By Madu Onuorah and Lemmy Ughegbe.THE GUARDIAN. 13 December 2012
• Raises panel on permanent resettlement
THE Federal Government Thursday cautioned Cameroun against maltreating Nigerians in Bakassi Peninsula.
The government said that the maltreatment of Nigerians in the peninsula was not in consonance with Article 4 of the Green Tree Agreement (GTA) for the handover of the peninsula to Cameroun.
Besides, Vice President Namadi Sambo Thursday inaugurated a committee to provide permanent resettlement for the displaced people of Bakassi Peninsula.
The Attorney General of Federation and the Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN) expressed government’s concern while delivering an address yesterday at the opening of the 30th session of the Cameroun-Nigeria Mixed-Commission (CNMC) in Abuja.
The Nigerian government urged Cameroun to immediately halt the maltreatment of Nigerians living in the peninsula, as the action was capable of affecting the complete handover of the territory to Cameroun.
Leading the Nigerian delegation to the CNMC, Adoke said such reported cases of maltreatment of Nigerians in the peninsula by the Camerounian authorities were capable of generating political upheavals and eroding public confidence in the whole exercise.
He warned that if this act was not stopped immediately, it could create political pressure capable of tying the hand of the Jonathan administration in its resolve to faithfully implement the judgment of the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
Adoke said in part: “Mr. Chairman, let me reiterate my earlier representation to the 20th meeting of the follow-up committee, that the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is concerned about reported cases of maltreatment of its citizens in the Bakassi peninsula.
“As I reiterated on that occasion, while Nigeria would continue to honour its international obligations, the government is concerned about this situation and possible effect on the work of the CNMC.
“The effect of these allegation and the political pressure they engender cannot be overemphasized as they impact profoundly on the level of public confidence between the government and its citizens.
“We therefore call on the Camerounian authorities in the spirit of Article 4 of the Green Tree Agreement and other international human right instruments to which our two countries are signatories, to urgently investigate and take. measures to address these concerns
“This is important as it would provide the enabling political environment for the activities of the CNMC and the follow-up committee, as well as strengthen the hand of government in its resolve to faithfully implement the ICJ judgment.”
But in a swift response, the Camerounian government disagreed with the Federal Government’s position and accusation, saying Nigerians in the peninsula were being given the same hospitality extended to over 3.5 million Nigerians all along living in Cameroun.
The Camerounian Vice-Prime Minister, Amadou Ali who led delegates of his country said that already, there were massive requests from the 10,000-15,000 Nigerians in the Bakassi peninsula to obtain Camerounian nationality.
Ali who said the allegations were only aimed at constituting an obstacle to the peaceful implementation of the ICJ judgment, added that on the contrary the Nigerian populations in the peninsula each day expressed their gratitude for the continued improvement of the condition of their lives.
“How can somebody reasonably imagine that these populations that are harassed, tortured and even massacred, instead of finding means and ways to leave these areas, request to be made comfortable so as to live in the areas they find themselves?” Ali asked.
Meanwhile, the chairman of the CNMC, Said Djinnit stated that Nigeria and Cameroun had provided a positive example for other countries in the world with similar challenges by peacefully resolving their border and territorial dispute.
Djinnit who is also the special representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), Ban ki-Moon said that the UN regarded the CNMC as a success story of conflict management.
The UN representative said that Nigeria and Cameroun had already reached an agreement on 1,845 kilometres out of over 2000 kilometres of their land boundary in contention.
He noted that in 2004 alone, the process of transfer of withdrawal and transfer of authority in 30 villages in the Lake Chad area between the two countries were completed.
“On June 12, 2006, Cameroun and Nigeria agreed on a similar process of withdrawal and transfer of authority over the Bakassi peninsula.
“Its implementation started three months later and was completed on schedule in August 2008 insofar as the ‘Zone’ of Bakassi was concerned.
“The two countries on February 26, 2012 signed a cross-border security cooperation agreement which is critical to the sub-region to address the threats of banditry and terrorism.”
The committee raised by Sambo, which is headed by the acting Governor of Cross River State, Effiok Essien Cobham, is to look into all the modalities necessary for the resettlement.
It has three months to complete its assignment.
The decision to set up the committee was reached at a meeting of Committee on Bakassi and plight of the displaced people presided over by Sambo.
The vice president’s committee was set up by President Goodluck Jonathan at the height of the agitation for the government in October to appeal against the 2002 judgment, which ceded the oil-rich peninsula to Cameroun.
At the end of the meeting, Cobham said the vice president charged the committee to take a holistic view of the problems.
He also hinted that the work would involve the development of an entirely new settlement so as to find a lasting solution to the plight of the displaced people and settle them permanently.
According to him, “basically, we discussed the issue of the resettlement of the displaced people of Bakassi and of course the Vice President in his wisdom has constituted a committee to look into the issues and the issues are quiet many, with me as a Chairman and the membership stretches between the Federal and state officials including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, so that we can comprehensively look at the issues affecting the people of Bakassi and then submit a report to the Vice President on or before the end of February 2013.
“For now, the Bakassi people, a large number of them are talking about a new settlement outside the camp for which they are presently settled. They want a location that will be opened to the sea since they are basically riverine people. So, that involves the development of an entirely new settlement.”
Senator Florence Ita-Giwa, who was part of the meeting, described the setting up of the committee by the vice president as a welcome development, which would help restore the dignity of the people of Bakassi.
She said: “Today is one of the happiest days for me as leader of the Bakassi people because it shows that Nigeria is working, it shows that the Presidency is working. I did a very voluminous petition to the Presidency and this meeting is the outcome of my appeal for the Presidency to come to the aid of the suffering masses of Bakassi and I am very, very happy that, in fact, a very positive pronouncement and a committee has been put in place. If these matters are addressed that will now bring succour to the people of Bakassi.”