Nigeria: Bakassi Appeal – Top Govt Officials Move to Defy Jonathan

In Breaking News, Reports

by Vanguard

The spontaneous excitement that trailed the announcement of the formation of a team by President Goodluck Jonathan to work towards the review of the International Court of Justice ruling on the Bakassi peninsula is being cut short following alleged frantic attempt by a top government functionary to stall the work of the committee.

Saturday Vanguard gathered that since the formation of the committee to review the ICJ’s ruling some top government functionaries opposed the review have refused to attend any meeting where moves to ask the ICJ to review the ruling would be concretised

Meantime, Bakassi indigenes opposed to Green Tree Agreement have launched a court process to outlaw the agreement.

President Jonathan had raised the eight-man committee after a marathon meeting with stakeholders at the Presidential Villa on Wednesday night and asked it to work assiduously towards filing a case for the review of the ICJ ruling, which ceded oil-rich Bakassi to Cameroon ten years ago.

The committee comprised eight members drawn from the National Assembly and relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs, whose heads were also at the meeting where the decision to form the committee was reached.

Saturday Vanguard learnt that based on the directive of the President, members of the team quickly retired to their respective offices to work out modalities for the maiden meeting of the team, headed by a top government official, which was slated for 9pm on Thursday.

The members, it was gathered, were however rudely shocked when they arrived the minister’s office for the proposed meeting only to be told that the meeting would no longer hold as planned.

They smelt a rat but could not do anything.

Some of the members who made spirited efforts to reach the minister to get an explanation on why the meeting was surreptitiously put off, could not reach him. They returned home frustrated at the end of the day.

The implication of the disappointment is that with only four days to the end of the deadline for Nigeria to file a review of the judgment, nothing has been done to that effect.

Furious and deeply upset by the minister’s action, the frustrated members retired to their respective destinations, wondering what would become the fate of Bakassi indigenes after next Tuesday, October 9, 2012.

The top government functionary is said to have argued that as far as he was concerned Nigeria would not review the ICJ ruling so as not to incur the sanctions of the United Nations.

The minister is said to be working in concert with a former justice minister, who played an active role when Nigeria lost the Bakassi case to Cameroon, to ensure that Nigeria does not file any appeal as ordered by the President.

It was gathered that the two men were unhappy with the position adopted by those who argued in favour of the appeal of the judgment.

The influential cabinet member is said to have castigated the protagonists of appeal, saying that they confused Jonathan with sentiments rather than bring up concrete evidence to warrant appeal at the ICJ.

Contrary to the clear directive by the President that the team should work towards the review of the judgment before the October 9 deadline, the minister is reported to have turned round to claim that Nigeria would only be compiling the evidence of human rights abuses committed by Cameroon against Bakassi natives.

He reportedly declared that as far as he was concerned Bakassi had been ceded to Cameroon and that the country could only ask the ICJ to compel the latter to respect the tenets of the world court by protecting Nigerians living in the peninsula.

According to him, Nigerian was not bound by any deadline to file action against human right abuses by
Cameroon, since the ICJ did not specify any timeline to do so.

It was learnt last night that the minister had taken the position not to allow Nigeria to seek a review of the case because he wanted to appease the United Nations so as to be given a juicy appointment at The Hague after leaving Jonathan’s cabinet.

But the matter is said to have shocked Presidential officials, who are worried over the attempt by the minister to change the directive of the President for unknown reasons.

Senate Leader, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, told Saturday Vanguard he was shocked over the latest development over the Bakassi issue.

Ndoma-Egba, who was present when the Presidential directive was given on Thursday, said: “My understanding is that Mr. President ordered for a review.”

“Why will there not be a review after the resolution of the National Assembly and the directive of Mr. President at a meeting with major stakeholders last Thursday?” he asked angrily.

Senate President David Mark for instance, is said to have defiantly argued that it was mandatory for the Federal Government to call for the review of the ICJ ruling since the National Assembly had already passed a resolution asking the government to do so.

Mark said that the issue at stake was not whether Nigeria would win the case but taking the first step to ask for a review of the judgment based on new evidence and in accordance with the resolution of the National Assembly.

The Senate President pointed out that Nigeria could decide to ask for review irrespective of the outcome or be prepared for the consequence of not doing anything.

A member of the House of Representatives from Cross River State, who was at the meeting with President Jonathan, Amb Nkoyo Toyo, in a statement to Saturday Vanguard last night, expressed utter disappointment with the sudden volta face by a certain minister over a clear directive issued by the President on the matter.

Toyo noted, “After a meeting Mr. President had with the leadership of the National Assembly, a committee was set up for the purpose of reviewing the ICJ judgement. It could not have been otherwise.

“Today, we read conflicting stories about the Committee’s Terms of Reference. This is worrisome as it either means that the entire leadership of the country is in confusion or someone is playing games or the entire consultation was a grand strategy to mislead the country.

“The summary of the outing as was captured by the Senate president is instructive. We do nothing, we prepare for war (I imagine if nothing is done and people decide to seek self determination) or we do something and that something is to seek review on the basis of resolutions reached by both houses of the National Assembly.

“Failure to register our interest to review will leave the country exposed, the multiple issues of insecurity, threat and frustration by the militants now moving in the direction of Bakassi will only grow. The growing criminality and need to police the area will cost the country even more than an action at The Hague.

“The neglect and human right abuses are going on as though we are dealing with a people who belong to nowhere. This is a crime against humanity and those responsible cannot pretend that they do not know the consequences of their action against its citizens.

“We cannot afford to do nothing as if that is our new foreign policy strategy. Mr. President must clarify his position on the matter as too many aspects of the Bakassi story remain unaddressed,” she stated.

Other aggrieved members of the National Assembly from Cross River State, who got to know of the minister’s antic yesterday, said they were meeting to come up with a common position against those trying to truncate the federal government’s move to get the Bakassi matter reviewed in the interest of Nigerians and posterity.

Another lawmaker from the state told Saturday Vanguard that it was wrong for the government functionary to stand on the way of the people for reasons yet to be made known.

“We are going back to see Mr. President on the matter because time is not on our side and we really want him to call this minister to order because he may set the country ablaze because of his unbecoming actions.

“What this man is trying to do is not only very provocative but is also a serious setback to this country and its people,” the lawmaker said.

The politician called on President Jonathan to take action against the said functionary if the order to review the judgment was not carried out successfully.

Green Tree Agreement: Bakassi indigenes drag FG to court/strong>

Embattled indigenes of Bakassi in Cross River State, on their part yesterday dragged the Federal Government before a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja with a view to securing an order quashing the Green Tree Agreement that Nigeria entered with Cameroon in 2006.

The suit was endorsed by nine executives of Free Bakassi Association, Prince Imoh Ukpa Imoh, Mr Godwin Ukpong, Mr Chritian A. Umoh, Mr Anthony Achibong Ukong, Mr Kingsley Edu, Mr Etim Ekpeyong Ndong, Mr Offiong Anying Ekpeyong, Bassey Okon Osua and Bassey Ikoedem Antiga.

In a motion ex-parte that was moved in court yesterday by their counsel, Mr Festus A. Ogwuche, the applicants, sought leave for an order of mandamus that would compel the Federal Government to by any means available to it, repossess, occupy and take full legal and administrative control of the Bakassi Peninsula.

The motion was filed pursuant to section 1 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’Rights(Enforcement and Ratification Act Cap 10, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990, as well as Order 34 Rules 1(a),3(1) and (2) of the Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rules, 2007.

Contending that the controversial judgment of the International Court of Justice, ICJ, which in 2002, ceded the oil- territory to the Republic of Cameroon, amounted to a nullity being contrary to the fundamental principle upon which the court was established, the applicants, adduced 95-legal grounds why Nigeria should forthwith appeal the verdict.

Besides, they sought leave for an order of mandamus, compelling the Federal Government, President Goodluck Jonathan and the Attorney General of the Federation, who were all joined as respondents in the suit, to “unilaterally resile from, withdraw, rescind, repudiate and/or revoke Nigeria’s obligations under the Green Tree Agreement entered into between Nigeria and Cameroon in Green Tree, New York, USA on the 12th day of June, 2006, for its being invalid and in breach of Articles 1, 2, 20, 21, 22 and 24 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, Article 1 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Article 1(2) of the UN Charter, and the UN Declaration on the Rights of indigenous peoples, and being inconsistent with sections 1-3, 2(1) and (6), 13, 14(1) and (2)(b), 17(1), (2)(b), (c ) and (d), sections 19(a) and 9d0, 21(a) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).”

The applicants, argued that the ICJ gave its judgment on the protracted dispute over ownership of the oil rich Bakassi Peninsula, based “on archaic and anachronistic colonial declarations, and communications between colonial officers.”

Meanwhile, presiding Justice Gabriel Kolawole adjourned ruling on the application till October 9, saying he needed time to carefully peruse the court processes in view of “weighty national issues raised therein.”

Specifically, it is the contention of the Bakassi indigenes that the ICJ, “in reaching its decision, relied on: (a) Henderson-Flerichau Exchange of Notes of 1931, (b) The Anglo-German Agreement of 11th March and 12th April, 1913 and (c) The British Order-in-Council of 2 August, 1946.

“The ICJ gave the decision as though the territory is occupied by wild animals without any rights under municipal or international law, and treated the colonial declaration and communication as conferring absolute proprietary rights and obligations to the territory to persons or entities outside the people who for centuries lived and existed therein and of which the territory is their homeland.

“The treaty, signed years before Nigeria came into existence as a sovereign entity was a “Treaty of protection” conferring limited “protectionist” rights on Britain and cannot by any shade of imagination translate to sovereignty or absolute power of transfer of title, sufficient to extinguish the rights of the kings and chiefs to the traditional over lordship of the territory and/or give Britain an absolute right to alienate their rights and interests unilaterally without the free prior consent and authority of the chiefs and kings.

“The respondents are hereby given notice to produce the said treaty of 10th September 1884 which the applicants put in their possession upon the proceedings in the ICJ.”

More so, the applicants said they were neither consulted nor was their consent sought before former President Olusegun Obasanjo endorsed the Green Tree Agreement, saying they were totally kept out of the picture of things prior, during and even after the execution of the Agreement.

“The applicants only got notice of the Agreement via media reports and grapevine, and upon contact with their representatives in the state and National Assemblies, were told that nobody was either consulted nor was aware of such agreement.

” Before the applicants could realize what is happening, they were told that for them to remain as Nigerians, they are required to vacate their ancestral home and move into settlements to be built, constructed and maintained by the respondents, or else, if they opt to remain in their fatherland, they should be prepared to remain as Cameroonians.

“The applicants are scattered in different parts of the country, as in Delta State, Bayelsa, Rivers State, Akwa Ibom, etc, living under the basest form of human degradation embodying all the pains and sufferings that could be experienced by man, existing in makeshift pre-civilization abodes having only trees as cover against rain and shine, and other vagaries of the weather, which are most times inclement.

“The members of the applicant community are dying in their numbers everyday from afflictions of disease, poverty, malnutrition, squalor, etc, and there is no end to their suffering, humiliation, degradation of their human essence and homelessness.

“The Cameroonians changed the names of their communities and altered every existing tradition structure or monument which they could not destroy to suit their whims and purposes and destroyed and obliterated the very essence of their origins.

“The applicants do not have direct access to the ICJ , as by virtue of the statute of the ICJ, only states are recognizable parties before it, and have employed all existing measures to prevail upon the respondents to go back to the ICJ and undo the havoc they have caused in their lives, all to no avail.

“The applicants’ dehumanization is worse than animals, more humiliating than slavery, and degrading to the basest form of inhumanity, and is unpalatable and unacceptable in a 21st century world.

“The applicants are under the direct traditional authority and suzerainty of the Obong of Calabar and are forever subjects to the Royal Office and paraphernalia of the Obong’s stool, which is also their cultural and spiritual guardian and guidance; the applicants cannot in any way be extricated from their historical cultural roots which are tied inextricably to their kiths and kin in Cross Rivers State, Nigeria.

“Furthermore, the applicants cannot have their land in one country and be citizens of another country, and the respondents cannot impose their nationality on them as their right to a nationality is guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“By the failure of the ICJ judgment to conform to this basic principle of justice, renders it null and void, and thus, the ceding of the applicants homeland to Cameroon is anchored on nothing and is bound for the ground.

“Under international law, the 1st -3rd respondents do not have any obligation to obey the ICJ judgment, and is not bound by the Green Tree Agreement to take the territory belonging to the applicants to the Republic of Cameroon without their free, prior and informed consent, hence the need for the 1st -3rd applicants to quickly return to the Hague to untie what they have intricably and unlawfully knotted,” they added.

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