As circumstances surrounding the alleged killing by Cameroon security forces of some 97 Nigerians in Bakassi continue to filter in from the incident which took place last Wednesday and Thursday, the Nigerian government is considering straining diplomatic relations with Cameroon over the matter.
The West African giant is very furious at the inhumane treatment meted out on its citizens by Cameroonian forces. While Nigeria’s lower House of Assembly launched investigations into the matter, the country’s top diplomat, the Foreign Affairs Minister and Interior Minister were announced for a trip to Yaoundé in the days ahead to get explanations from the Cameroon Gov’t on the death of their nationals. In the meantime, Cameroon’s High Commissioner to Abuja, The Cameroon Journal gathered, was summoned by the country’s Foreign Ministry for explanation.
The Nigerian government has expressed deep concerns about the situation and said categorically that, “the attack breaches the Greentree Accord.” According to a local journalist, Frank Idinma, who spoke to the BBC, the incident occurred after the Nigerians refused to pay fishing taxes imposed on them by Cameroonian authorities. The taxes amount to about 300 USD, the Cameroon Journal learned.
Before the escalation of the crisis, the Nigerians were given one week to meet the conditions or pay huge fines. Some of the victims testified also that when they are out in the waters fishing, the Gendarmes attack their women and
children at home and have in some cases, sent them out of their houses because they failed to pay the taxes.
Moreover, “Nigerians living in Bakassi have been forced to sign Cameroonian citizenship,” a thing they would not want to do, the journalist said, and because of this they “have been fleeing from Bakassi to Calabar, capital of Cross River State,” Idinma said.
Nigeria ceded Bakassi to Cameroon in 2008 following the Greentree Accord signed two years before by Presidents Paul Biya and Olusegun Obasanjo, then President of Nigeria. According to the accord, Nigerians living in the Peninsular were to be exempted from all form of taxes till 2018 and were not obliged to change nationalities.
The present incident caught the attention of the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative to West and Central Africa, Muhammed Ibn Chambers. He has asked authorities in Cross River State to provide assistance to those fleeing Bakassi. He called on the two countries to exercise restraint and advised them not to allow the present incident cause them to lose sight of the greater challenge in the North, Boko Haram terrorism.