Address By President Obasanjo On Bakassi Transfer

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Address By President Obasanjo On Transfer of Bakassi

 

We have taken measures for protection, security, well-being of Nigerians in Bakassi, says Obasanjo

 

 

Being a national broadcast by His Excellency President Olusegun Obasanjo on the agreement between the Republic of Cameroun and the Federal Republic of Nigeria concerning the modalities of withdrawal and transfer of authority in the Bakassi Peninsula yesterday June, 14, 2006

 

 

FELLOW Nigerians, On October 10, 2002, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), to which Nigeria had subjected herself, gave its judgment in the matter of the Land and Maritime Boundary between Cameroun and Nigeria for which Cameroun had taken the dispute for adjudication by the ICJ. The verdict was given in favour of Cameroun.

 

 

As a great advocate of the observance of the rule of law nationally and internationally and a great believer in the settlement of disputes peacefully, we accepted the verdict notwithstanding our disappointment. But as the ICJ itself recognised and, as we indicated after the verdict, human beings are involved and we are concerned about them and their plight rather than about land and water, the jurisdiction of which the ICJ judgment gave to Cameroun. We assured the Nigerians living in Bakassi and all Nigerians that their interest will be protected in the process of implementation of the ICJ judgment.

 

 

Although the Cameroun authorities pressured for immediate withdrawal of our troops from Bakassi for Cameroun to take over and exercise full sovereignty over the whole Peninsula, we opted for political negotiation to prepare the Nigerians occupying the Peninsula psychologically and physically for the ultimate choice they will have to make. Under the auspices of the United Nations Secretary-General, Nigeria and Cameroun held five Summit meetings to resolve the issue of implementation of the ICJ judgment in general and particularly on Bakassi.

 

 

At the first of the summit meetings, a Mixed Commission by Nigeria and Cameroun under the chairmanship of the personal representative of the UN Secretary-General was established. That Commission has resolved the Lake Chad area boundary, resettling some forty villages which were caught on the Cameroun side by the ICJ verdict to the Nigerian side in accordance with the choice of the people concerned. That resettlement exercise has progressed smoothly and it would continue until all Nigerians in the area who wish to be resettled are resettled.

 

 

In the meantime, the land boundary between Lake Chad area and Bakassi Peninsula is also to be resolved and demarcated. Again, the process continues with minor adjustment to movement and resettlement of villages on either side in accordance with the choice of the people.

 

 

The maritime boundary by the verdict of the ICJ is less problematic. However, it will also have to be physically demarcated.

 

 

The core of the problem is Bakassi where Nigerian troops have been stationed for the last thirteen years after a battle with Camerounian troops, and where substantial number of Nigerians are living. With ICJ verdict that Bakassi belongs to Cameroun, we went into intricate and detailed negotiations on how to implement the judgment.

 

 

At the last of the five summit meetings at the Greentree Resort in Long Island, New York, last Monday, June 12, 2006, the following agreement was reached and signed between Nigeria and Cameroun and witnessed by the UN Secretary-General and representatives of United States, United Kingdom, France and Germany:

 

 

(1) Nigerian troops will withdraw within the next sixty days after they had fought gallantly to protect lives and properties of Nigerians on the Peninsula and continuously protected them for the last thirteen years. If for any extra-ordinary circumstances there will be need for extra time for Nigerian troops' withdrawal, the UN Secretary-General will consider and grant not more than 30 days in totality.

 

 

(2) The two islands of Atabong and Abana which form the Western part of Bakassi Peninsula will continue to be administered by Nigeria for two years after the withdrawal of Nigerian troops. Mobile Police Force will be stationed on the two population centres until cessation of Nigerian administration. In the meantime, the Federal Government with the Cross River State Government will sensitise the Nigerian population in Bakassi to the new political reality of the Peninsula and advise them to make a choice of either being resettled back into Nigeria or remaining as Nigerians resident in Cameroun after the cessation of Nigerian administration.

 

 

(3) A special transitional provision will be put in place for five years for Nigerians after the cessation of Nigerian administration in the Peninsula to enable them to have access, without formalities, to Bakassi with similar access for our law-enforcement agents for investigation.

 

 

It is very important to emphasise the Cameroun obligations under the Greentree Agreement. Article 3 states:

 

 

(a) not force Nigerian nationals living in the Bakassi Peninsula to leave the zone or to change their nationality;

 

 

(b) respect their culture, language and beliefs;

 

 

(c) respect their rights to continue their agricultural and fishing activities;

 

 

(d) protect their property and their customary land rights;

 

 

(e) not levy, in any discriminatory manner, any taxes and other dues on Nigerian nationals living in the zone; and

 

 

(f) take every necessary measure to protect Nigerian nationals living in the zone from any harassment on harm.

 

 

A follow-up committee composed of representatives of Nigeria, Cameroun, the United Nations and the witness States will be established to monitor the implementation of the agreement. On the Nigerian side, members of the Follow-up Committee are the Attorney-General and the Inspector-General of Police.

 

 

Fellow Nigerians, we have seriously and, over a long period of almost four years, worked on this agreement. We accept it whole-heartedly and we will scrupulously implement it. We have ensured that Nigerians living now on the Peninsula have a choice either to relocate or to remain in Bakassi; whichever choice they make, we have taken adequate measures for their protection, security, welfare and well-being. That was our concern and that we have achieved. Nigeria remains resolute in protecting the interest of its citizens and nationals anywhere they live.

 

 

I must not end this address without thanking the Nigerian team in the Mixed Commission under the leadership of Prince Bola Ajibola for a job well done so far. I wish them success in the work that lies ahead of them. I will also like to thank the Secretary-General of the UN, Mr. Kofi Annan, and his personal representative, Mr. Ahmed Ould Abdallah, with his team for a very good job. I thank President Paul Biya of Cameroun for his patience, understanding and statesmanship. I thank our troops for their gallantry, forbearance, good behaviour and professionalism. I am proud of them. I thank the Governor of Cross River State and his officials and Senator Florence Ita-Giwa for their understanding and support. I thank the Nigerians living in Bakassi for their patience and confidence in us that we will never let them down.

 

 

They have behaved admirably well through trying circumstances and I am proud of them.

 

 

I thank all Nigerians who have exercised patience, exhibited good comportment and stood by us as we worked to find political solution to a lost legal case in the best interest of our people.

 

 

I thank the International Community that stood by us and gave us support.

 

 

With the Bakassi dispute and ICJ verdict on it being fully implemented and the interests of Nigerians protected, I look forward to enhanced good bilateral relations between Cameroun and Nigeria.

 

 

Thank you all.

 

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