Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke
•President addresses the nation today
Davidson Iriekpen, Muhammad Bello, Onwuka Nzeshi and Jude Okwe
Nigeria finally gave up Monday on its quest to reclaim the oil-rich Bakassi Peninsula, which it ceded to Cameroun in 2008 following the judgment of the International Court of Justice(ICJ).
The Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke (SAN), said in a statement last night that seeking a review of the judgment, as being clamoured for by some Nigerians and the National Assembly, was not in the nation’s interest.
President Goodluck Jonathan is scheduled to address the nation this morning on the matter, apparently to calm frayed nerves over the tension Nigeria’s refusal to push through the case could cause, especially among Bakassi people.
However, the Bakassi indigenes said irrespective of whether Nigeria succeeded in reclaiming the peninsula or not, the Federal Government should give priority attention to resettling them and paying compensation.
Adoke, in the statement, said: “The Federal Government is of the informed view that with less than two days to the period when the revision will be statute barred (9th October, 2012), it would be impossible for Nigeria to satisfy the requirements of Articles 61(1) -(5) of the ICJ Statute. Government has therefore decided that it will not be in the national interest to apply for revision of the 2002 ICJ judgment in respect of the land and maritime boundary between Cameroun and Nigeria.
“Government is however concerned about the plight of Nigerians living in the Bakassi Peninsula and the allegations of human rights abuses being perpetrated against Nigerians in the peninsula and is determined to engage Cameroun within the framework of the existing implementation mechanisms agreed to by Nigeria and Cameroun in order to protect the rights and livelihoods of Nigerians living in the peninsula.
“Nigeria will also not relent in seeking appropriate remedies provided by international law such as the invocation of the compulsory jurisdiction of the ICJ; petitioning the United Nations Human Rights Council and good offices of the United Nations Secretary General which has played pivotal role in ensuring the peaceful demarcation and delimitation of the boundary between the two countries and other confidence building measures and calls on the United Nations to continue to provide assistance to the affected populations.
“The Federal Government wishes to assure all Nigerians, especially the people living in the Bakassi Peninsula of its determination to explore all avenues necessary to protect their interests including but not limited to negotiations aimed at buying back the territory, if feasible, the convening of bilateral meeting of the Heads of State and Government to ensure protection and development of the affected population.”
According to the minister, the eight-member presidential panel set up last Thursday to advise government on the Bakassi reclaim exercise, examined the case against the requirements of Article 61 of the ICJ Statute and observed from the oral presentations made to it by supporters of the review of the ICJ judgment that such presentations would not meet the strict requirements of Article 61.
“This is because their presentation was unable to show that Nigeria has discovered a decisive fact that was unknown to her before the ICJ judgment, which is capable of swaying the court to decide in its favour. This is more so as most of the issues canvassed for in support of the case for a revision of the ICJ judgment had been canvassed for and pronounced upon by the ICJ in its 2002 judgment.
“The Federal Government also retained a firm of international legal practitioners to advise on the merits and demerits of the case for revision. The firm after considering all the materials that were placed at its disposal against the requirements of Article 61 of the ICJ Statute came to the reasoned conclusion that ‘an application for a review is virtually bound to fail’ and that ‘a failed application will be diplomatically damaging to Nigeria’.”
The minister urged well-meaning Nigerians in the Bakassi Peninsula to be law abiding and to allow the various initiatives being undertaken by the Federal Government to bear fruitful results.
Bakassi people, at a news conference in Calabar by the Leader of the Bakassi People’s General Assembly, Senator Florence Ita-Giwa, said Nigeria had enough time to file the appeal before now but decided to play politics with the issue.
According to her, the current hurried effort may not achieve the desired result given that the government is acting under pressure.
She said if the government had filed for a review of the judgment before the final handover of Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroun on August 14, 2008 and argued the case with all the fresh facts at its disposal, the peninsula would still be a Nigerian territory.
“Many well-meaning Nigerians, organisations and groups have severally advocated the revisit of the ICJ judgment. Quite recently, the National Assembly had even passed a resolution asking for a revisit of the judgment. We equally remember that two members of the National Assembly representing Cross River State, namely Hon Essien Ayi and Senator Bassey Otu, had at different times moved relevant motions on the floor of the National Assembly sometimes in 2006 on the matter. As we speak, all these efforts seem to be in futility,” she stated.
The former presidential adviser on National Assembly Matters said the Bakassi people had been turned into internally displaced people in their country for the past six years, with no place to call theirs.
Since last week when the president met with a cross-section of the stakeholders on the matter and subsequently empanelled a presidential committee to guide government on how to go about the task, nothing much has been achieved so far.
The committee had been riven by internal squabble, as some members believed that Nigeria has no strong case to pursue, while others argued that the nation would lose nothing by trying.
Also Monday, a statement from presidential spokesman, Dr Reuben Abati, said Jonathan would brief the nation today. It was, however, silent on the subject matter.
The House of Representatives is also expected to take a final position on the issue today.
A member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Hon. Nkoyo Toyo, said that all hope was not lost on Bakassi.
Toyo, who represents Calabar/Odukpani Federal Constituency of Cross River State, said Nigeria could still pursue the recovery of Bakassi Peninsula through other avenues.
“The ICJ judgment is just one case, Nigeria can pursue the matter in many other ways.
“Nigeria could return to the ICJ on the basis of the case of Southern Cameroun, which was an English territory administered from Nigeria,” she said.
1966: The late Gen J.T Aguiyi Ironsi upheld international agreements that included the ownership of Bakassi Peninsula by Cameroun
1967: The Gen Yakubu Gowon regime also upheld the same international agreements
1970: Efforts to redraw the map of Nigeria after the civil war to contain the Bakassi Peninsula began
March 29, 1994: Cameroun filed suit at the International Court of Justice, The Hague on the ownership of Bakassi
September 3, 2002: Chief R. Oluwole Coker, a Nigerian surveyor who along with Mr. Ngo of Cameroun, decided the off shore line in 1971, died
October 10, 2002: The International Court of Justice, delivered judgment transferring Bakassi to Cameroun.
November 15, 2002: UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, set up a commission to oversee the peaceful implementation of the ICJ ruling.
July 9, 2006: Bakassi people threatened to secede if Nigeria failed to uphold its sovereignty over the peninsula
Nov 22, 2007: The Senate rejected the transfer of the peninsula to Cameroun
August 14, 2008: Nigeria handed over Bakassi Penisula to Cameroun
July 23, 2012: Tension began to build up at the peninsula as Cameroun deployed troops and arms in the area.
July 30, 2012: Bakassi people stepped up campaign for a review of the ICJ judgment
September 20, 2012: Pressure to apply for a review of the judgment intensified with many prominent Nigerians joining the fray
September 26, 2012: Senate passed a motion for Nigeria to seek a review of the ICJ judgment
October 3, 2012: FG set up panel to advise it on whether to appeal the judgment or not
October 8, 2012: Nigeria finally gave up Bakassi.