By HUGO ODIOGOR, HENRY UMORU, INALEGWU SHAIBU & IKECHUKWU NNOCHIRI
Barely 45 days to October 10 when Nigeria will lose its right to appeal against the controversial judgment of the International Court of Justice, ICJ, which had in 2002, ceded the oil-rich Bakassi Peninsula in Cross River State, to the Republic of Cameroon, the Senate yesterday said the agreement stands illegal until the National Assembly ratifies it even as the presidency still keeps mum on the verdict.
The Paramount ruler of Bakassi, in his reaction declared that the issue of Bakassi has gone beyond what Nigeria can handle as the people of the disputed Peninsula have decided to approach the UN to demand for a referendum in the area.
Going by the procedural rules of the ICJ, by October 10 this year which makes it exactly 10 years after the verdict was delivered, by the terms of the 2005 Green Tree Agreement, Nigeria’s cession of its erstwhile territory would be perfected, except she raises fresh issues for a review of the case.
Under the prevailing Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended, Bakassi Peninsula remains and is still listed as part of the 774 local government councils in the federation. Section 12(1) of the 1999 Constitution states that “No treaty between the Federation and any other country shall have the force of law except to the extent to which any such treaty has been enacted into law by the National Assembly.” Thus by implication, the divisive “Green Tree Agreement” can still be revoked by Nigeria under the constitution which is the graund-norm.
Reacting yesterday, the Senate said until the National Assembly ratifies the agreement and legislate on it, any action taken will not be legal.
In a message to Vanguard, Chairman, Senate Committee on Information, Media and Public Affairs, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, PDP, Abia South said, “If National Assembly has not ratified the Green Tree Agreement, it is not yet legal.”
FG keeps mum on appeal of ICJ ruling
Efforts by Vanguard to get the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke, SAN, to establish whether the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan has the will power to challenge the ICJ verdict proved abortive.
The Chief Press Secretary at the Ministry of Justice, Mr Ambrose Momoh, who spoke to Vanguard on phone, said he was not aware if the AGF was making any moves towards lodging an appeal against the ICJ judgment before the October 10 deadline elapses.
He said: “there is no new development on the case for now but when I get to the office tomorrow (today) I will make further inquiries from the AGF.”
Meantime, following alleged inhumane treatment meted out against the Bakassi indigenes by the authorities in Cameroon, lawmakers in Cross River State recently visited the Federal Ministry of Justice in Abuja, where they urged AGF to immediately apply for a review of the ICJ judgment and the “Green Tree Agreement.”
Rising from an interactive fact-finding session with the people of Bakassi in Ikang, the lawmakers said fresh facts have been gathered on the Bakassi matter and the ICJ permits a review of its judgment within 10 years based on fresh facts.
The lawmakers in the meeting included Mr. Saviour Nyong representing Bakassi in the state House of Assembly, Mr. Essien Ayi representing Calabar South/Akpabuyo/Bakassi in the House of Representatives and Prince Bassey Otu, the Senator representing Cross River South Senatorial district in the Senate; former Chairmen of Bakassi Mr. Emmanuel Etene, Ani Esin, traditional rulers, and Youth Groups.
In his speech, Mr Otu who convened the meeting said: “I am here to meet with you face-to-face and to hear from you, relay greetings from the Senate and to let you know that the fight (to regain Bakassi) is not over yet. I will not give in or surrender until we achieve positive result. We have never been conquered in a battle before and we will not be conquered.”
Otu stressed that the “Green Tree Agreement was not ratified by the National Assembly and all other reasons, which I will not like to state here and let me also remind us of the Charter of People’s Rights, which we can deploy to revisit being compelled into a particular territorial entity. In a scenario that we as the people of Bakassi must be fixed in Cameroun, Nigeria or a Bakassi Republic, we shall have to make the choice.”
Likewise, Mr Ayi on his part said “few days before we went on vacation, I raised a motion on Bakassi and the House endorsed it to put pressure on the Federal Government to file papers in the ICJ on a review of the judgment and we will not rest until the matter is resolved. We met with the President and on Thursday, we will meet with the Attorney General of the Federation to ensure that the papers are filed and we want a plebiscite to follow suit. It has happened in Southern Sudan so why can’t it happen here.”
The Bakassi member in the state House of Assembly and Leader of the Save Bakassi Group, Mr. Maurice Ekong, equally noted that the ICJ judgment relied on the 1913 unsigned Anglo-Dutch treaty whereas the people of Bakassi through the Obong of Calabar had in 1884 signed a protectorate treaty with the British which he said supersedes whatever treaty that subsequently took place over the region.
The Paramount ruler of Bakassi, Etiyin Etim Okon Edet also said in Lagos last week that the issue of Bakassi has gone beyond what Nigeria can handle as the people of the disputed Peninsula have decided to approach the UN to demand for a referendum in the area.
Only UN referendun can solve crisis
He said: “The people of Bakassi are praying to God, we have called on our ancestors and we know that God will answer our prayers. The world should ask its conscience some questions. Why was the people of Abyei in Sudan not relocated to South Sudan or merged with Sudan. Why is UN contemplating of a referendum there?
“We disagree with anybody who thinks that the solution to Bakassi problem is to relocate the people with the nation that Bakassi people have no land, Bakassi peninsula is our land and our identity. We are not in West Bank or Gaza, we are not Western Sahara. We are not Kurdish people who are a people without a homeland. God gave us Bakassi to occupy, inhabit, multiply and be fruitful; God gave us Bakassi land as our foothold on the face of the earth. God gave us Bakassi land as a place to find our means of livelihood, as fishermen and farmers, we will not throw away our heritage into extinction, we have declared our independence from Cameroon, and since Nigeria does not want us, we shall exist as one nation under the sun and under God.
According to him, “there was Bakassi before Nigeria came to be, there was Bakassi before Cameroon came to be. We were there without Cameroon and without Nigeria, without Britain, Germany and France. What we are saying is that they should allow us to be on our own. We are not a war trophy or a commodity on the shelf that ICJ and its judges will wake up one morning and hand over to whomever they wish or desire, we did not tell anybody that we want to go to Cameroon”. He said “the least the ICJ judgment should have done was to ask for a referendum that is why we must approach the United Nations if is a strong ground for us to appeal the judgment of ICJ, because it did not recognise the fundamental human rights of Bakassi people, especially our right to determine our destiny. The least that ICJ should have done should have been to order for a referendum as they did in Sudan, Western Sahara.?
Also reacting, Chairman, Senate Committee on Rules and Business, Senator Ita Enang called for the review of the ICJ judgment that ceded Bakassi peninsula from Nigeria to Cameroon.
Senator Enang who spoke to Vanguard in Abuja said the ruling was a denial of the fundamental rights of Bakassi indigenes who are truly Nigerians and not Cameroonians.
He called on the Federal Government to immediately institute action against the judgment to ensure that Bakassi peninsula is handed back to Nigeria.
According to him, “I totally support that Nigeria appeal against the International Court of Justice judgment in relation to the international boundaries between Nigeria and Cameroon, which ceded Bakassi peninsula to the Cameroon.
“I want the ruling to be reversed so that the people can come back to Nigeria because that is where the people belong. It not a question of who owns the land, but of the people, and these people are Nigerians in blood and everything.
“The people in question do not belong to Cameroon, they are Efik people from Cross River and Akwa Ibom State of Nigeria, as such, I will urge the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice to take urgent steps to towards the reviewing of the judgment handed over by the International Court of Justice on Bakassi against Nigeria.”
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