Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: Reclaiming Bakassi Peninsula

ON October 10, 2002, the International Court of Justice delivered a historic verdict awarding sovereignty over the Bakassi Peninsula to the Republic of Cameroun. Exactly 10 years later in October this year, by the terms of the 2005 Green Tree Agreement, Nigeria's cession of its erstwhile territory would be completed unless, by the rules of the Court, she raises fresh issues for a re-visit.

Across the nation there is a groundswell of opinion that our past leadership were unpatriotic, inhuman and incompetent in the entire processes of mortgaging the territory to win the civil war and approach the ICJ for its verdict. All the way from the negotiations by the colonial authorities to the use of the territory as a gambit for war games, the interests of the people of the Peninsula were never taken into account.

Even the lawyers and attorneys hired to argue the case at the ICJ were people, who had no passionate attachment to the cause and flunked miserably.

Besides, the Nigerians who agreed to relocate to Cross River after the cession of their ancestral land to another country were promptly abandoned. Those who chose to stay under Camerounian authority have been victims of savage attacks and humiliation by the Camerounian forces.

Frustrated, the indigenes of the Peninsula have now decided, with support of their kinsmen in Calabar Cross River State, to "taken their destiny in their hands."

The Bakassi Self-determination Front (BSDF) has since emerged and a pirate radio known as "Dayspring" launched as part of the drive towards self-rule.

We are in full support of all efforts to ensure that the wrongs of our past leaders are corrected through the total reclamation of Bakassi Peninsula. We are happy with the House of Representatives, which has taken bold steps towards pushing the Federal Government to return to the ICJ for a re-visit of this shoddy verdict.

Under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Bakassi Peninsula is still listed as part of the 774 local government councils in Nigeria. The Constitution has not been amended to cede this territory to any external country. And our Constitution is superior to any treaty or court verdict.

Rather than resort to the ICJ, the United Nations should promptly organise a plebiscite to enable the people of the Peninsula to determine their future. They can decide to stay in Nigeria, go to Cameroun or assume a separate sovereign identity. Anything short of this will not be acceptable to us.

Bakassi people are Nigerians fully protected by the constitution. No individual has the right to barter them off to external interests in pursuit of personal glorification. To reclaim Bakassi Peninsula is a task that must be done!

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