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At Mixed Commission Meeting: Nigeria Demands Rail Link With Cameroon

Posted by Clovis Atatah, Nformi Sonde & Kini Nsom on 2005/08/05 | Views: 303 |

At Mixed Commission Meeting: Nigeria Demands Rail Link With Cameroon


Nigeria demanded a rail link with Cameroon at stormy talks last week aimed at the peaceful implementation of the ICJ verdict on the ownership of the Bakassi Peninsula.

Nigeria demanded a rail link with Cameroon at stormy talks last week aimed at the peaceful implementation of the ICJ verdict on the ownership of the Bakassi Peninsula.

Nigeria's demand is part of a string of concessions they have tried to wrench from their western neighbour since the International Court of Justice at The Hague declared Cameroon owner of the prized oil-rich Bakassi Peninsula on October 10, 2002.


Talks between Cameroon and Nigeria, under the auspices of the United Nations, aimed at enabling both countries to amicably implement the ICJ verdict, resumed in Yaounde last week after a lull of several months, following strained relations between the two countries.

As the 13th session of the Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed Commission on the implementation of the ICJ verdict began sitting in Yaounde, July 28, the Nigerian government brought up new issues that they deemed necessary for discussions and treatment.

Hinging their grievances on the need for positive confidence building measures as was recommended by ICJ ruling, the head of the Nigerian delegation to the Mixed Commission, Prince Bola Ajibola, listed predicaments and apprehensions of Nigerians living in Cameroon.

"The fishermen in Bakassi are complaining of being deprived of their means of livelihood by incessant seizures of their boats as well as some of their members being killed, maimed or missing," Ajibola declared in a speech at the start of the 13th Mixed Commission meeting that held at the Yaounde Hilton Hotel on July 28 and 29.

He said in some other places allegations have been made, supported by documentary evidence, of killings and mass arrests of Nigerians. He also mentioned allegations of exorbitant fees charged by Cameroonian authorities for residence permits and infringement on property rights.

To buttress his point on why the issues raised must be handled by the Mixed Commission, Ajibola reminded members that it was "in anticipation of all these problems that we set up the Sub-Commission on the Affected Populations, which was a decision we made in line with the directives of the ICJ as contained in their judgement. We must, therefore, do everything possible to protect these rights," he stated.

In addition to the rehabilitation of the Enugu-Abakiliki-Mamfe-Mutengene road, the Nigerian delegation at the Mixed Commission is already talking of the need for a railway linking both countries.

Ajibola regretted that a planned visit of the advisory committee on the railway project as well as the meeting of the Permanent Commission on Consular and Immigration Matters that was billed for Yaounde in September 2004, failed because of a lull in the Commission's work.

The Post gathered that the Nigerian government wants its nationals living in Bakassi to be granted permanent residency status without paying any immigration fees, as a precondition for withdrawing its administration and troops from the Bakassi Peninsula.

Privileges For Nigerians

Another source said some members of the Nigerian delegation went as far as requesting the same privileges to be extended to Nigerians living in other parts of Cameroon.

The Post was told that members of the Cameroonian delegation rejected the demand, which reportedly stirred anger and stormy debates at the meeting that held behind closed doors.

The head of the Nigerian delegation attested to this in a statement at the close of the meeting when he noted that the debates were stormy but friendly. The Cameroonian delegation was, however, more diplomatic in their assessment of debates.

Prof. Maurice Kamto, Minister Delegate in the Ministry of Justice, speaking on behalf of the Cameroonian delegation at the close of the meeting, said if there was anger in the course of the discussions, it was due to anxiety.

He said since there had been a lull in the activities of the commission, it was only normal that there should be anxiety at the resumption of talks. He hoped that the spirit that marked previous meetings would be maintained.

According to the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General and Chairman of the Mixed Commission, Ahmedou Ould Abdallah, Cameroon and Nigeria are naturally and historically condemned to live and work as neighbours.

"There is no alternative," he stated. Abdallah also noted that a report by a UN observer group on the recent happenings in Bakassi, which resulted in the killing of a Cameroonian military officer, would be submitted to the Heads of State of both countries, through heads of delegation to the Mixed Commission.

Meanwhile, in the corridors of the meeting venue, some Cameroonian observers noted that Nigeria is hanging on the recommendation by the ICJ for both parties to engage confidence building measures to delay their withdrawal from Bakassi, lure Cameroon into further discussions and reap as much as possible from the talks.

Referring to the rehabilitation of the Enugu-Abakiliki-Mamfe-Mutengene road, and the prospects of linking both countries by rail, some of the observers argued that Nigeria wants to break through Cameroon, now considered as a buffer, to get access into the lucrative market of the Central African Sub-region.

According to a joint communiqué issued at the end of the deliberations, members of the Mixed Commission examined and adopted the report of the 11th Sub-Commission on Demarcation as well as the report of the Observer Personnel on a field visit to the Lake Chad zone in December 2004 and February this year.

Confidence Building

Commission members also noted with satisfaction progress registered in confidence building measures, and the participation of both countries at the meeting on the rehabilitation of the Enugu-Abakiliki-Mamfe-Mutengene road.

Pleas were made to Great Britain, now heading the Presidency of the European Union, to ensure that the promised 4 million Euros come in for the Sub-Commission on Demarcation to start work. Both parties reaffirmed their adherence to the delimitation of the maritime boundary as stipulated in the October 10, 2002 ICJ ruling.

A working group to elaborate a new programme for the withdrawal of Nigerian troops from Bakassi was set up. The group is expected to submit their recommendations to heads of the two delegations before the 14th session billed for next October 13 and 14 in Abuja.

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