The Cross River State of Nigeria suffered two significant losses in 2004 and 2010, respectively. The first was the Bakassi peninsula’s loss and then lost 76 oil wells to Akwa Ibom.
These losses were a loss of the bungling of the two cases by the governments at the Federal and State levels. The loss of the Bakassi peninsula resulted from a horrible blunder by the team.
The Federal government of Nigeria was briefed to handle the case filed by the Republic of Cameroon against the Federal Republic of Nigeria over the Maritime boundary between the Republic of Cameroon and Nigeria. Under the Statutes of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague, the party that lost has a ten-year window to apply for a review of the judgment.
In 2014, which was the 10th year of the delivery of judgment by the ICJ, presented a golden opportunity for Nigeria to file for a review of the case. In 2014 the president of the Movement of the liberation of the people of Southern Cameroon (I was then handling a case on behalf of the people of Southern Cameroon in the Federal High Court Abuja) got in touch with me and offered to make available documents to help the Nigerian government to set aside the ICJ judgment in favor of Cameroon.
I quickly got in touch with a special assistant to the Governor, who told his principal. The principal arranged the visit of the President of Southern Cameroon to visit Calabar. He indeed visited and made available these documents. However, shockingly the Federal government set up a committee to advise on modalities for applying to review the judgment, but which the committee never did anything till the ten years lapsed on October 24, 2014.
Then another momentum loss occurred in 2010 when the Supreme Court ruled that because the ICJ had (said) that Bakassi peninsula belongs to Cameroon, not Nigeria, Cross River State was no longer a coastal State; consequently, its 76 oil wells belonging to Akwa Ibom State. The blame for this great loss should squarely be placed on the heads of those who were at the helm of affairs of the State between 1999 to 2015! The Federal Government then gave a token compensation to the State as a result of these losses. But the government in power in the State never told us much was given and how it was spent.
I respectfully call on the Governor of Cross River State to invoke the power vested in him by the Cross River State Commission of Inquiry Law to set up a high powered judicial commission of inquiry to investigate the expenditure of the compensation paid by the Federal government of Nigeria to the Government of Cross River State as a result of the loss of Bakassi peninsula and 76 oil wells respectively. Perhaps the boast by some people that they have so much to fight the 2023 general election in the State stems from the fact that some highly placed people looted these compensations.
Finally, I support the demand by the Governor of Cross River State, Professor Ben Ayade, that the delisting of Cross River State by the Federal Government should be reversed immediately. I agree with him that such an egregious injustice should never be allowed to stand.
I know that the delisting of Cross River State as an oil-producing State is a dialectical consequence of the Supreme Court’s ruling. It follows that only a legislative enactment of the National Assembly can alter it. I, therefore, wonder why members of the National Assembly from Cross River State have not deemed it fit to take up the issue. In this respect, if the people of Cross River Central elect me come 2023 to represent them in the Senate, I will take up the delisting of Cross River State as an oil-producing State.
Okoi Obono-Obla, a Cross Riverian, lawyer and author, served as Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on prosecution.
NB: Opinions expressed in this article are strictly attributable to the author, Okoi Obono-Obla and do not represent the opinion of CrossRiverWatch or any other organization the author works for/with.