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Nigeria to appeal Bakassi delay

Bakassi villagers
Hundreds of thousands of people have moved from their homes in Bakassi

The Nigerian government is preparing to appeal against a court ruling delaying the handover of the oil-rich border region of Bakassi to Cameroon.

A Federal High Court ruled this week that the handover be delayed until a compensation claim can be resolved by the courts in October.

But the government is intent on ceding the Bakassi region in two weeks time.

A group of Bakassi leaders are seeking 400bn naira ($3.3bn, 1.7bn) in compensation from the government.

Thousands of people now have no drinkable water, no place to live
Bakassi campaigner Joe Etene

They say the government has not prepared for all the people who have left Bakassi.

The compensation would amount to 1.9m naira ($16,000, 8,000) for each person displaced.

No accommodation

The government built a block of apartments with 200 rooms to accommodate 206,000 people, said Joe Etene, one of the people who brought the suit.

map

"People have moved from their ancestral homes. Thousands of people now have no drinkable water, no place to live," he said.

"We want the government to learn they can't do that to people."

The area set aside for the people who moved out of Bakassi has no access to the sea, campaigners say.

Bakassi has a rich fishing culture and people say the handover has destroyed their way of life.

In 1981 Cameroon and Nigeria nearly went to war over the region, thought to be rich in oil and gas.

During the 1990s there were bloody clashes that claimed dozens of lives.

An International Court of Justice at The Hague ruled that the disputed region be ceded to Cameroon in 2002.

Part of the region was handed over to the Cameroonians in 2006.

The remaining portion will be ceded in August.

Nigerian President Umar Yar'Adua reportedly assured his Cameroonian counterpart that the handover would go ahead as planned, local media has reported.

'Legal theory'

Mr Etene said it was important to stop the handover before the compensation claim could be settled because after the handover there would be more refugees to deal with.

Campaigners say the treaty that agreed the handover was not ratified by the Nigerian Senate.

But a Nigerian constitutional lawyer told the BBC the Federal High Court's decision would not stop the handover.

"The government has behaved in a way that respects the treaty agreement to hand Bakassi over," said Awalu Yadudu.

"It's now an legal argument only in theory."


SEE ALSO
Nigerian troops leaving Bakassi
11 Aug 06 |  Africa
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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