YAOUNDE Cameroon and Nigeria agreed late on Friday to jointly exploit any oil and other cross-border reserves found in the Bakassi peninsula, with Nigeria proposing Chinese-owned explorer Addax Petroleum to handle the work.
The decision was reached at a meeting of a joint commission of the two countries set up by the United Nations to implement a a 2002 ruling that the Bakassi region belongs to Cameroon.
"We are calling on the two parties to embark bilaterally, to jointly exploit such resources and share the profits," said commission chairman Said Djinnit, special representative of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in West Africa.
Oil finds in Nigeria and elsewhere in the Gulf of Guinea have sparked interest in the potential of the Bakassi region, although exploration has been held back by insecurity include pirate attacks by rebels. No clear estimate of reserves exists.
Delegates from both countries backed the decision.
"We think it will be cheaper, better and faster for Cameroon and Nigeria to set up one or several joint ventures to exploit these cross-border hydrocarbon and biotic resources for the mutual benefit of our people," said the head of the Nigerian delegation, Prince Bola Ajibola.
"And we are suggesting that this should be done as quickly as possible, and why not this year? To this end I will not hesitate to suggest that Addax, which is operating both in Nigeria and Cameroon, should be entrusted with this exercise."
Swiss oil explorer Addax Petroleum Corp was acquired by China's Sinopec for $7.2 billion in a 2009 move that gave it access to high-potential oil blocks in West Africa and Iraq.
The head of the Cameroon delegation Ahmadou Ali urged both countries to beef up security in the area, which has seen a spate of hostage-takings and ransom demands by by rebels who want compensation for Nigerians forced to leave the peninsula.