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Friday, 1 November, 2002, 20:08 GMT
Nigerians in fear in Bakassi
Fishing village in Bakassi
Bakassi is inhabited by Nigerian fishermen

The majority of people living in the disputed oil-rich Bakassi peninsula are Nigerian fishermen.

The only sign of a Cameroonian presence is the presence of Cameroonian beer and the popular Makossa music played on stereos.

Yet Nigeria's refusal to accept a recent International Court of Justice ruling awarding Bakassi to Cameroon is causing great fear among Nigerians there.

Many Nigerians have been heading home from the Cameroonian controlled side of the peninsula fearing clashes between the two neighbours.

Nigeria still has troops stationed in the part of this swampy strip of land they control.

Fear

The secretary of the Nigerian Fishermen Association on the peninsula, Lyang Okun Esuk, said people were not sure what would happen next.

Bakassi fisherman
Fishermen fear intimidation and more fighting
"People are heading back to their villages until the problem is solved," he told me.

Chief Andrew Essien, the National President of the Nigerian Union in Cameroon confirmed that Nigerians were heading home from many towns.

"I just returned from Nigeria and I took home over 40 persons from the Bakassi area. Of this number 30% were children being sent home.

According to Chief Essien over 200 Nigerians are now leaving Cameroon weekly.

"You will not imagine that even little kids are arrested and treated inhumanely" he said.

A little girl of 14 years said she was detained for two days immediately after the ICJ ruling because she had not paid her residential permit, a document required by all foreigners in Cameroon.

Hope

The Nigerian Consul General in Buea in South West Province, the administrative headquarters of the Bakassi area, has called on the more than three million Nigerians living in Cameroon to remain calm and go about their duties normally.

Nigerian oil rig
Bakassi has large oil reserves
"All is calm and normal between the two countries and I do not think there is cause for us to have unnecessary fears and apprehension."

A local Nigerian leader, Priest Anthony Ukpong, said they were expecting both heads of state to solve the matter peacefully.

"We are the people suffering here and we cannot go anywhere else. We are completely cut off from the entire world and the only news we get from outside is that of war. Those of us here on this side are ready to respect the ICJ ruling"

The ownership of the Bakassi peninsula has implications for fishing and oil rights offshore.


Key stories

YOUR VIEWS
 VOTE RESULTS
Cameroon / Nigeria border ruling: Was it the right decision?

Yes
 44.91% 

No
 55.09% 

11050 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

See also:

29 Oct 02 | Africa
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