By Azore Opio & Francis Tim Mbom
Militant youths in the Bakassi Peninsula, Friday, July 25, declared the oil rich area independent.
According to a Nigerian newspaper, the "Sunday VANGURD", a group calling itself the Bakassi Movement for Self-Determination, BAMOSD, said it had joined forces with the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, in carrying out the secession.
A week earlier, Southern Cameroons Peoples Organisation SCAPO, together with the indigenes of Bakassi Peninsula had threatened secession.The "Sunday VANGUARD" reported that BAMOSD dispatched an e-mail signed by one Sive Ogan to its correspondent in Port Harcourt and "said the decision to secede was taken at a meeting held in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State on July 2, 2006.
The e-mail titled the "Die is Cast," says the "new country's" capital is Akwa in the peninsula.
The "Sunday VANGUARD" also reported that the group stated that it had deployed its members in the creeks and was ready to do battle with any government that opposes its action.
The group warned the Nigerian government not to send its troops to attack the members "because such action would spell dire consequences both for the soldiers and the government."
The e-mail reads thus: "Now that the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. Kofi Annan, has sealed the deal made between the Presidents of Nigeria, Cameroon and the companies exploring oil over the blood of the Bakassi people, the die is cast. Therefore, BAMOSD now declares as follows:
That with the withdrawal of Nigerian troops from the Bakassi Peninsula, which takes away our last line of defence as Nigerian citizens and exposes our people to perpetual and permanent bondage of exploitation, under-development and death, which characterised life in the larger Niger Delta and the Gulf of Guinea over the last 50 years of multi-national oil companies occupation with the connivance of Nigerian leaders, we are left with no other option than to defend our land and people by any means necessary.
"That our peaceful, social economic, historical and ancestral ties with the rest of the people of the Niger Delta leave us not only with no other frontier, but with no other option than to join forces with the valiant and heroic freedom fighters of the Niger Delta.
"That BAMOSD by this declaration is subsuming all its activities on the Bakassi Peninsula into the larger war of liberation of the Nigeria Delta, under the joint leadership of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, and other joints commands for the protection, defence and security of its people and resources.
Other forces or operators found within the territorial waters of Bakassi shall be considered enemy forces and dealt with accordingly."As we speak, half of our soldiers from all parts of Niger Delta are in the creeks awaiting the dooms day. Nigeria handing over Bakassi to Cameroon means that Nigeria has no right to confront our soldiers, so we are calling for Nigerian government to stay clear and allow us face our battle, because any attempt to clamp on any of our soldiers means confrontation and we shall react likewise.
We also want to inform the world that henceforth, Bakassi has become an independent state and shall control its resources. To this effect, all operators, Nigerian or foreign, exploring or exploiting resources on the Bakassi Peninsula that has not consulted with the appropriate authorities should leave the territory immediately. We emphasise again; leave our waters immediately. Do not say you were not warned. There will be no further warnings…"
The same tabloid also reported that only last weekend, SCAPO had
threatened to pull Bakassi out of Nigeria and with Southern Cameroons
create Ambazonia Republic if the Federal Government fulfilled its
promise of handing over the peninsula to Cameroon.
According to "VANGUARD", SCAPO conveyed its message in separate letters to President Olusegun Obasanjo, his Cameroonian counterpart, Paul Biya and UN scribe, Mr. Kofi Annan.
These threats of secession and the declaration of the independence of Bakassi comes in the wake of Nigerian President, Musa Yar'Adua's, stated commitment to respect the August 14 final handing over of the peninsula to Cameroon.
According to the Nigerian tabloid, Yar'Adua is said to have been
speaking in Abuja during a reception accorded to Cameroon's Minister of
External Relations, H E Henri Eyebe Ayissi.
Yar'Adua is reported to have pledged Nigeria's commitment to ensure that the terms of the Green Tree Agreement of 2006 are respected to the letter, now and even after August 14.
"As major stakeholders in the area, we have a joint responsibility to ensure that we take a leading role in the establishment of structures and a force to safeguard our people and resources towards a collective security of the Gulf of Guinea," Yar'Adua is quoted to have said.
"We must work closely together at the Mixed Commission on agreements
that need to be signed and implemented in the aftermath of the August
14 handover," Yar'Adua added.
Minister Eyebe is reported to have borne a special message from the Cameroonian President, Paul Biya, to Yar'Adua, on Monday, July 28, following the recent Niger Delta rebel attacks in the Bakassi area.
Last July 24 attacks are said to be a line of calculated moves by the rebels to puncture the planned complete handover scheduled for August 14."This Day", still in its report insinuates that there may be other attacks in the offing.
"This Day gathered that the militants are planning another invasion of
key areas of the Peninsula and are already on the high seas with 11
boats in preparation for the attack."
The paper goes on to report that the Rebels are acting under the blessings of the Niger Delta militants
Meantime, there are reports of an upsurge of frightened Nigerians in Bakassi who have since been fleeing the area. They are said to be escaping to Ikang and other areas in Nigeria.
Earlier last December, an editorial in "This Day" had described the row in the Senate over the status of Bakassi as hypocritical.According to the editorial, it would seem that the decision to cede the territory was a unilateral one.
The editorial reported that from what a few members of the Senate were saying then, former President Olusegun Obasanjo acted without the approval of the Senate as required by section 12 of the constitution.
According to the editorial, that section of the constitution stipulates
that "no treaty between the Federation and any other country shall have
the force of law except to the extent to which any such treaty has been
enacted into law by the National Assembly."
It seems then, that the provision was not followed in ceding Bakassi to Cameroon, hence the threat of secession.