Nearly 46 years after Bakassi was gifted to Ahidjo the Cameroonian President by his Nigerian counterpart Gowon in an effort to cut off supplies to Biafra during the 1967-70 war, full sovereinty over the disputed region was assumed by Cameroon yesterday, state radio reported, five years after an agreement with Nigeria signalling the end of a bloody conflict over the land.
“The transitional period in the Cameroonian peninsula of Bakassi has come to an end,” said an announcement on the radio. Nigeria formally ceded Bakassi to Cameroon on August 14, 2008, halting 15 years of border conflict.
A UN-backed period of transition agreed by the two countries followed to allow Cameroon to develop an administrative presence in the area. The peninsula in the west of the country was formerly part of South Cameroon, itself an area of Nigeria, until inhabitants voted to join Cameroon in 1961. It has around 40,000 inhabitants, including many Nigerian expatriates.
Nigerians living in the peninsula will now have to apply for a visa or apply for Cameroonian citizenship, and Cameroonians will have to register with the tax authorities. In October 2002, the International Court of Justice ruled that Bakassi was part of Cameroon, not Nigeria.
Cameroon originally took its claim over the sovereignty of the potentially oil and gas rich peninsula to the court in 1994 The area is a prime target for Nigerian pirates due to its proximity to the unstable Niger delta region, where attacks and kidnapppings are common.
In 2009, the Cameroon government stepped up its fight against the pirates by deploying an elite army unit to Bakassi, and by later establishing five military bases there.