Muhammad Bello and Adebiyi Adedapo
The Federal Government Thursday constituted a committee to resettle Nigerians displaced from the oil-rich Bakassi Peninsula, which Nigeria ceded to Cameroun following the 2002 judgment of the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
It also demanded an end to the maltreatment of Nigerians living in the peninsula as a way of reducing the tension generated by the handing over of Bakassi.
The Acting Governor of Cross River State, Mr. Effiok Essien Cobham, heads the committee, which was set up at a meeting Vice-President Namadi Sambo held with stakeholders in Abuja.
The committee, which has about three months to submit its report, is charged with the responsibility of looking into all the critical needs for the resettlement process.
Cobham told State House reporters that the vice-president charged the committee to take a holistic view of the problems.
He said: "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 quite many, with me as a chairman.
“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."
A former presidential adviser, Senator Florence Ita-Giwa, who was at the meeting, lauded the initiative of the Federal Government.
“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.
“I am very, very happy that, in fact a very positive pronouncement and a committee have been put in place which if these matters are addressed will bring succour to the people of Bakassi,” she said.
Others at the meeting included the Inspector General of Police (IG), Mohammed Abubakar; National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd), and Director General of the National Boundary Commission, Dr. Muhammad Ahmad.
At another forum yesterday, the Federal Government urged Cameroun to investigate allegations of maltreatment of Nigerians living in the Bakassi Peninsula.
It told Cameroun to investigate cases of maltreatment of its citizens in the peninsula so that they could live without fear of molestation.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the 30th session of the Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed-Commission (CNMC) in Abuja, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister for Justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke (SAN), said Nigeria was concerned about the maltreatment of its citizens in Cameroun.
“The effect of these allegations and the political pressure they engender cannot be overemphasised 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 rights 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 hands of government in its resolve to faithfully implement the ICJ judgment," he added.
Adoke also expressed the determination of the Federal Government to continue to do all it could to protect the rights of Nigerians living in the peninsula and where possible, facilitate the resettlement of those ready to return to Nigeria.
The minister also stressed the need to expedite action on assistance to the affected population, which is being promoted by the CNMC and country teams of the United Nations in Nigeria and Cameroun.
He called upon experts involved in the assessment of disagreement, in-accessed and skipped areas, mapping of the boundary corridor and the determination of the tripartite point of the maritime boundary between Nigeria, Cameroun and Equatorial Guinea to rededicate themselves to the conclusion of the exercise within the stipulated period.
However, the leader of the Camerounian delegation, Amadu Ali, denied allegations of maltreatment of Nigerians in Bakassi Peninsula.
He said the allegations of harassment and maltreatment were aimed at foiling the peaceful implementation of the ICJ's judgment.
He explained that a tripartite report of observer groups revealed that there was general peace and tranquillity in the zone.
"The Camerounian government seizes this opportunity to reaffirm through my voice, that it is keeping a close eye and continues to oversee the respect of all its commitment taken within the framework of the Green Tree Agreement, especially as regards the right of Nigerian population living in the zone," he said.
Chairman of the mixed commission and Special Representative of the UN Secretary General, Said Djinnit, who reiterated UN's successful completion of the commission's mandate, said the process was successful because it focused on relevant factual evidence.
He also saluted the Nigerian government for the courage to honour the ICJ's judgment.
"I wish to put on record my deep appreciation and gratitude to President Goodluck Jonathan and his government and his attorney-general for their courage and wisdom despite political pressure. I will like to reiterate that the United Nations and its Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, remain deeply committed to the process until its successful completion,” he said.