…set to appeal ICJ judgement
Nigeria’s claim, baseless –Ajomo
Indications emerged yesterday that the Federal Government was preparing to file an appeal against the International Court of Justice, ICJ, ruling on the Bakassi peninsula.
President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday set up a committee to look at the option of appealing the ICJ judgement ceding the oilrich Bakassi peninsula to Cameroun.
Nigeria has till October 9 to appeal the ICJ ruling which was delivered on October 10, 2002.
The decision to explore the option of appeal was reached at a closed-door meeting between the President, the leadership of the National Assembly and other stakeholders at the State House, Abuja.
The meeting, which started on Wednesday night, ended early hours of yesterday.
Cross River State Governor, Liyel Imoke, told journalists after the meeting that the committee would consider how to take care of the displaced people of Bakassi.
Imoke, who did not disclose the composition of the committee, said it would work within record time.
He said that the President had shown great leadership quality by convening the meeting and standing firm on some of the decisions taken.
The Senate President, David Mark, also said that the executive and the lawmakers were now on the same page on the Bakassi issue.
He added that they would work together to achieve results.
Former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Prince Bola Ajibola, who was at the meeting, said that the Federal Government had shown “candid” concern about the issue.
He commended the move by the government to dialogue and insistence on the rule of law and diplomacy to ensure that Nigeria secured justice and the people were not wrongly dealt with.
Ajibola expressed optimism that the committee would handle the matter accordingly and in record time.
Vice-President Namadi Sambo; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal; Akwa Ibom governor, Godswill Akpabio; the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Sen. Anyim Pius Anyim and the Minister of Justice and Attorney- General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke, were at the meeting.
The decision of the Federal Government to appeal the judgement was also contained in a letter to the House of Representatives by Adoke.
The AGF sought the deferment of an investigative hearing by the House into an alleged fraudulent sale by the Federal Government of an oil block to oil companies to allow his office pursue an appeal of the judgement.
“I most respectively write to request the postponement of the public hearing scheduled to take place from October 4-5 to another date to enable me to attend to the urgent review of the 2002 ICJ judgement in respect of the Cameroun/ Nigeria boundary dispute,” he told the committee.
Adoke was also invited to the ad hoc committee hearing being chaired by House Deputy Leader, Leo Ogor, to give a submission of his office’s role in the sale of the Oil Prospecting Licence (OPL) 245 for an oil bloc to Shell/Agip Consortium and Malabu Oil and Gas Limited for $1.092bn.
The House deputy leader also confirmed the preparedness of the Federal Government to appeal the judgement.
He said: “I can inform to you that Mr. President called a meeting in respect of this issue and I was privileged to be there where he directed the AGF to act immediately in line with the resolution of the House of Representatives.
“The President told the AGF to prepare and file for a review within the window period.
“Mr. President, in his wisdom, said ‘go ahead and make sure that anything worth doing is worth doing well.’
“President Jonathan said let’s give it a trial and see how we can find a solution to the issue of Bakassi because it has become a recurring decimal.
“As a responsive and responsible parliament, we have refused to ratify the ICJ judgement in line with Section 12 of the constitution because we are not convinced that Bakassi should go.”
Ogor added that because of the development, he had to reschedule the appearance of the justice minister as requested in his letter.
According to him: “It was on the basis of the request for a reschedule of appearance that I could not make further comment when the AGF wrote to the ad hoc committee that he would not be able to make it to the public hearing as a result of the President’s directive on the Bakassi issue because they were given a timeframe within which to look into the subject matter and find a solution to it.
“This House is doing all it can to ensure that the issue of Bakassi is resolved once and for all. We believe that it is purely a constitutional issue and we have taken an oath of allegiance to defend the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
The Senate had last week unanimously passed a resolution mandating the President to appeal the ICJ ruling on Bakassi because of the new facts that had emerged over the matter.
The people of Bakassi have been agitating against the ceding of the oil-rich peninsula to the Republic of Cameroun through the Green Tree Agreement, which was signed by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
The judgement also rendered Cross River, a non-littoral state and has attracted harsh criticisms from Nigerians and the people of Bakassi.
Some members of the area have even threatened to embark on self-rule. This has already been followed by the hoisting of the flag and coat of arms of the Bakassi people.
Tension, anger and uncertainty have heightened in Cross River State, as political and cultural leaders engaged in critical talks on the matter.
Hon. Nkoyo Toyo, who represents Calabar/Odukpani Federal Constituency at the House of Representatives, said the main reason why the people of Cross River State were angry with the judgement was that “what befell Bakassi was responsible for where we are today with regard to the 76 oil wells that were awarded to Akwa Ibom State.”
Toyo, a lawyer, said that although she was not in court when the recent apex court’s judgement was delivered, she heard that the judges had relied on a letter written by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, stating that Cross River State was entitled to the 76 oil wells on account of the Federal Government’s ongoing negotiations with Cameroun to retain Western Bakassi.
She said: “If there was an back Western Bakassi from Cameroun, the question that arises now is what has happened to that intention?
“Has the Federal Government given up completely on the people of Cross River State?”
Toyo noted that the Federal Government only had a short time “before Cameroun finally takes over Bakassi permanently.”
She added that the people of the state felt sad about the judgement because” it looks like we have been completely abandoned by the Nigerian state. All this is happening because we seem to have lost Bakassi.
“But before Bakassi was given up, the indigenous people and the Nigerian state were in possession for about 400 years.”
She expressed the view that the agitation for the complete implementation of the Green Tree Agreement needs to be revisited.
She said: “There should be absolutely no hurry in handing over Bakassi because the consequences have not been addressed.”
The lawmaker further opined that the Federal Government needs to lodge a complaint with the ICJ about the failure of the Green Tree Agreement in line with the provisions of the same agreement.
“This is primarily because there are many Nigerians who have now become stateless; they are neither Nigerians nor Camerounians.”
Nkoyo noted that there were many unanswered issues surrounding the controversial treaty including the map.
“We are still looking for the official map that indicates the correct boundary between Nigeria and Cameroun.
“That official map has not yet been published. All the maps that are available are illustrative – these are maps that are in the process of being developed but have not yet being authenticated.
“If we can have such a map, it would be helpful to fundamentally address the situation,” he said.
Meanwhile, lawyers are divided on whether the Federal Government should appeal the ICJ ruling.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Dr. Abiodun Layonu, said: “The decision of the Federal Government is commendable because all available legal options must be exploited and we are talking about lives of a group of people, so no stone should be left unturned in order to see that justice is done. So, the directive of the Presidency is in line with the aspiration of the people of Bakassi.
“Nigeria should go back to the drawing board and she should present a formidable legal team to ensure that she gets a favourable review.”
Prof. Gabriel Olawoyin, SAN, also welcomed the planned appeal.
“The decision of the Federal Government to appeal the judgement is a welcome development as the country is still within time to file an appeal.
“It is a welcome development, we are still within time. Let us wait and see,” he said.
However, a renowned professor of law, Prof. Michael Ayodele Ajomo, had earlier told National Mirror that the peninsular does not belong to Nigeria.
Ajomo said: “I am the authority on Bakassi in Nigeria today; nobody can claim knowledge of Bakassi as I do. Initially, when we were negotiating, President Paul Biya of Cameroun was prepared to give us concession, but Nigeria was insisting that Bakassi belonged to them.
“Bakassi had never been, at anytime, in Nigerian territory. Since the 1913 treaty which gave the territory to the Cameroun, we have no claim.
“If you look at our maps in those days, the entire map showed Bakassi to be in Cameroun, but the Nigerian government later gave instruction to the surveyorgeneral, who happens to be somebody I know very well, that they should put Bakassi on the Nigerian map. “But will that hold water when from time immemorial; Bakassi has been in the Camerounian territory? So, we were making a claim that was groundless.”