Nigerians Flee Bakassi as Cameroon Attacks

Over 300 Nigerians, mostly fishermen, have arrived the Ekpri-Ikang retu-rnees’ camp following continued harassment by the Cameroon gendarmes in the Bakassi Peninsula.
The new arrivals have raised the number of Nigerians who fled the peninsula and are now putting up at the returnees’ camp to over 700 persons in the last two weeks.
The Green Tree Agreement, under which Nigeria ceded the disputed area to Cameroon following an International Court of Justice (ICJ) judgment in favour of the Central African country, protects the rights of Nigerians living in the territory.
Article 3 of the agreement states: “Cameroon, after the transfer of authority to it by Nigeria, guarantees to Nigerian nationals living in the Bakassi Peninsula the exercise of the fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined in international human rights law and in other relevant provisions of international law.
“In particular, Cameroon shall: (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 right 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 or harm.”
Most of the displaced persons returned to Nigeria in a hurry and came with virtually no property as they were said to have merely smuggled out of the Creeks.
The returnees, who came with their wives and children, said owing to the “unwarranted harassment and brutal approach” to Nigerians, they took “a very serious risk” running away from the peninsula.
According to them, in order to leave the peninsula surreptitiously they used hand dug canoes and rafters to escape at sea under very perilous situations.
They vowed that even though they are professional fishermen who have lived all their lives at sea, they will never return to the peninsula unless the Nigerian government finds a way of pressurising the Cameroonian government to respect the Green Tree Agreement.
Addressing the returnees at the camp, the Director-General, Cross River State Emergency Management Agency, (SEMA), Mr. Vincent Aquah, urged them to abide by the camp rules which included restriction of movement within the camp and living harmoniously among themselves.
Aquah said government has spent a lot of resources to provide all the necessary facilities at the camp for their comfort and should therefore be prudent in the usage.
The director-general commended the state commissioner of police who, through the divisional police officer for Bakassi alongside other security operatives, has been giving adequate security to the returnees at the camp.
In his remarks, the President of the National Union of Nigerians in Cameroon, Chief Andrew Essien, said that formal report about the camp situation and the wellbeing of the returnees has been communicated to the Nigerian Ambassador in Cameroon.
The president, who was represented by the Secretary-General of the Union, Prince Aston Ovung, expressed appreciation to the governor, Senator Liyel Imoke for his efforts at giving the displaced persons succour.
Bakassi’s sovereignty was finally transferred to Cameroon by Nigeria on 14 August 2008 following the signing of the Green Tree Agreement on June 12, 2006 in New York, United States.
Although the Nigerian senate rejected the agreement the following year because it was not presented to the National Assembly for ratification as stipulated in the constitution, the federal government still went ahead to consummate the treaty.