From: Mohammed Bashir, Reuters
Published November 3, 2004 12:00 AM

Nigerian Court Throws Out Case Challenging Troop Withdrawal from Disputed Peninsula

ABUJA, Nigeria — A court in Nigeria's capital on Tuesday threw out a bid by political and ethnic leaders to prevent a disputed territory in oil-rich waters from being handed over to Cameroon.


The traditional ruler of the 550-year-old Bakassi Kingdom, Etinyin Etim Okon Edet, and three other officials from the disputed region had demanded the government put on hold any Nigerian troop withdrawal from the Bakassi peninsula.


The leaders wanted a ruling on whether Nigeria actually has the right to give up the territory.


Federal High Court Justice Binta Murtala dismissed the case during a hearing in the capital, Abuja, on Tuesday.


The Bakassi peninsula — which juts into the oil-rich Gulf of Guinea and straddles fish-rich waters — was awarded to Nigeria's neighbor Cameroon under a 2002 ruling by the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands.


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Nigeria has officially agreed to withdraw its troops but missed a Sept. 15 deadline to withdraw from the area it has occupied since colonial times. Although Nigeria has repeatedly said it will withdraw, it has given no clear explanation for the delay.


Murtala said his court did not have the power "to deploy or withdraw the armed forces."


He said Nigeria was "duty-bound" to ensure the safety and welfare of Bakassi's residents.


The plaintiffs are due to return to court Nov. 17 to challenge the validity of the world court ruling.


A U.N.-backed committee has referred the matter to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan for arbitration, in consultation with the presidents of Cameroon and Nigeria.


Source: Reuters


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