The UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel, UNOWAS, has commended Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, for his handling of the recent conflict in Bakassi Peninsula, which affected Nigerian fishermen.
Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for West Africa and Head of UNOWAS, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, spoke with the correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria in New York.
Chambas regretted the maltreatment and killings of about 97 Nigerians in the Peninsula by Cameroonian Gendarmes over failure to pay a N100,000 boat levy.
He said: “But let me commend the initiative of the Acting President of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, who has already directed that the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, find out what numbers have come across the border to Nigeria.
“He also asked the State Emergency Management Agency, SEMA, at the Cross River State level to look into what numbers are being displaced from Nigeria as a result of this.”
“Do they need help? If they do, that authority should also ascertain the numbers involved and provide the necessary support these newly displaced persons may need.
“So, I think adequate response has been undertaken by the Nigerian side to cater for any Nigerians who might have come back into the country from Bakassi. We commend that effort on the part of the Nigerian authorities,” the UN envoy said.
According to him, the conflict is of extreme interest to UNOWAS, especially with its involvement of the Joint Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed Commission, CNMC.
“As I speak to you now, a team from my office has left Abuja where they have been consulting with officials particularly, the Ministry of Justice, Attorney-General’s office.
“They have continued to Cameroon, they were in Yaoundé last week, so we would look into this and other concerns.
“For now, the information we have is that the issue had to do with an imposition of a new fishing tax in communities
“This may have generated some friction between the different fishermen, including Nigerian fishermen and tax officials.
“So just to say that this really was not related directly to the border demarcation issues but have more to do with a new tax that has been imposed by the Cameroonian authority.”
Mr. Chambas described the relations between Nigeria and Cameroon as cordial, particularly in the fight against Boko Haram and appealed that the trend be sustained.
“The relations between the two countries remain very good and we commend that and also we encourage their continuing collaboration on a bigger-ticket item – the fighting Boko Haram.
“We urge them to maintain this solidarity that they have with each other and to scale up the fight against Boko Haram, which is wounded but not dead yet,” he said.
Chambas had briefed the UN Security Council on Friday, noting that five field workers of the CNMC were killed in January in attack by unidentified armed elements near Kuncha, a region believed to be unaffected by the Boko Haram threat.
“While investigation into the matter is ongoing, the UN is working closely with the authorities of Cameroon and Nigeria to strengthen the security protocol for the resumption of border pillar construction in the area.”
Reports on the recent conflict stated that the attackers sacked mainly Nigerians from Akwa Ibom, Cross River and Ondo States, believed to be a violation of the 2005 Green Tree Agreement (GTA) by CNMC.
The GTA stipulated that the Bakassi returnees must be properly resettled to their natural habitat to have a meaningful living while Nigerians who choose to remain in Cameroon could do so without any molestation.