Leadership (Abuja)

7 September 2012

Nigeria: Appeal Judgement on Bakassi

editorial

If the federal government fails to appeal the judgement of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the ownership of the Bakassi peninsula before the October 9, 2012, deadline, the territory would belong to the Republic of Cameroun in perpetuity. By the statutes of the ICJ, a party to an issue brought before it has 10 years to appeal its judgement.

Worried by the federal government's reluctance to appeal the ceding of the peninsula, the 52nd General Assembly of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) recently urged the Nigerian authorities to apply to the ICJ for a revision of the judgement. The NBA believes that, on points of law, Nigeria has sufficient reasons to appeal the judgment.

It drew the attention of the federal government to the provisions of Article 61 of the ICJ Statute of 1946 and the need for government to act expeditiously. The august body also expressed worry that the Camerounian authorities are not keeping faith with the Green Tree Agreement of June 12, 2006. Nigerian citizens in Bakassi, the body observed, are being forced by the Camerounian authorities to change their nationality. Such Nigerians risk jail term of up to six months without an option of fine.

The Camerounian authorities also observe Articles 3(1) and 2(a) of the Green Tree Agreement in the breach, as these articles stipulate that, after the transfer of the territory to Cameroun, the Camerounian authorities should guarantee to Nigerian nationals living in the Bakassi peninsula the exercise of their fundamental human rights and other relevant provisions of the international law.

Even with a few weeks remaining for the federal government to file an appeal, it appears that the Bakassi case is a fait accompli.

The pronouncement by the minister of justice and attorney- general of the federation, Mr. Mohammed Adoke, gives the impression that the Jonathan administration has given up on the issue.

The position of the NBA cannot be ignored, in views of the circumstances of the ceding leading to the Bakassi peninsula to Cameroun. The weight of argument presented by the team of legal experts that represented Nigeria at the ICJ was not the best the country could present, given the circumstance. Since the judgement was delivered in 2002, there have arisen compelling grounds that were not considered by the ICJ for a revision.

While we are not urging the federal government to go to war with Cameroun over the territory, it is incumbent on the government to protect the fundamental rights of its citizens. It is the inalienable right of every bona fide citizen of the country.

Whatever happens before the October 9 deadline, we urge the federal government to resettle the Bakassi indigenes in the new areas allocated to them. This area should be designated a federal territory and all necessary amenities provided for the inhabitants. Finally, a referendum should be conducted for the people of Bakassi peninsula to determine which of the two countries they wish to belong.

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