Nigeria: Why Bakassi Belongs to Nigeria – Experts

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Story by Vanguard

Nigerians have called on the Federal Government to assemble experts with legal, diplomatic and historical expertise to study the fresh facts that have emerged showing that International Court of Justice (ICJ) was misled into ceding the Bakassi peninsula to Cameroun when vital information that clearly placed Bakassi as a territory within the geographical, political and administrative jurisdiction and control of Nigeria, were concealed to the jurists of the World Court.

International relations experts, renowned historians, researchers and politicians told Vanguard newspaper that contrary to the claims by Cameroon and Nigerian legal teams that the first legal treaty on the Land and Maritime borders between Nigerian and Cameroon was the 1913 Anglo-German treaty, there are discoveries of fresh facts that revealed that the limits of the Land and maritime boundaries between both countries went as far back as 1811 when the British made the treaty that went from the Lake Chad region down to the Atlantic ocean through the Rio Del Rey Estuary.

The Great Fraud

1. There are evidence to show that in 1994 when a new dispute erupted between Nigeria and Cameroon, Nigeria asked the British government to attest to the true status of Bakassi Peninsula, the British government replied to assert that the Peninsula belongs to Nigeria.

2. This was when Alhaji Babagana Kingibe was Nigeria’s Minister of External Affairs but curiously that document was not tendered at the ICJ trial.

3. There are fresh evidence to show that in the March 18, 1961, plebiscite in Southern Cameroon, to determine areas that either wanted to stay in Cameroun or join Nigeria, Bakassi Penisula was not among the areas that participated in the exercise because it was given that it was not part of Cameroun. According to Southern Cameroun gazette Volume 7 number14, the areas that were asked to determine where they want to belong included Mamfe, Bamenda, Kumba, and Victoria. More importantly the people of Bakassi have voted in Nigerian elections and the Nigerian Customs has been in control of the territorial waters since 1811.

4. The 1913 Anglo-German treaty which Cameroon rested its claim was not signed by both countries before the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.

5. Germany renounced all its territorial claims at the end of the war in 1919 and all the former territories controlled by Germany came under the mandate of the League of Nations

6. There are clear cases of ethnic cleansing in Bakassi peninsula in the past 10 years in violation of the Green Tree Agreement.

According to Prof. Walter Ofonagoro, who is a Historian and former Nigerian Information Minister who did his PhD thesis on Southern Oil protectorate, “fresh facts have emerged to show that the Cameroonian legal team deceived the ICJ into believing that before the Anglo-German treaty of 1913 upon which it rested its case, there were no other treaties that delineated the land and maritime boundary between Nigeria and Cameroon, which is a fraudulent claim.”

Prof. Ofonagoro said that he has “in his possession 1822 documents which vested ownership of the Bakassi Peninsula to the Old Calabar Chiefs by extension to Nigeria and debunked claims that the 1913 Anglo-German treaty was the first recognized treaty on the land and maritime boundary between Nigeria and Cameroon, said Prof. Ofonagoro “this is not true because as far back as 1811, the British had already established a strong sphere of influence over the territories that eventually became Nigeria in 1914.

He said “the Anglo-German treaty upon which Cameroon built its case was contestable because after the First World War ended in 1919, all the territories controlled by Germany were taken away from them and given to the league of nations.

He said “there were other treaties between Nigeria and Cameroon on the Land and Maritime boundaries which were entered into in 1884,1885 and 1886 all of which clearly demarcated the land and Maritime border between Nigeria and Cameroon from the Lake Chad region down to the Akwa Yafe river which was the land border from Akwa Yafe to Rio Del Rey estuary to the Atlantic ocean.

“When the Germans got to Akwa Yafe River they discovered that they could not gain a direct access to the sea because going toward west of Akwa Yafe river will take them straight to the Calabar seaport. The Calabar Sea Port was clearly outlined in the treaty this was the main port of entry for the British merchants, and later missionaries, who were the first to establish sphere of influence in Nigeria. He said there was no way the British would have granted the Germans a boundary access that would have constrained their access to the Calabar power.

“The British were fully in control of the Calabar sea Port. The Germans went East of Akwa Yafe River, which took them to the Rio Del Rey estuary to the sea. This ensured that the Bakassi Peninsula was on the West, which put the Peninsula on the Nigerian territory. The predominant population on the Peninsula then were the Efiks and Efuts, who were of Efik Kingdom which stretched up to Khumba, Victoria and Bamenda.

Grounds for appeal for review

Although the Federal Government has been reluctant to listen to the calls from the National Assembly, the Judiciary, the Nigerian Bar Association to appeal for a review, Prof. Ofonagoro said “Nigeria has very strong ground to approach the ICJ for a revision of its decision because there are concrete material facts and documentary evidence that were not before the ICJ in 2002 which would have helped to guide the world jurists in their decision”. Ofonagoro said: “If the ICJ should allow a judgment that was obtained by fraud and concealment of feet to stand, and grave in justice would have been down to the people of ICJ. The reputation of ICJ would have been tarnished because the whole world expects it to do justice at all time.”

He added that the Nigerian defence team went to the Hague to agree with the Cameroonians that before 1913, there were no other treaties between the two colonial power, which is false. But more fallacious is the fact that the Cameroon of 1919, was not the Cameroon of 1913, because after the end of the First World War, Germany was forced to give up all it territories in Africa, which came under the mandate of League of Nations.

Senator Ewah Bassey Henshaw said: “We have evidence from the memoir of the German ambassador in 1913 who negotiated the so-called 1913 Anglo German treaty. He said the treaty was not signed because the distrust between Britain and Germany at that time and the conflict between the envoy and some officials of his own country. In 1961 when a referendum was conducted in Southern Cameroon on which part it wishes to belong after the British ended its colonial rule Bakassi Peninsula was not included by because it was regarded as part and parcel of Nigeria. In the areas such as Issangale that were included in referendum, they voted to be in Nigeria.

Speaking at the Vanguard Conference Hall in Lagos, Senator Henshaw said the ICJ has a duty to review its judgment which gave the sovereignty of Bakassi to Cameroon because it was obtained by fraud and deceits. He said we are not asking for too much for the ICJ to take a second look at the fresh facts and our action is covered by Article 61 of ICJ which empowers people to come back for a review of their judgment if there are fresh facts that surfaced when the decision was made which have substantially affected the judgment. The president who has sworn on oath to defend the territorial integrity of Nigeria and the constitution should assist the people of Bakassi by asking the AGF to appeal for a review of the ICJ verdict.

Chief Maurice Ekong of Save Bakassi Group said the area has enough evidence to prove to the world and the ICJ that the people of Bakassi are being used as pawns in the power game of Africa where the indigenous people of Bakassi are being forced into perpetual slavery in Cameroon or into perpetual refugees in Nigeria, while their God given land is sacrificed by Nigeria to show gratitude to Cameroon in the spirit of brotherhood, for supporting the Federal Government to defeat Biafra. We subscribe to the unity and corporate existence of Nigeria but the price that Bakassi people are being forced to pay is too great for us to carry. We cannot carry a life time burden of servitude and impoverishment to keep Nigeria one.

According to Ekong the 1975 Maroua declaration is a justification of the fraud of 1913 and other fraudulent treaties that were entered into without seeking the opinion of Bakassi people. We have no hands in what Gowon and Obasanjo did, we were not party to the war and we would not accept to be donated as a booty of war to Cameroon or to any other party on earth.

Hon Aniefok Inynag said the people of Bakassi are making a peaceful appeal to the world to give them a listening ear. When crisis erupts in Bakassi, the entire Gulf of Guinea will be be affected. The entire projections that the 25 per cent of global oil supply will come from this region will be in jeopardy. We will have a situation similar to Pacific Ocean where Somali pirates have become a major threat to global trade and maritime.

Relevant Links
• Bakassi Belongs to Nigeria – Claim
• Why We Lost Bakassi to Cameroun
• Bakassi – Soon Gowon, Obasanjo May Be Tried for Treason – Anya
• Soyinka Tasks FG Over ICJ Ruling On Bakassi
• Why Nigeria Should Appeal ICJ Verdict On Bakassi – Maiyaki

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One commentOn Nigeria: Why Bakassi Belongs to Nigeria – Experts

    Bakassi Peninsula: ‘Why ceding of Bakassi Peninsula must be revisited’
    5:06 am
    Okoi Obono Obla in this piece argues that the United Nations as the repository of international peace and custodian of Human Rights should organise a referendum in the Bakassi peninsula so that these Nigerian ethnic nationalities would have the opportunity of deciding in a democratic manner whether or not they want to belong to the Federal Republic of Nigeria
    THE judgment of the International Court of Justice, which purported to award the Bakassi Peninsula to the Republic of Cameroun, is to all intents and purposes outrageous, blatantly unjust and patently unsupportable.

    The judgment delivered in October, 2002 which was the consequence of a suit instituted by the Republic of Cameroun claiming sovereignty over the Bakassi Peninsula and some parts of the Lake Chad region is the climax of the dream of Cameroun to exercise control of this area particularly the Bakassi Peninsula.
    The suit was instituted in 1995 during the heydays of General Sani Abacha’s Military Dictatorship when the country was torn by crisis caused by the decision of General Ibrahim Babangida and his Military Junta to annul the presidential election held in June 12, 1993.
    Before the suit was filed by Cameroun, she had long been subjecting Nigerians in Peninsula to all sorts of brutalities ranging from false imprisonment, murder and intimidation.
    In 1981, the Cameroonian armed forces made an incursion to the Peninsula and murdered a contingent of Nigerian troops from the 13th Amphibious Brigade, Calabar. Nigeria reacted forcefully by moving troops to her boundary with Cameroon.
    Somehow Cameroun realised the foolhardiness of her armed forces and profoundly apologised. The Federal Government under the then President Shehu Shagari balked.
    It was an opportunity to call off the bluff of Cameroun as far as the ownership of the Bakassi Peninsula was concerned. It was insinuated in some quarters that President Shehu Shagari backed down because he did not want to confront the then President Ahmadu Ahidjo, who is a Fulani like him.
    This matter was not squarely resolved throughout the period of the Babangida and Abacha military dictatorships. The Cameroonian army was allowed to roughshod on Nigerians of Efik, Ijaw, Oron and Ibibio ethnic nationalities who inhabit this Peninsula.
    This was the bleakest period of Nigerian political history. These military leaders were so steeped in looting and violating the Human Rights of Nigerians that other facts of national endeavours suffered blithe neglect.
    Military potentates
    It must be stated that if we finally lose this part of Nigeria the blame must be totally put on the footsteps of these military potentates who seized political power in Nigeria for more than thirty years. It must be pointed that this area known as Bakassi was under the suzerainty of the Obong of Calabar before the balkanization of Africa by the European Powers in a Conference held in Berlin, Germany in 1884 where the decision to appropriate Africa was arrived at and taken.
    It must be noted that one of the documents that the International Court of Justice relied on heavily in its judgment was the so-called Maroua and Yaoundé 11 Declarations, which were entered into between President Ahidjo of Cameroun and the then Nigeria Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, which purported to vest the ownership of the Bakassi Peninsula on the Republic of Cameroun.
    This agreement was made during the Civil War as a deal with the Cameroonian Government to block Biafra from using the area as pad to launch Naval bombardment and maritime trading. The treaty was never ratified by the then Supreme Military Council which was the sole legislative authority of Nigeria at that time.
    However, it is on record that this document was shrouded in the usual military secrecy and capriciousness. It was never presented for ratification before the then Supreme Military Council, which by the Constitution (suspension and modification) Decree No. 1 of 1966 was vested with legislative sovereignty over the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is sad that this matter has been caught up by the ineptitude, irresponsibility and bad governance, which characterised military regimes in Nigeria.
    The Murtala/Obasanjo military dictatorship, which took over from General Gowon had denounced this document. Curiously, no steps were taken to get them quashed by the Supreme Court. As military rule took it tolls in the country, Cameroun shrewdly filed the suit in the International Court of Justice.
    Colonial international law
    The pertinent question is what becomes of the ethnic nationalities in the Bakassi Peninsula , which are basically of Nigerian origin? The International Court of Justice surprisingly relied on Article XII of the Anglo-German Agreement dated April 12, 1913 in its judgment. This treaty underscores the arbitrariness and capriciousness of colonial International Law.
    As a “conquered” people these ethnic nationalities of Nigeria were never consulted before the British Colonial Government enacted this treaty, which effectively separated them from their brothers and sisters in the present Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Rivers and Cross River States of Nigeria. The arbitrary and capricious carving out of countries in Africa by European imperialists at the infamous Berlin Conference of 1884, without the slightest regard for demographic and ethnic composition of these countries was one of the hallmarks of colonialism in Africa.
    The consequence of this blatant carving out of Africa without regard to the basic principle of humanity at the Berlin Conference is still reverberating and causing tension in the continent.
    The consequence of this is that in Africa you find people of the same ethnic nationalities straddling more than two countries for instance. Ewes in Togo and Ghana, Yoruba in Benin and Nigeria; Ejagham in Nigeria and Cameroun. Colonialism has effectively ended. However the question is: must we Africans allow this state of affairs to continue.
    Imperialism and the positivist school
    I think these Rules of International law which were largely formulated by European imperialists in the eighteenth century must be completely and totally jettisoned by Africans.
    International law based on racism, imperialism and the positivist school of jurisprudence is completely outdated. Undoubtedly since the end of the Second World War the influence of the positivist school of law has considerably waned in the Municipal law of many countries in the World.
    However, in international law the influence of the positivist is still prevalent. It is submitted that the concept of international law predicated on racial superiority and colonialism must be rejected. Happily the right to self-determination has been implicitly asserted in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international covenants.
    Undoubtedly the people of the Bakassi Peninsula have unequivocally demonstrated their will to be an integral part of Nigeria.
    To insist that these people are in Cameroun under the umbrage of a benighted colonial treaty foisted on them by some paternalistic colonial masters to feather their capitalistic instincts and imperialistic designs would amount to an egregious injustice unprecedented in the annals of world history.
    In this wise, it is incumbent on the United Nations as the repository of international peace and the custodian of Human Rights to immediately organise a referendum in the Bakassi Peninsula, so that these Nigerian ethnic nationalities would have the opportunity of deciding in a democratic manner whether or not they want to belong to the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
    Otherwise the Federal Government of Nigeria must as a matter of urgent national interest take effective measures to safeguard the sovereignty of Nigeria in the Bakassi Peninsula . This would surely be seen in the international community as an outrage and an affront. But how many countries which the International Court of Justice had found against have obeyed its decisions?
    How many times has the State of Israel arrogantly and with reckless abandon flouted resolutions of the United Nations urging her to respect the right of self-determination of the hapless Palestinian people? What of the case of Morocco in the Western Sahara? Has the United States, which is the supposed bastion of International Constitutionalism, not defied the principles of international law and the United Nations in her present face-off with Iraq over weapons of mass destruction?
    There must be no double standard in international relations. Furthermore, the 1999 Constitution, which is the Supreme law of the country, has expressly asserted that Bakassi Local Government Area is an integral part of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
    It follows, therefore, that the judgment of the International Court of Justice cannot supersede the basic law of the country.
    This principle was given judicial approbation by the Supreme Court of Nigeria, in the celebrated cause of The Guardian Newspapers Ltd. V. Federal Republic of Nigeria, where the Supreme Court boldly asserted that an international treaty cannot override the provisions of the Constitution, where there is a conflict.
    It is clear that the Green Tree Agreement entered between Nigeria and Cameroon in 2006 at the instance of the United Nations and the Western Powers finally transferred the sovereignty of Bakasi to the Republic of Cameroon without compliance with the mandatory provisions of the Constitution especially Section 12 thereof.
    Gross violation of the constitution
    It follows, therefore, that the purported transfer of the Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon was in gross violation of the constitution. The Obasanjo Presidency was seemingly in a hurry to compromise the interest of the hapless people of Bakassi who were obviously abandoned and sacrificed as pawn in the chess board of International Politics and the selfishness of President Obasanjo.
    It was clear that the handing over of Bakassi by Obasanjo to Cameroon was a conscious act of appeasement by President Obasanjo to endear himself to Western Powers such as the United States, France and United Kingdom. The interest of the people of Bakassi who are mainly minority ethnic nationalities in Nigeria was secondary. Perhaps if this territory was inhabited by people of the majority ethnic nationalities in the country such impetuous decision would not have been taken without ferocious opposition from those concerned.
    It is scandalous and regrettable that more than six years since this ill advised and ill motivated decision to handover a portion of the territory constituting the Federal Republic of Nigeria without the slightest regard for constitutionalism and the right of self determination of the people of Bakassi the National Assembly has refused, failed and neglected to take any step to reverse this decision.
    The decision to handover Bakassi to Cameroon has largely compromised National Interest and poses grave danger to National Security of the Country. It is clear that International Shipping cannot enter into Calabar, Nigeria without passing through the shores of Cameroon.
    This has rendered otiose the Naval Base of the Nigerian Navy in Calabar in the sense that Naval Vessels of the Nigerian Navy cannot carry out manoeuvre without being at the mercy of the Cameroonian Navy which must give its consent before vessels cannot venture out of their Base in Calabar.
    OKOI OBONO-OBLA writes from Calabar

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