Lagos — TWENTY-ONE days after Nigeria lost the Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon, indigenes of the area, lawmakers and some eminent Nigerians, yesterday, said Nigeria could recover the territory or minimize the loss, if the needful was done.
One way of doing this is by filing a fresh case at the International Court of Justice, ICJ, The Hague with fresh facts at the disposal of Nigeria. This was one of the options participants adopted at a National Dialogue on Bakassi organised by Project Nigeria and Citizens' Advocacy Group at Lagos Airport Hotel, Ikeja.
Notable Nigerians at the Dialogue included Director-General of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, NIIA, Prof Bola Akinterinwa; Senator Bassey Ewa-Henshaw; Rep Nkoyo Toyo; Hon Adijat Adeleye-Oladapo; Col Tony Nyiam (rtd); Sir J.O Alabo Eniola; High Chief Nimika James; Emma Doh; Alhaji Shettima Usman Yerima ;Mr. Mohammed Fawehinmi; Mrs. Ganiyat Fawehinnmi and Mr. Wale Okunniyi.
Anyaoku seeks dialogue with Cameroon
Another option, according to former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, is for the Federal Government to seriously engage the Cameroonian government in a diplomatic dialogue to protect Nigerians who are still residing in the ceded Bakassi Peninsula.
Anyaoku gave this advice, yesterday, in Abuja while speaking at the second annual lecture organised by the Society for International Relations Awareness (SIRA).
The revered diplomat further stated that the military regime of the late Gen. Sani Abacha committed serious blunder when it agreed to become a party in the legal action filed by Cameroon before the World Court in 1994, adding that it was a mistake the nation would continue to live with.
Citing similar cases around the world in the past, he stated that whereas the Falkland Islands legally belonged to Argentina, the British Government refused to surrender the territory because the people of the Island preferred to remain as part of Great Britain rather than Argentina thereby making it impossible for the South American country to approach the United Nations for intervention.
I'll support buy back of Peninsula -- Akpabio
Also Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State, yesterday, said he would support plans by Nigeria to approach Republic of Cameroon for a possible buy back of Bakassi Peninsula
Speaking with State House correspondents after a meeting with the Vice President Namadi Sambo and Cross River Governor Liyel Imoke, Akpabio said the option of buying back Bakassi was viable and should be considered.
According to him, "Bakassi is very dear to our hearts considering the proximity and its importance. I will support if the possibility arises and if the price is not too high."
On his part, Imoke said the meeting agreed on ways to help Cross River State handle challenges arising from the ceding of Bakassi.
Another approach is for the National Assembly as promised by Senate President David Mark at the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) meeting in Canada, to meet with the Cameroonian parliament and resolve the matter at the IPU level. And if all these fail, Nigeria should support the self-determination efforts of Bakassi and people of Southern Cameroon to become an independent nation.
Akinterinwa, who chaired the parley, said Nigeria needed to take action on the fate of the region because Bakassi has two perspectives: the people and the territory.
He noted that while the ICJ ruling indicates that Cameroon has authority over the people and the territory, Bakassi people say they are of the Efik stock and do not want to be part of Cameroon. They want to remain as Nigerians.
Senator Henshaw (PDP, Cross River South), who saluted Senate President David Mark and House of Representatives Speaker Aminu Tambuwal for the roles they played on the Bakassi question, flayed Attorney General of the Federation and Justice Minister, Mr. Bello Adoke (SAN) for allegedly stalling Nigeria's quest to appeal the ICJ ruling in flagrant disobedience of President Goodluck Jonathan's order.
Noting that Cameroon had not implemented the Green Tree Agreement as Nigerians living in the peninsula are being dehumanized, Henshaw said it was sad that no Nigerian official had visited Bakassi independently to see how the people are living.
He lamented that the issue was not over and was deteriorating with serious security implications for Nigeria, he urged the National Assembly to go ahead with the plan to engage the Cameroonian Parliament to resolve the issue at the IPU level.
He said: "If it is oil that Cameroon is looking for, give them the oil but leave Bakassi people alone. They can live without the oil because they are fishermen."
On her part, rep Nkoyo Toyo (PDP, Calabar/Odukpani Federal Constituency), said the Bakassi matter transcended Nigeria hence actions should be taken at levels to address it: actions within Nigeria, Cameroon and at the international community level.
At the level of Nigeria, she said Bakassi people would refuse efforts to demarcate the maritime boundaries between Nigeria and Cameroon until all outstanding issues affecting Bakassi people had been addressed.
Other actions include revisiting the failure of the Green Tree Agreement, which has one more year to run; addressing the losses of Bakassi people arising from ceding the territory, addressing constitutional issues affecting Bakassi since Bakassi is still in the 1999 Constitution; and addressing the issue of resettlement and integration of the people on mainland Bakassi from their own perspective and not by merely assuming that they want a new place to live on.
At the Cameroonian level, Toyo said issues to be dealt with include citizenship of Nigerians on the Peninsula and all their rights accruing to them from the GTA and its warped implementation; working with the People of Southern Cameroon to ascertain the status of Bakassi within their context; and addressing the issue of the union between French and English Cameroon following claims by Southern Cameroon that they had been annexed by French Cameroon and the union has not been consummated.
And the international level, she suggested among others a revisit of the human rights failures, maritime security within the Gulf of Guinea particularly within Calabar waters, engage the parliaments of both countries as proposed by Senate President Mark as well as working on the issue of self-determination including declaring a special status for Bakassi.