The displaced people of Bakassi Local Government Area of Cross River State are demanding from the Presidential Commitee on the Plight of Bakassi a resettlement at Dayspring Island as a compensation for the loss of their ancestral home to the Republic of Cameroon.
The Bakassi Returnees bared their minds at a people’s centered interactive forum in Calabar, Cross River State, to profer lasting solutions to their plights which has lingered for over 10 years.
In 2002, the International Court of Justice had in its ruling, ordered that Bakassi Peninsula be taken over by Republic of Cameroon.
Over ten years down Memory lane, the Jonathan-led administration has instituted a committee, led by the Acting Governor of Cross River State, Efiok Cobham, alongside other members to look into their plight and report back by the end of February.
The leaders and members of the community are now requesting for a permanent home, well developed with infrastructures where they would have no political, cultural, social or economic dispute.
As the Presidential Committee sets to begin its work, the displaced Bakassi returnees are hopeful that justice will be meted on them.
A former judge of the International Court of Justice, Bola Ajibola has advocated the need for states and countries to embrace the option of arbitration in resolving all forms of disputes both local and international.
Mr Ajibola, who made this call in Abuja while delivering the 2012 fellows lecture of the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies titled ‘World peace through arbitration’, said arbitration in resolving disputes is far cheaper than litigations and promotes peaceful settlement of disputes.
He said the establishment of the International Court of Justice and the Permanent Court of Arbitration has been largely responsible for global peace after two world wars.
“If we took notice of the fact that we have not had a third World War, I will say that arbitration has a place of pride to take in the whole exercise,” Mr Ajibola said.
The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Aloma Mariam Mukhtar used the occasion to stress the need for legal practitioners to update their knowledge of law while the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke advised the fellows of the Institute to see their conferment as a call to service.
Director General of the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, Epiphany Azinge explained the essence of the annual lecture and conferment of the Institute’s honorary fellowship.
The event came to a climax with the conferment of the Institute’s fellowship on six eminent personalities among whom are retired Justice Muhammed Mahmud, the Deputy governor of Delta State, Amos Utuama and retired Justice Olufunke Adekeye.
Others include Justice Umaru Kalgo, Judge Abdul Koroma of the International Court of Justice and Solomon Awomolo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
President Goodluck Jonathan has set up a committee to look at the options for a review of the judgement that ceded the Bakassi peninsular to the Cameroons and how to take care of the people there.
The President’s decision which is coming a few days to the expiration of the appeal period on the case is following a long drawn-out meeting the president held with the leadership of the National Assembly over the matter in the presidential villa.
The meeting which lasted for about three and half hours had in attendance the Vice President Namadi Sambo, the Senate President David Mark, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, and other key principal officers of the National Assembly, the Attorney General of the Federation, the governors of Cross River and Akwa Ibom, Secretary to the Government of the Federation as well as some select groups from Bakassi.
Prince Bola Ajibola who was also in attendance spoke to Channels Television after the meeting said by virtue of convening meeting, the Federal Government has shown a candid concern for its people in Bakassi and that according to him, it is the most important thing for now.
He commended the move to follow the rule of law, dialogue and diplomacy in ensuring that the people are not wrongly dealt with.
He expressed optimism that the committee set up will handle it in a record time.
Liyel Imoke the Cross River state governor said that the president has shown great leadership quality by convening the meeting and standing firm on some of the decisions taken.
On his part, the Senate President; David Mark said that the Executive and the law makers are on the same frequency on the Bakassi issue and will work in the same direction to achieve results.
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has expressed concerns that documents on which the federal government reached the decision not to appeal the Green Tree Agreement on Bakassi was not made public.
Stating that it will never support litigation without good reasons, the President of the NBA, Mr Okechukwu Wali is of the opinion that organizations like the NBA should have been carried along in the committee as the apex body for legal minds in the country.
He claimed the bar is unable to tell the kind of documents which according to the federal government showed that there were no new evidence to appeal the case with the International Court of Justice.
The NBA president also added that the association will monitor the spending of the N17 billion relief money provided by the federal government in a bid to keep managers of the fund accountable and also prevent bureaucratic bottle necks.
The NBA also condemned the killing of Nigerian students in Mubi and Aluu communities saying that its shows a total failure of the nation’s security system.
Mr Wali also joined the calls for the creation of state police, saying the need to seriously consider the creation of state police is now, adding that the state police will drastically reduce the rising crime rate in the country.
It urged government at the various levels to ensure that the criminals are brought to book.
The National Assembly has always been rejecting the move by the Executive on the ceding of the Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon since 2006 as attempts have been made by the Federal Government to comply with section 12 of the Nigeria constitution, this is the saying of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria; Femi Falana who was a guest on our breakfast show Sunrise daily while discussing the Bakassi Peninsula matter.
He said the handing over of the Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon was the height of ‘Executive Lawlessness’ and it is not tolerated by the Nigeria constitution.
The legal practitioner quoted section 12 of the constitution in furtherance saying ‘No treaty signed between Nigeria and another country can come into force without an enactment into law by the National Assembly’.
Recalling the Bakassi Peninsula matter, since the administration of former President , Olusegun Obasanjo when the handing over was done then through the reign of deceased President Shehu Musa Yaradua, the National Assembly has stood their grounds in rejecting the treaty and according Mr. Falana ‘As far as the international law is concerned or the constitution of Nigeria is concerned, it is the end of the matter’.
‘Anything predicated on, a treaty rejected by the National Assembly becomes an illegality’ Falana said.
With just a few days left to the expiration of time Nigeria has to seek a review on the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling which ceded Bakassi Pennisula to Cameroon, the Nigerian Senate has released some facts that were allegedly not tendered at the ICJ whilst the case lasted. The upper legislative arm is now compelling the executive to seek the review before the expiration on the 10th of October, 2012.
This was the view of the Chairman, Senate Committee on Rules and Business; Senator Ita Enang, who was interviewed from our Abuja studio on Sunrise Daily on Friday. He claimed that with the new facts emerging on the ownership of Bakassi Peninsula, the executive arm of government must be spurred to appeal the judgement.
According to the Senator, there are fresh facts which were not made available to the court at that time the judgement was passed.
He also argued that the judgement and the handing-over of Bakassi is imperfect because the Senate has not been ratified by the Green Tree Treaty that was agreed on by the leaders of the two countries in 2005, as dictated by the 1999 Constitution.
The Senator added that the terms of the Green Tree implementation has been severally violated by the Cameroonian authorities and that the supervising parties also did not do what is expected because the interest of the people of the Bakassi Peninsula was not sought.
The Senate on Wednesday appealed to the Presidency to invoke Article 61 of the International Court of Justice statute to appeal against the judgment ceding Bakassi to Cameroon. The Senate’s appeal followed a debate on a motion titled, “The Judgment of the ICJ on the International Boundaries between Nigeria and Cameroon including Bakassi.”
Leading the debate on the motion, Abdul Ningi (PDP-Bauchi), who sponsored it along with 18 other senators, noted that the deadline for appealing against the ICJ judgment would expire on October 9.
The judgment was given in 2002 and Nigeria had a 10 year period within which to appeal the verdict or lose Bakassi to Cameroon forever.
Mr Ningi noted that the judgment was erroneously based on an agreement between the British and Calabar chiefs in 1884.
He said that there had never been a precedent in history where a case of this nature was executed without a referendum as enshrined in the UN rules.
“We are disturbed by the lack of faithful implementation of the Green Tree Agreement signed by both the Cameroon and Nigerian governments, thereby vitiating the basis of the implementation of the court’s judgment.
“Articles 3(1) and 2(a) of the Green Tree Agreement stipulate that after the transfer of the territory to Cameroon, the Cameroonian authorities should guarantee the Nigerian citizens in the Bakassi Peninsula the exercise of their fundamental human rights,” he said.
The Senator said the motion was premised on the fact that new facts had emerged after the ruling that were not available before the first trial coupled with the absence of a Nigerian legal representation.
The Leader of the Senate, Victor Ndoma-Egba (PDP-Cross River), said that there had been three motions in the previous Senate urging the Federal Government to tarry a while before ceding Bakassi.
Mr Ndoma-Egba expressed regret that the appeals were not heeded by the government and in spite of the protest by the people of Cross River; the government went ahead to hand Bakassi over to Cameroon.
“Bakassi was ceded in spite of the protest by Cross River State. Bakassi was ceded when Cross River had no governor because the election of Liyel Imoke had been annulled.
“There was an acting governor in place. The ceding of Bakassi will go down in history as the fastest compliance with the judgment of the International Court of Justice,” he said.
Mr Ndoma-Egba said the least that the people of Cross River demanded was compensation if they could not be put back to where they were before Bakassi was ceded.
Contributing to the debate, Enyinnaya Abaribe (PDP-Abia) wondered which country in the world would willingly give away its own property.
Mr Abaribe said the question of whether Bakassi was ceded because Cross River was a minority should not even arise since they were still citizens of Nigeria.
Hadi Sirika (CPC- Katsina) noted that the issue of referendum was very crucial and essential to the matter.
He called on the Senate to do all within its powers to make the Presidency to appeal against the judgement.
In his contribution, George Akume (ACN-Benue) said that the matter was brought before the National Council of State at the time by then President Olusegun Obasanjo for advice.
He said it had been a very contentious issue, adding that at the end of the debate, the resolution of the council was only advisory.
He said its members were made to understand that Nigeria was being represented by the best legal brains.
Heineken Lokpobiri (PDP-Bayelsa) noted that the motion should have come much earlier, saying Nigeria could take the second option which was to go back and reclaim Bakassi.
“There are two options, one is for us to appeal from now to October 9 and the second one is for us to go back to Bakassi and reclaim it.
“If Nigeria had not elected to appear before the court, it would not have had jurisdiction over it.
“My candid opinion is that Bakassi has not been legally ceded to Cameroon,” he said.
The Senate President, David Mark said he would on his own write a personal letter to President Goodluck Jonathan on the matter.
“Time is not on our side and so whatever decision or resolution we take should be that Bakassi should be returned to us,”” Mr Mark said.
He noted that going on appeal was the only right thing to do since Nigeria had subjected itself to the international court.
Mr Mark noted that it was the belief of every Nigerian that Bakassi should not have been ceded to Cameroon, saying that the Senate would protect all Nigerians.
The federal government has been asked to seek a review of the International Court of Justice ruling which ceded Bakassi peninsular to the republic of Cameroun.
The joint committee of the House of Representatives on Foreign affairs, Justice and Special duties brought together experts at an interactive session in a bid to help guide the position to be taken by the lawmakers on the matter.
There has been a growing call for government to revisit the International Court of Justice judgment ceding Bakassi peninsular to Cameroon.
The indigenes of the peninsular who were also at the event, told the forum that they are not impressed with the way government handled the land dispute.
They also gave accounts of their experiences in the hands of Cameroonian security forces.
Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Robert Clarke argues that the Bakassi Peninsula was territorially never in Nigeria. Clarke said this during an in an interview with our judiciary correspondent, Shola Soyele.
Clarke said “some legal practitioners who thought they could procure a false judgment led the country down the path of submitting to the jurisdiction of the World Court”.
He added that ” because 80 per cent of Bakassi citizens are Nigerians we can defend it by force. So, knowing fully well that we do not own it we should not have subscribed to going to the world court for a litigation”
The Supreme Court on Tuesday conferred on Akwa Ibom State, the ownership of the 76 oil wells along the Atlantic Ocean, ruling that Cross River State has lost its claim to being a littoral state. According to the Court, Cross River State lost the right of an oil producing state when the federal government under the leadership of former President Olusegun Obasanjo handed over portions of the Bakassi peninsula to Cameroun.
The seven justices of the court headed by Dahiru Musdapher, in their ruling, submitted that the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMFAC) was right in attributing the oil wells to Akwa Ibom at the inter-agencies meeting.
Justice Olufunlola Adekeye, who read the lead judgment, which was unanimous, dismissed the appeal by Cross River State as lacking in substance and merit, insisting that the agreement which initially gave the state rights to the 76 oil wells was upturned by the handing over of Bakassi to Cameroon.
“The facts before the court do not support the claim of the plaintiff to being a littoral state. A non-littoral state cannot claim oil wells offshore as she has no maritime territory. The plaintiff has no maritime territory since the cessation of Bakassi Peninsula and the Cross River estuary which used to be part of the state prior to August 2008. The present position of the plaintiff cannot be blamed on any government agency particularly the National Boundary Commission and the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, RMAFC.
“This court cannot because of the influx of refugees from Bakassi into Cross River State, give a legislative judgment. The government of Nigeria has a means of providing for the social needs of the people of Cross River State faced with the social problems thrust on the state due to the cessation of the Bakassi Peninsula to the Cameroun,” the court ruled.
The 76 oil wells had before the judgment of the International Court of in Justice in Hague belonged to Bakassi Local government area of Cross River state.
Bakassi was however handed over to Cameroun on the order of the International Court of Justice as the new owner of the oil rich area after its victory in a boundary legal battle with Nigeria.
However, the Supreme Court said that Akwa Ibom being a littoral state with its boundary directly touching the sea remains the only state that can lay claim and remains the rightful owner of the 76 oil wells in line with the International law.
The Cross River State government had through it counsel, Yusuf Ali, approached the Supreme Court and asked it to compel both the Federal Government and the Akwa Ibom state government to respect the sharing formula put in place by the former President Obasanjo on the 90 oil wells which had been a subject of dispute between Cross River and the Akwa Ibom state government.
Imoke flaws judgement
The Cross River State governor, Liyel Imoke has faulted to the judgement of the Supreme Court which handed over 76 oil wells to Akwa Ibom State.
Mr Imoke said: “As a wronged but law-abiding people, we had hoped for justice. We had hoped for a dispensation of justice that would restore our belief in the timeless saying by the iconic American civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Junior that “the arm of the moral universe still bends towards justice.”
He said that the judgment differed from the opinion of the people but noted that justice could only be delayed and not denied.
“We maintained our peace and dignity even in the face of what could easily have provoked unprecedented violence and reprisals. We hoped for justice from the highest court in the land. But our hope was dashed. My dear brothers and sisters, our spirit will never be broken,” he said.
Akpabio hails ruling
The Akwa Ibom State governor, Godwill Akpabio, who also spoke to journalists after the judgment, said had the apex court ceded the 76 oil wells to Cross River State, the oil well would have automatically been transferred to Cameroun.
He said: “we are happy that the Supreme Court did justice today, but we hereby extend hands of fellowship to our sister state, we have always lived amicably with one another, and we are committed towards ensuring that the relationship that had always existed between the two states is not jeopardized in any way.”