This Day (Lagos)

Nigeria: Suit to Compel FG's Action on Bakassi Commences

Indigenes of Bakassi Peninsula Friday commenced a legal battle to regain their lost territory at a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja.

The territory was transferred to Cameroon in 2006 under the Green Tree Agreement as a follow up to the 2004 ruling by the International Court of Justice that the peninsula belonged to Cameroon.

The indigenes under the umbrella of Free Bakassi Association are asking the court for an order of mandamus compelling the Federal Government of Nigeria to take full legal and administrative control of the Bakassi Peninsula.

The ex-parte motion also sought an order voiding the Green Tree Agreement that Nigeria signed with Cameroon under which the territory was handed over to Cameroon.

The applicants argued that the ICJ judgement was based "on archaic and anachronistic colonial declarations, and communications between colonial officers."

They argued that the treaty (on which the judgement was based), 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."

Counsel to the nine executive members of the Free Bakassi Association who filed the suit, Festus Ogwuche said the Green Tree Agreement violates Articles 1, 2, 20, 21, 22 and 24 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights.

He said it also violates 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)."

Ogwuche argues: "The ICJ gave the judgement as though the territory is occupied by wild animals without any rights under municipal or international laws and treated the colonial declaration and communication as conferring absolute proprietary rights and obligations to the territory to persons or entities outside the territory at the expense of those who for centuries lived and existed therein and of which the territory is their homeland."

More so, the applicants alleged that they were neither consulted nor their consent sought before former President Olusegun Obasanjo endorsed the Green Tree Agreement.

The applicants are Prince Imoh Ukpa Imoh, Godwin Ukpong, Christian A. Umoh, Anthony Achibong Ukong, Kingsley Edu, Etim Ekpeyong Ndong, Offiong Anying Ekpeyong, Bassey Okon Osua and Bassey Ikoedem Antiga.

Justice Gabriel Kolawole, adjourned ruling on the ex-parte motion till October 9, because "the suit requires time in view of weighty national issues raised in the application."

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