By Tobi Soniyi
Experts in international law Saturday faulted the House of Representatives on its call on the federal government to commence a process for the review of the International Court of Justice, which awarded Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon.
Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, Dr Chidi Odinkalu and Mr Sebastine Hon, SAN, both described the resolution of the House of Reps as belated.
Odinkalu said: "I think when the Honourables look more closely at the applicable laws they may realise that such a resolution is entirely without bases in international law and could degrade the quality of our international standing."
For Hon, the House of Representatives' resolution did not only come too late, it is also capable of causing Nigeria moral dents in the international community.
He said:"The ICJ judgement has made both parties to the dispute to change their positions. Nigeria has also officially complied with the judgement. Any attempt to challenge or torpedo the status quo will wrought serious moral dents on our international image. Mind you that the judges that will sit on such appeal are also human beings and are also an important segment of the enlightened international community."
According to him, the resolution is belated chiefly because equity aids the vigilant.
Hon said that the Bakassi debacle was not well handled and that Nigeria we must learn to live with it.
"Even if the Government of Nigeria is within time to appeal, delay in pursuing our appellate rights will definitely work against us," he added.
However, Odinkalu said that he had visited the penisula many times recently and that the people living there are in dire need of help.
He said: "I'm also not unmindful of the fact that we have not as a country served the best interests of the peoples of Bakassi in the implementation arrangements.
"There is an incipient statelessness problem that was entirely foreseeable and should have been prevented. Livelihood is also dire among the communities.
"I hope that the political authorities will see wisdom in involving the National Human Rights Commission in a meaningful search for solutions."
Last Wednesday, the House of Representatives, called on the federal government to commence the process for the review of the ICJ judgement ceding Bakassi peninsula to the Cameroon.
The ICJ had in a judgement delivered on October 10, 2002 ceded the Bakassi peninsula to the Republic of Cameroon.
The position of the House of Representatives followed a motion moved by Essien Ayi (PDP-Cross River) which was unanimously adopted without debate.
While moving his motion, Ayi said that Article 61 of the Statute of ICJ provided for application for the revision of a judgement only when some facts that were decisive factors, were unknown to the court and the party seeking revision.
He cited instances of countries like El Savador, Yugoslavia and Tunisia which applied for a review of judgements by the ICJ.
He said the people of Bakassi insisted on having a United Nations' supervised plebiscite, where their rights to self-determination would be exercised.
Ayi said that the people of Bakassi had called on the federal government to do same by invoking the machinery of justice and demand for a review of the case.
He noted that there was the need for a review as the judgement was reached in error.
He said: "One of these facts is that the 1913 Anglo-German treaty relied on by the ICJ to cede Bakassi to Cameroon is in breach of Article 6 of the General Act of Berlin Conference that enjoined European powers to watch out over the preservation of the native tribes and not to take over or effect transfer of their territory."
He said the federal government should initiate the process towards the conduct of a UN supervised referendum in Bakassi.
Albert Sam-Tsokwa (PDP-Taraba), who pleaded with members to allow for the adoption of the motion, said that until the ICJ ruling was ratified by the National Assembly, it would not be binding on Nigeria.
Sam-Tsokwa noted that as a country, Nigeria had the right to apply for a review of the judgement.