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Wednesday, 13 November, 2002, 21:10 GMT
Nigeria 'does not reject' Bakassi ruling
Fishing village in Bakassi
Bakassi is inhabited by Nigerian fishermen
A Nigerian minister says the government does not reject the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling which gives the long-disputed, oil-rich Bakassi Peninsula to neighbouring Cameroon.


The issue is not about oil and gas

Dubem Onya
When the court delivered its judgment last month - after deliberating on the problem for eight years - Nigeria had appeared to reject it, saying it would not abandon its people or their interests.

But the Nigerian Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dubem Onya, said it still needed to be decided what would become of Nigerians unwilling to live on the Bakassi Peninsula under Cameroonian rule.

The UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, has called a meeting in Geneva on Friday for the presidents of Nigeria and Cameroon - Olusegun Obasanjo and Paul Biya - to discuss the issue.

Since the dispute started in 1993, there have been frequent clashes between the two countries' armed forces over the peninsula.

'Pitfalls'

The minister denied Nigeria did not accept the ICJ ruling.

"Nigeria did not reject the verdict, what Nigeria did was to highlight the grey areas, the pitfalls of the judgment," Mr Onya said.

The minister stressed that the issue revolved around the Nigerians who live in the peninsula.

"This issue is not about oil and gas," he said.

"There is a need for the two presidents to continue the dialogue on how to resolve the pertinent question of the human beings that reside in Bakassi."

"It is not the objective of the United Nations to force any citizens of the world to go to any country where they are not willing to belong," the minister said.

The Geneva meeting between the two presidents will be a continuation of the meeting they had in September, prior to the ICJ ruling, he said.

The two heads of state were reported as saying at the time that they would accept the court's verdict.

Oil

The Bakassi Peninsula is in itself a swampy strip of land with little value, but its ownership has implications for fishing and oil rights offshore.

Large numbers of Nigerian and Cameroonian troops are reported to be in the area and tensions there have been high for years.

The UK Foreign Office website says travellers should avoid the area, as "the situation could escalate at any time."

More than 150 Nigerians arrested in the Bakassi region by Cameroonian forces were reportedly freed in September.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Dubem Onya on Focus on Africa
"Nigeria did not reject the verdict"

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:

12 Nov 02 | Africa
29 Oct 02 | Africa
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