Cameroon soldiers has started cracking down on Nigerians in the Bakassi peninsula suspected of tax evasion.
The oil rich peninsular was ceded to Cameroon on August 2013 even as Nigerians were said to be higher in population there. Most of the Nigerians there are recounting their woes since Cameroon gained total control of the area.
“We don’t understand Cameroon’s tax laws,” a provisions store owner, Stanley Obi, told the Hausa service of the Voice of America (VOA), adding that he has seen an array of people seeking payments.
“At times, you see the council come to collect theirs. After, the tax officers will come, police will come; we are just confused with the whole system,” Obi said.
Obi also said a curfew was imposed on the peninsula last week following disputes between businessmen and groups of tax collectors.
Fresh fish retailer, Na Eric, said that ever since Cameroon gained sovereignty over the peninsula, Nigerians in Bakassi have frequently been harassed by Cameroonian soldiers.
“It is a means of killing our businesses,” he said.
The governor of the southwest region in which Bakassi is located, Bernard Okalia Bilai, confirmed that his administration had imposed a night curfew in the area, saying the decision is to halt people coming from Nigeria’s Cross River State following a meeting held at which peninsula residents complained that others were disrespecting maritime borders, attacking the locals and refusing to pay taxes.
“Nigerians must understand that Bakassi is now a Cameroonian territory and whoever lives there must submit to all national rules and regulations, including paying taxes,” the governor said.
Tax payments in the region was temporary suspended after the international Court of Justice (ICJ). But at mid August 2013, residents had to start paying their tax share. Mr. Bernard Okalia, accused Nigerians of disrespecting the ICJ ruling’s term by refusing to pay taxes.
In 2002, the ICJ ruling had awarded control of the disputed Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon, and Nigeria eventually decided not to appeal the ruling, sparking protests from many Bakassi residents. And other Nigerians.
In 2008, the ICJ gave Nigeria five years to transition and cede control. As of August 2013, Nigerians – who constitute 90 percent of the peninsula’s population – had to obtain residence permits and be treated as foreign nationals.
Those who decided to become Cameroonians had to acquire national identity cards and respect Cameroon laws
The United Nations-backed Green Tree Agreement of 2006 set terms of the handover and one of the articles states that there shall be no indiscriminate collection of taxes within the Bakassi peninsula.