Bakassi returnees in Cross River State and Akwa Ibom State, under the aegis of Amalgamated Bakassi Returnees Association (ABRA), have condemned the subjugation of their interest under the inordinate pursuit of 76 oil wells.
The returnees, led by Mr. Asuquo Ating, described the situation as sacrificing their welfare at the altar of economic concerns and said government should be more concerned about their welfare, resettlement and rehabilitation.
They maintained that before 2005, the 76 oil wells were not in Cross River State but in Akwa Ibom State. “This was the position even when Bakassi was part of Nigeria, and yet Cross River State still survived without those oil wells,” Ating noted, arguing that in the frantic fight for the oil wells, the returnees from the two states of Cross River and Akwa Ibom had been completely forgotten and neglected.
“This fight for the 76 oil wells in the media on a matter which is before the Supreme Court, is diversionary and cheap politics,” Ating lamented.
In a related development, the Forum of Elected Local Governments Chairmen in Akwa Ibom State have debunked the insinuations by local government chairmen in Cross River State that Nigeria would lose territories to neighbouring countries if the impending judgment on the 76 oil wells did not favour Cross River State.
Briefing reporters in Uyo, Mr Nse Ntuen, who said he was dumbfounded by his Cross River State counterparts’ claim added that they based their strange and misinformed conclusions on “rumours in the streets, small talks at joints, corners and sit-outs point to the fact that the Supreme Court is bent on overruling itself.”
He said that the Cross River council chairmen by this report admitted that they were rumour-mongers and reduced the issue of justice to “talks at joint and sit-outs” instead of courts of law.
He accused the Cross River State council chairmen of a deliberate attempt at public deception, maintaining that the claim that Nigeria would lose more territories to Cameroun, Sao Tome and Principe and Equatorial Guinea if the judgment did not favour Cross River State was false, strange and deceptive.
While questioning the source of the alleged security threats, Ntuen noted that the Cameroun-Nigeria Mixed Commission, which implemented the ICJ judgment, had international experts drawn from different parts of the world and the Nigerian Navy and maritime agencies, adding that if there were such security fears they would have been brought to the fore long before now.
Ntuen accused the Cross River council chairmen of naivety in mistaking baselines for boundary lines, and said that maritime territory definitions are subject to the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea and a nation’s statutes, adding that there was no conceivable way the judgment within the Nigerian courts could lead to the Camerounian Navy or any foreign ship violating our maritime boundaries.
It was his contention that the position of the Cross River State local government chairmen on Nigeria losing territories was totally false, misleading and baseless.
Ntuen noted that until 2005, Cross River never claimed or owned any of the 76 oil wells in question until a letter dated January 24, 2005 arbitrarily transferred the said 76 oil wells of Akwa Ibom State to Cross River State on the assumption that Western Bakassi would remain in Cross River State. “In the end, this assumption did not come to be and the purported transfer of these 76 oil wells from Akwa Ibom State to Cross River State could no longer be sustained,” Ntuen said.
He maintained that the Supreme Court had earlier declared this action sub judice having been done during the pendency of the court case instituted by the Cross River State as the plaintiff.
He noted that in a suit number SC.124/199 between Cross River State as plaintiff and Attorney General of the Federation and that of Akwa Ibom State, the Supreme ruled that Cross River State does not have a direct access to the sea and, therefore, lost its littoral status as a result of the International Court of Justice ruling of October 10, 2002 in the maritime boundary matter between Nigeria and Cameroun.
The chairman explained that not having an estuarine territory as the Supreme Court ruled means that Cross River State cannot claim any maritime resource, especially those in Akwa Ibom territory, including oil wells as in this case.
It was Ntuen’s contention that the claim of the Cross River State Forum of Local Government Chairmen that Cross River State is littoral because it has a port is false, maintaining that the Calabar port is not a seaport, but an inland and riverine port within the hinterland of the Cross River, only accessible upstream along the waterway called “Cross River.”