Nigeria: Tension in Nigerian border communities after Cameroon encroachment
The dispute arising from the implementation of the judgment of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague Judgment on the border dispute between Nigeria and Cameroon leads to a state of uncertainty for the Nigerian border population .
Following the judgment of October 2010, which ceded certain Nigerian territories to Cameroon, the Secretary General of the United Nations created in November 2002, at the request of President Paul Biya of Cameroon and his Nigerian counterpart, Olusegun Obasanjo, the Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed Commission (CNMC) to execute the judgment.
The Special Representative of the Secretary General in West Africa and the Sahel chairs the body created to facilitate the execution of the judgment.
The mandate of the commission includes the demarcation of the land border and the delimitation of the maritime border between the two neighboring countries, the withdrawal of troops and the transfer of authority in the Lake Chad region and in the Bakassi peninsula, the examination of the situation of populations affected by demarcation activities as well as to make recommendations on confidence-building measures aimed at promoting peaceful coexistence and cross-border cooperation.
On August 15, 2013, the Security Council celebrated the successful implementation of the Greentree Agreement on the settlement of the Bakassi dispute and the completion of the CNMC’s mediation effort.
Recent developments in Kwaja, a border town between Nigeria and Cameroon, however, have shown that the dispute may not be over in some areas and the CNMC needs to address the situation.
Tension has risen in the villages after a contractor in charge of the border demarcation project erected border signs several kilometers inside Nigerian territory.
This led to a protest on February 14 where hundreds of angry men carrying signs that said, “Maintain the position of the ICJ, we have accepted the Thompson Marchand declaration of 1932” took to the streets demanding help. Nigerian authorities against what they called “an outside invasion”. “.
Protesters residing in border villages in Adamawa State have rejected attempts by Cameroonian authorities to take control of some villages after surveyors escorted by Cameroonian soldiers erected new border signs in Kwaja, Kinga, Jugruma , Fajawa and Girziya.
The altercation between protesting locals who halted the suspicious exercise and foreign troops nearly escalated into a bloody clash when French-speaking soldiers threatened to open fire on the adamant English-speaking civilians.
Residents said they had been in this state of uncertainty since 2016, when they became suspicious of the neighboring country’s activities along the international border.
They however attributed the problem to the fact that Cameroon took advantage of the CNMC to cross its border as well as the laxity of the Nigerian authorities to protect its border.
Some of the locals interviewed said they were shocked because Kwaja had never been part of Cameroon, adding that they preferred to be in Nigeria. They said that even some Cameroonian businessmen did not want the region to be part of Cameroon because of the low tax rate they enjoyed when doing business in Nigeria.
Community spokesperson Dr Ibrahim Kwaja told our reporter that the whole region was shocked when news leaked out that Cameroonians were marking villages as part of their territory, saying the intrusion sparked discontent in the towns and villages affected.
He said the community had written a letter to the federal government and the Cameroon/Nigeria Mixed Commission (CNMC) asking for the protection of their rights and interests, pointing out that Kwaja and the surrounding areas had been part of the northern protectorate since the merger of the Nigeria in 1914. .
“The letter is consistent with Thompson Marchand’s statement which the International Court of Justice accepts as the correct instrument defining the boundary in the Kwaja region in relation to the watershed.
“We woke up to see soldiers and contractors erecting border signs. Ideally, if you enter a community, you should tell people about your mission, but they haven’t consulted anyone. After all, they were told that Kwaja was not part of the demarcation exercise.
“You know, the merger of 1914 and 1932 Thompson Merchand set some landmarks that clearly left Kwaja to Britain and Dumo to France. Over time, Cameroon encroached on the area,” he said. he adds.
In a petition to the Attorney General of the Federation and the Minister of Justice, the community accused Cameroon of maliciously uploading some of the affected villages to the Google map as part of its territory, saying the development had implications economic disastrous for the population.
The community has indicated its determination to stick to the Thomson-Machand Declaration as the basis for the demarcation between Kwaja in Nigeria and Dumo in Cameroon, saying that the four tentative landmarks that connect the Tsikariri River to Mount Mulkia over approximately 15 kilometers served as a boundary. between Kwaja in Nigeria and Dumo in Cameroon and these landmarks are clearly visible to the community.
The petitioners referred to paragraphs 26 and 27 of the Thompson Marchand Declaration on the delimitation of the boundaries between Kwaja (Nigeria) and Dumo (Cameroon), asserting that the four provisional land marks erected by Messrs. Vereka and Pition in 1920 remained the point of reference, claiming that the ICJ judgment was based on these facts.
They noted that Nigeria’s position of considering the watershed line as the basis for boundary delimitation, which is contrary to the Thomson-Machand statement, resulted from the failure to identify the four points of provisional markers from the tip of Mount Mulikia to the point of Tsikakiri in Mabboni beyond Dumo.
They added that on February 19, 2014, the community officially notified the National Boundary Commission and all relevant authorities of the community’s willingness to help identify the four provisional landmarks that were erected in 1920 and in 2019. , when a delegation from the boundary commission visited the Kwaja community with the aim of tracing the landmarks.
“The four provisional landmarks were clearly identified, after which the commission assured the Kwaja community that not an inch of their land would be ceded to Cameroon under the ongoing demarcation exercise, as all the evidence they were looking for regarding the THOMSON-MACHAND DECLARATION has been clearly identified,” the letter read.
To ease tensions, a delegation from the United Nations, Nigeria’s National Boundaries Commission and the Cameroon-Nigeria Joint Commission visited Kwaja on March 1 to assure the people that their community was not part of the demarcation exercise.
National Border Commission representative Aliyu Ribadu regretted the development, which he described as confusing, saying the commission would investigate those responsible for installing new border signs in the area.
Gude District Chief Sali Bello said traditional rulers in the region had made efforts to get the attention of the relevant authorities to avert the crisis, stressing the need for the government to protect Nigeria’s borders.
Jingi Rufai, the former chairman of Mubi South local council, said residents were disturbed when they saw Cameroonian soldiers alongside CNMC members erecting demarcation signs in villages and felt that the area should not be part of Cameroon, but their concerns have been communicated to the authorities in Abuja.”