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Nigeria yesterday agreed to hand over the oil-rich Bakassi peninsula to Cameroon in a deal brokered by the United Nations (UN) to resolve a tense dispute.

UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan hosted the talks in New York, United States the third high-level meeting since The Hague upheld Cameroonian ownership in 2002.

Thousands of Nigerians and a sizeable military force remain in Bakassi. The territorial dispute sparked military clashes between the two neighbours during the 1990s.

The deal was reached by President Olusegun Obasanjo and his Cameroonian counterpart, Paul Biya.

Daily Champion recalls that the dispute between Cameroon and Nigeria over the ownership of the peninsula in the Gulf of Guinea almost brought the two countries to war in 1981.

The International Court of Justice in The Hague in the Netherlands ruled in 2002 that Bakassi belonged to Cameroon.

Nigeria was due to hand over the peninsula in September 2004 but failed to do so, citing "technical difficulties." Annan has been pushing the two sides to implement the ruling since 2002.

Ahead of the ruling, Nigeria and Cameroon had agreed to abide by the court's judgment. After losing, however, Nigeria rejected the ruling and accused the court's European judges of colonial-era bias.
The World Court gave ownership of Bakassi to Cameroon based largely on a 1913 treaty between former colonial powers Britain and Germany.

Bakassi had been variously under German, British and French rule until Cameroon and Nigeria won independence in 1960.

The handover has been opposed by some Bakassi leaders and Nigerian lawmakers who say the peninsula is home to 300,000 people who do not want to become Cameroonians. Nigeria still maintains a strong military presence in Bakassi.

United Nations officials say the number can vary from 25,000 to 250,000 as fishermen flock to the peninsula's rich waters at certain times of the year. It also says Cameroonians who fled the area when Nigeria moved in are keen to return. Credit: Daily Champion


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