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Last Updated: Monday, 19 January, 2004, 10:41 GMT
'My home is in another country'
By Anna Borzello
BBC, Nigeria

Sunusi Ahmed used to make a living as a farmer and fisherman in the Nigerian village of Darak on the shores of Lake Chad.

Then, last December, following a ruling by the International Court of Justice, Darak was handed over to Cameroon - along with 32 other villages in the far north-east of Nigeria.

Only one Cameroonian village was given to Nigeria following the border ruling.

Mr Ahmed had an option of becoming Cameroonian or living as a foreigner in his own home.


But instead, he chose to relocate to the Ali Shariff-Ti village, one of three reception centres created for the returnees inside Nigeria.

The government officials told us that now that returnees have arrived, they will give us a hospital, a school, a road and a dam
Youngman in Ali Shariff-Ti village
Ali Shariff-Ti village is little more than a dusty plain with sticks in the ground marking out where huts for returnees will be constructed, when resources are made available.

"Indeed it was a misery to leave. but I chose to come here because Nigeria is my country and I love my country best. I'm proud to be Nigerian," he said.

It is a view echoed by many of the new arrivals - who also say that they were worried by the Cameroonian Government's human rights record.


However, Mr Ahmed feels his patriotism has not been rewarded.

"The Nigerian Government has not done anything for us. They handed over those villages without paying compensation. They only send delegations to meet us, but the promises made are never delivered," he said.

Bakassi fishing village
Oil-rich Bakassi is the main cause of the border row
One woman, who had arrived with her six children, hid her face in embarrassment as she explained she had to go to the toilet in the bush, because there aren't any latrines.

A medical officer at the centre said 60 children have been reported suffering from diarrhoea.

The situation for the new arrivals would have been worse, were it not for residents of a nearby fishing village who have given many of them shelter.

New arrivals

"We're very happy that these people have chosen to come here," a young man from the village explained.

I hope to live here, just as well as I lived in Darak
"The government officials told us that now that returnees have arrived, they will give us a hospital, a school, a road and a dam." he said

Nigeria's boundary commission estimates that about 60,000 people lived in the 33 villages around Lake Chad.

So far about 25,000 people have returned, but many more are expected in the coming months.

There is a constant stream of new arrivals at Ali Shariff-Ti, despite lack of social amenities.

Oil-rich peninsula

"We have been staying in Darak since the villages were handed over, but we couldn't come earlier because we didn't have the money for fuel to power our boats," said an old man as his family unloaded bags and cooking utensils from a canoe.

"By God's grace I hope to live here, just as well as I lived in Darak," said the old man.

The ICJ spent nine years fixing the boundaries between the two countries which were blurred by colonial agreements and by the reported gift of the oil rich Bakassi peninsula to Cameroon in the 1970s.

The next phase of the implementation will cover the length of Nigeria's eastern border - before moving on Bakassi, which is due to be given to Cameroon, although a date has not yet been set.

In the final stage, the maritime boundary in the oil-rich Gulf of Guinea will be marked out.

Nigeria hands Cameroon villages
19 Dec 03  |  Africa
Nigeria opens legal can of worms
24 Oct 02  |  Africa
UN mediates in Bakassi dispute
15 Nov 02  |  Africa
Country profile: Cameroon
04 Oct 03  |  Country profiles

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