi says there will be unprecedented resistance in Bakassi.

"We are going to defend ourselves," he said.

Doing time in a Cameroon 'cell'
24 Aug 04  |  Africa
Nigeria hands Cameroon villages
19 Dec 03  |  Africa
'My home is in another country'
19 Jan 04  |  Africa
Nigeria stalls on Bakassi
07 Aug 03  |  Africa


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