Minister of Interior, Comrade Abba Moro
By Jude Okwe, Senator Iroegbu and Paul Obi
Despite the alleged declaration of independence, hoisting of flag and coat of arms by the Bakassi people in Cross River State, the federal government appears unperturbed, keeping mum over the matter, even as tension and uncertainty appear to have enveloped the state with political leaders engaging in crucial deliberation of the crisis.
When THISDAY contacted the Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, on the federal government’s position on the matter, he was not available for comment.
But the Minister of Interior, Comrade Abba Moro, while speaking with THISDAY in a telephone chat Saturday night, described the Bakassi issue as a thorny and very topical one which has a lot to do with Nigeria’s standing in the international community.
“You are aware of the ICJ ruling that Bakassi is supposed to be ceded to Cameroon. However, there issues that must be considered; the first one is that there has to be a legislation to that effect making it legal and constitutional, which I think as at the moment has not been done. Secondly, there has to be acceptance of the rule by the people of Bakassi Local Government Area to be part of Cameroon. Most importantly, this is a constitutional matter because Bakassi LGA is part of the 774 LGAs in the country and ceding any part of the country has to follow constitutional procedure by legislation.”
In his reaction to the development, Governor Liyel Imoke of Cross River State said his government had briefed the presidency on the development as he appealed to the protesters to be peaceful and law-abiding in pursuing their legitimate rights for justice.
“In the circumstance, it’s only dialogue that can resolve the issues and that is why I’m appealing to my people to give dialogue a chance in the matter as they pursue justice,” he said.
According to Imoke, “the state government has briefed the federal government. The governor, along with members of the National Assembly from the state, has met with Aso Rock and had given their own suggestions on how the matter can be resolved.”
Imoke’s appeal is however coming as the House of Representatives weekend called on President Goodluck Jonathan to appeal the verdict of the ICJ before October 10, when the period allowed for such an appeal will expire, saying if the Nigerian government fails to appeal within the first 10 years allowed, it would be deemed that it has accepted the verdict and would no more question the decision of the World Court any longer.
Making the call in Calabar, members of the House Committee on Treaties and Agreement who were on a fact-finding visit to the state advised Jonathan, to as a matter of urgent national interest, appeal the verdict before the expiration of its deadline, saying Nigeria would have nothing to argue again over Bakassi in future if the advice was not heeded.
Chairman of the committee, Hon. Yacoub Bush Alebiosu, said in an interview that it was necessary that such an appeal be entered to forestall any breakdown of law and order at the peninsula given the declaration of independence by some natives of the territory following Nigerian government’s seeming indifference to their plight.
He explained that though their visit was to afford them the opportunity of first-hand information on the Bakassi issue instead of relying on hear-say, it was necessary that the federal government be told what to do, given that the law allows for appeal of the ICJ judgement within the first 10 years of the verdict.
Alebiosu said with the facts already gathered, the committee will be in a position to make strong recommendations to the House of Representatives on the matter when the National Assembly resumes from recess, adding that Nigeria has signed over 240 Treaties and Agreements so far and that for any to be enforced, it must be domesticated.
A member of the committee, Hon. Ifeoluwa Arowosoge, in his remarks said despite the fact that the House was on recess, the president should still seize the initiative by exploring all the legal options open to Nigeria by appealing the verdict of the ICJ against the self determination of the people of Bakassi before October 10.
He described the ceding of Bakassi as a calamity of a democratic regime, stressing that failure to appeal will automatically mean accepting the unjust judgment of the ICJ on Nigeria but however promised Cross River State that the committee will be on the part of the law for the sovereignty of the country.
THISDAY checks revealed that Bakassi indigenes resorted to the declaration owing to the neglect they have suffered from the federal government.
According a source who pleaded anonymity, “Given the ill-treatment the Bakassi people have received from the federal government, mostly by ceding them to Cameroon, they have the right to self-rule and actualisation.”