Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Nigeria and Cameroon agree on joint oil exploration in Bakassi region

Nigeria and Cameroon have initiated talks to jointly exploit oil overlapping borders around the Bakassi peninsula, chief mediators of both countries told Dow Jones Newswire on Friday 11th March.

The decision to begin joint oil exploration was made at a meeting of a joint commission of the two countries set up by the UN following the 2002 International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling on the Bakassi peninsula.

After years of dispute, Cameroon took Nigeria to the ICJ in 1994 over various territorial issues including that of the Bakassi region. Nigeria argued that the peninsula should be awarded to it because of its 'historical claim'. Nigeria had been administering the peninsula and most of its inhabitants were Nigerian fishermen and their families.

Despite this, the Court ruled in 2002 that the peninsula belonged to Cameroon based largely on early twentieth century Anglo-German correspondence which established that the boundary lay to the west of the peninsula.

The ruling was not easily accepted by many within Nigeria, but in 2008, they ceded the peninsula to Cameroon. A commission was established to demarcate the border between the two countries as per the ICJ ruling and it appears that good progress is being made.

Cameroon's chief negotiator, the country's Vice Premier Ali Ahmadou, said: "Work is complete on our maritime demarcation, but this is not the case with exploitation of the oil wells crossing the borders. This is an important issue which we've to pursue and reach a level of agreement for joint exploitation of the oil reserves by our two countries."

The chief Nigerian negotiator, Prince Bola Ajibola, sounded positive on the agreement reached. "This time around, there's been cooperation and good understanding between our two countries to come together and jointly exploit the hydrocarbons deposits that we've on our common borders.

The exploited hydrocarbons will be for the mutual benefits of both of us,” said Ajibola, adding "we think such exploitation will become faster, cheaper and easier when both of us have one company to do the operations."

Canadian exploration company, Addax Petroleum, has been tipped to do the cross border oil drilling. The Dow Jones Newswire quoted an unnamed Cameroonian official familiar with the negotiations as saying, "Addax Petroleum is likely to do the crossborder oil drilling for us and our brotherly nation, Nigeria. You know, Addax operates both in Cameroon and Nigeria and knows the territory very well."

Exploration is likely to start this year.

Sources: Dow Jones Newswire, Wall Street Journal, AllAfrica

For more news and expert analysis about Nigeria, please see Nigeria Focus and Nigeria Politics & Security.

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