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Interview: “It’s Not Yet Time To Return To Lake Nyos”

Emvoutou Bita Benoit William, Senior Divisional Officer for Menchum, talks on the security and topographical challenges of his division; warning that is not yet time to settle around Lake Nyos.

What is the security situation in Wum after a soldier on January 24, 2016, stabbed a commercial motor bike rider to death, resulting in the burning of the army barracks by some people?

Calm has since returned to the town and the burial of the victim has already taken place. We must recognise that what happened was a criminal act. Judicial authorities are following up the matter.

What of army reinforcements that were drafted in from Nkambe and Bamenda? Are they still around?

The reinforcements were around for just a week and returned. Security in Wum is now maintained by local forces.

Is the public cooperating with investigations into the incident?

We are in a state of law. Our security forces are doing their job with the collaboration of the public.

What has become of Lance Caporal Akame Nkoo Pierre Gaeton who reportedly stabbed Ngong Leonard Mih to death? Some reports say his whereabouts are not known.

The said soldier is now in the hands of judicial authorities in Bamenda for justice to take its course.

Concerning the August 21, 1986 Lake Nyos gas disaster, some people are already returning to the villages from which they were moved as a result of the natural catastrophe. What is the position of government?

People are not allowed to return to these communities yet until the demarcation of the risk zone around Lake Nyos is concluded. For now, nobody is allowed to settle in the communities that were affected by the disaster.

But some people are already coming back to stay. What is government doing about this?

We cannot arrest them. For now, we are only sensitizing them. If anything happens to them, they will take personal responsibility.

There is also talk of rehabilitating the disaster zone before survivors return. What does this entail?

Rehabilitation involves several aspects. First, the lake has to be secured through degassing and certain facilities constructed to make it safe. Moreover, the zone needs to be demarcated with an area set aside within which people are not allowed to settle. The process of demarcation is still going on. It is only after this that the State can help in constructing some amenities for the people to return to their ancestral homes.

How big is the radius of the area being demarcated from the lake?

For the moment I can’t say. It is for specialists from the Institute of Geological and Mining Research, IRGM, to determine.

Are there any plans to do something about the deplorable state of the portion of the Ring Road from Lake Nyos to Wum?

The Ring Road is the responsibility of the Minister of Public Works. However, government is doing everything to improve the living conditions of the people in Menchum Division. The division has some particularities that are not easy to tackle, but the State is doing its best.

There are so many hills, the state of roads is poor, and there is the Lake Nyos degassing project going on. Moreover, the topography of the division is not easy to manage. I appeal to the people to get more involved in their own development. I will like to see councils lead development efforts and young people engage in more agricultural activities.  

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