Nigeria pulls troops from Bakassi before handover

Nigeria has pulled thousands of troops out of the Bakassi peninsula ahead of a Monday deadline for a complete withdrawal, but many residents said they will resist a handover to Cameroon.

The International Court of Justice ruled in 2002 that Nigeria should turn over Bakassi, which has offshore oil deposits and is rich in fisheries, to its eastern neighbour after a decades-long dispute that nearly brought the two to war in 1981.

But many residents of the three islands that make up the peninsula have vowed to resist the handover. Last week a group of youths foisted blue-and-white flags across the region and proclaimed the secession of a “Democratic Republic of Bakassi”.

Nigerian soldiers had removed most of the flags when they took the media to witness their withdrawal on Friday, but discontent was widespread.

“This is our ancestral land and we will all die protecting it rather than allow the Cameroonians take over the place,” said Godfrey Usoh, a petty trader at Boro Camp, as the last batch of Nigerian soldiers boarded their boat back to the mainland.

Nigeria says up to 300 000 people live in Bakassi, but the United Nations has said the population varies from 25 000 to 250 000 depending on the season, as fisherman flock there at certain times of the year.—Reuters

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