Attorney-General of the Federation and Justice Minister Mohammed Adoke
By Vincent Obia
Three days to the expiration of time to seek a review of the judgement of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ceding the oil-rich Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon, a pressure group, Bakassi Support Group, has engaged the services of Mrs. Cherie Blair QC’s International Legal Consultancy firm Omnia Strategy LLP on the review.
THISDAY learnt that Cherie Blair’s firm is to help the group prepare a legal brief which it would hand over to the Federal Government on Monday to arm the government in the impending application for a review of the verdict.
The 10-year window of opportunity given under Article 61 of ICJ statue to seek a view of the international court’s judgements falls due on October 10. The application for a review is predicated on the discovery of new evidence.
On Friday, some indigenes of Bakassi Penninsula under the aegis of Free Bakassi Association had commenced a legal battle to regain their lost territory at a Federal High Court in Abuja.
They are asking the court for an order of mandamus compelling the Federal Government to take full legal and administrative control of the Bakassi Peninsula.
But President Goodluck Jonathan is yet to take a final decision whether or not to seek a review of the ICJ judgement, though he had set up a committee to advise its review.
The legal brief being prepared by the Bakassi Support Group would leave the Federal Government no further excuses on the review.
There have been spirited efforts to get the government to return to the ICJ to seek a review of the court's judgement on Bakassi, which apparently helped to sway the President.
The committee, which included members of the executive and legislature, met from Wednesday night through Thursday morning with a view to coming up a position for the government.
Members of the committee were expected to look at the new evidence said to have been presented to the government on Bakassi and make recommendations on how Nigeria can reclaim the territory.
THISDAY had reported that at the meeting attended by the leadership of the National Assembly, Cross River State Governor Liyel Imoke and the Attorney-General of the Federation and Justice Minister Mohammed Adoke (SAN), the participants were briefed on the new evidence which could assist Nigeria pursue its appeal in line with Article 61 of the ICJ statue.
But there are indications that the Federal Government may be weary and may run out of time to pursue the matter given conflicting reports on the mandate of the President’s committee and the ongoing delay.
In view of this development and the limited left within which to seek a review, the Bakassi Support Group (BSG) headed by Senator Bassey Ewa Henshaw, who is also the Chair of the Obong of Calabar's Committee on Bakassi, instructed Omnia Strategy LLP, the London-based international legal consultancy, to advise the group immediately.
The concerns of the Bakassi Support Group are said to be anchored on the gross human rights violations meted out to the Bakassi people since the 2002 ICJ judgement.
As a result of that, the group has been exploring all legal, diplomatic, domestic and international avenues to seek redress, including compelling the Federal Government to seek a review at the ICJ as well as seeking redress at the UN, AU, ECOWAS fora and pursuing international mediation channels.
A member of the group said failure to protect the rights of the peace-loving people of the Efik Kingdom also located in Bakassi would be a crime against humanity and the FG must do everything in its power to protect their rights.
Many analysts and commentators had argued that the Federal Government had nothing to lose by seeking an ICJ review, but by not going to the ICJ, Nigeria weakens any further action on Bakassi.
“The question will always be asked - why did Nigeria not seek a review of the ICJ judgement? Even if the new evidence available may not meet the ICJ's strict rules for an application for review under Article 61, as has been suggested by some, the ICJ has to be made aware of the dire unintended consequences of their 2002 judgement and the ensuing Green Tree Agreement whose enforcement mechanism, if any, has failed the Bakassi people,” the member said.
Seeking a review at the ICJ before the October 10 deadline would raise international awareness of the gross human rights violations against the Bakassi people resulting from the judgement, he added.