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Last Updated: Friday, 11 August 2006, 11:09 GMT 12:09 UK
Nigerian troops leaving Bakassi
Fishing boats in Bakassi
Most Bakassi residents are fishermen
Nigeria has begun to withdraw the last of its troops from the disputed oil-rich Bakassi peninsula.

The area is due to be handed over to Cameroon on Monday, in line with a World Court ruling which Nigeria has resisted implementing for years.

After United Nations mediation Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo agreed in June to cede the peninsula to Cameroon.

Most Bakassi residents are Nigerian and oppose the handover despite Cameroon's promises to respect their rights.

Map

Bugles sounded and flags lowered as the last contingents of soldiers began to leave the peninsula, the BBC's Alex Last reports from the coastal village of Abana.

Most of the 3,000 troops who were previously stationed on the peninsula have already left, and the last will have gone by Monday when sovereignty is formally transferred to Cameroon.

Discontent

Part of the deal that led to the handover was an undertaking by Cameroon to respect residents' cultural, language, property and fishing rights, and not to impose "discriminatory" taxes.

But most people on the peninsula say they are Nigerian and do not want to be under foreign administration, and a few have said that they will fight any future Cameroonian administration.

The Nigerian government has offered to relocate those who want to leave, but it is not clear how many will be willing to give up their ancestral land and these rich fishing grounds.

One group, the Bakassi Movement for Self Determination, has declared independence for the region, saying it would reject Cameroonian sovereignty.

The troop withdrawal will be monitored by Germany, the United Kingdom, France and the United States.

A special transitional arrangement for the civilian administration will be in place for five years.

The territorial dispute sparked military clashes between Nigeria and Cameroon during the 1990s, before both sides agreed to go to the International Court of Justice.

Residents have the choice of remaining in Bakassi with their Nigerian nationality, taking up Cameroonian citizenship or moving to other parts of Nigeria, such as nearby Cross Rivers State.

Bakassi juts into the Gulf of Guinea, an area which may contain up to 10% of the world's oil and gas reserves.

It is also rich in fish.

The 2002 International Court of Justice ruling was based on a 1913 treaty between the former colonial powers, Britain and Germany.

The agreement also settles the border between Nigeria and Cameroon for 1,690km (1,056 miles) up to Lake Chad.

Some villages further north have already been exchanged.


SEE ALSO
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

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