Nigeria, Cameroon Plan Joint Oil Exploration in Bakassi

14 Mar 2011

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Prince Bola Ajibola, Former Justice Minister

Nigeria and Cameroon have agreed to jointly exploit oil and other cross-border reserves found in the Bakassi Peninsula.

Canadian exploration company, Addax Petroleum, which has investments in Nigeria and Cameroon’s oil and gas sectors, is a possible candidate for the joint exploration of cross border oil wells, according to Dow Jones Newswires.

The decision to jointly commence oil exploration in the area was reached late Friday at a meeting of a joint commission of the two countries set up by the United Nations to implement a 2002 ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that the Bakassi region belongs to Cameroon.

Chief negotiators from both Nigeria and Cameroon confirmed at the meeting that they had initiated talks to jointly explore oil fields around Cameroon's Bakassi Peninsula.

Former Attorney General of the Federation and chief Nigerian negotiator, Prince Bola Ajibola, told Dow Jones Newswires that "exploration of the oil wells would start this year".

“This time around, there's been cooperation and good understanding between our two countries to come together and jointly exploit the hydrocarbon  deposits that we've on our common borders.

“The exploited hydrocarbons  will be for the mutual benefits of both countries (Cameroon and Nigeria). We think exploration will be faster, cheaper and easier when both of us have one company to do the operations," Ajibola said.

A Cameroonian official familiar with the negotiations also told the newswire that Addax Petroleum might likely do the cross border oil drilling for the two countries because the company knows the territory very well.

Commenting on the deal, Cameroon's chief negotiator and the country's Vice-Premier Ali Ahmadou, said: "Work is complete on our maritime demarcation, but this is not the case with exploitation of the oil wells crossing the borders. This is an important issue which we've to pursue and reach a level of agreement for joint exploitation of the oil reserves by our two countries."

The dispute over ownership of the Bakassi Peninsula lasted for 15 years until 2002 when the  ICJ held that the oil-rich territory be handed over to Cameroon. The mixed commission is implementing the ICJ ruling. In line with the decision, Nigeria ceded the Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon.

The handover ceremony in Calabar, marked by ceremonial flag swapping, ended a territorial dispute that almost triggered war in the past. Bakassi is a 1,600 km border area that juts into the Gulf of Guinea. The majority of the people living in the peninsula were Nigerian fishermen and their families.

The ICJ had ruled that Nigeria should relinquish control following the border dispute between the countries. Although the handover was painful, Nigeria was bound by international commitments to keep its promise to hand back the peninsula in the name of peace. However, legal fighting and political disputes had delayed the process.

UN Chief Ban Ki-moon had described the transfer as a triumph for the rule of law.

"Beginning with the withdrawal of Nigerian troops from Bakassi two years ago and culminating in this ceremony, the case of the Bakassi Peninsula has proven the viability of a peaceful and legal settlement of border disputes when it is done with the full support of the international community and in a spirit of mutual respect, good neighborliness and cooperation," The UN chief had said.

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