FEATURE ARTICLE

Michael O. FolorunsoWednesday, October 3, 2012
michaelf01@msn.com
Dallas, TX, USA

ANNOUNCE THIS ARTICLE
TO YOUR FRIENDS

THE BAKASSI INJUSTICE


advertisement

ecretary General Kofi Annan when he was in office, was the mediator, who also chaired what is now known as three party summit with the two countries' presidents on 15 November 2002, which established a commission to facilitate the peaceful implementation of the ICJ's judgement. A further summit was held on 31 January 2004. Even though these summits made significant progress, but since the summit left out the major stake holders, the people whose future and destiny will be forever affected by the summits outcome. The final resolution has created, huge problem because the Bakassi people will not have none of the ICJ verdict. To state it nicely, the process to steal a valuable piece real estate was complicated by the opposition of Bakassi's inhabitants. Each step of the way the people of Bakassi have remained resolute and have rejected the blatant theft of their ancestral homeland.

On 13 June 2006, President Olusengun Obasanjo of Nigeria and President Paul Biya of Cameroon did something very unusual. Obasanjo in particular traded away the land area we now know as Bakassi. Olusengun Obasanjo of Nigeria and President Paul Biya of Cameroon resolved the dispute in talks led by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in New York City, New York. Obasanjo agreed to withdraw Nigerian troops within 60 days and to leave the territory completely in Cameroonian control within the next two years. Annan said, "With today's agreement on the Bakassi peninsula, a comprehensive resolution of the dispute is within our grasp. “The momentum achieved must be sustained” --- Annan said. All the while the affected people were crying out they were being robbed.

Bakassi is the peninsular area of the territory of Calabar which opens into the Atlantic Ocean. It is technically being ruled by Cameroon following the transfer of sovereignty from Nigeria as a result of a judgment by the International Court of Justice. On the 22nd of November 2007, the Nigerian Senate rejected the transfer, since the so called Green Tree Agreement ceding the area to Cameroon was in conflict to Section 12(1) of the 1999 Nigeria Constitution. Without giving the constitution sufficient consideration, a portion of the territory was formally transferred to Cameroon on 14 August 2008 by President Olusegun Obasanjo. Obasanjo’s willingness to assuage the ICJ was suspect while he completely ignored the Nigeria Senate and the people who call Bakassi home.

Bakassi had never been a land that is desolate, in fact, it should be noted that there is a huge presence of people who have lived for centuries on the peninsular. The mindless, territorial give away, or is it hand over, will remain a major sour point to all seeker of justice, and quite rightly a source of dispute in the mind of every decent people. This is because the ICJ’s verdict goes against every sense of fair play and in particular, it goes against what is considered good faith dealing. The territory has a sizable population, which is estimated to be around 250,000 people. Yet no one sought it fit to give them a seat at the table when their collective fate is been determined. They forget that, this is a different era, this is the 21st century, and we the people of good faith all over the world will stand with the Bakassi people in their efforts to repel and refuse the daylight robbery of their land. The people of Bakassi have lived on the land of their ancestors continuously for centuries and carried out fishing as their primary occupation.

The peninsula is "oil-rich", and it is said to have a substantial amount of crude oil deposits that can last for many years to come. This is why, the area has aroused considerable interest from multi-national oil companies.

Short overview of European presence in the area:

During the European scramble for Africa, Queen Victoria signed a Treaty of Protection with the King and Chiefs of the Old Calabar, on 10 September 1884. The 1884 treaty gave the United Kingdom the right to exercise control over the entire territory around Calabar, and indeed Bakassi. The territory subsequently became part of the republic of Nigeria.

There are some, documents released by the Cameroonians, in parity with that of the British and Germans, which also clearly puts Bakassi under Cameroonian Territory as a consequence of colonial era Anglo-German agreements. Strangely enough, even after Southern Cameroons voted in 1961 to leave Nigeria and became part of Cameroon, Bakassi remained, under Calabar administration in Nigeria until ICJ judgement of 2002. If it is accepted that Bakassi is under Calabar, it should also follow that Bakassi is without a doubt a Nigeria territory. What person in Nigeria who is old enough, who will not know Calabar and its historical importance in the archive of Nigeria history. Calabar for the record used to be for many years the capital of the Colonial Southern Protectorate of Nigeria.

Territory in dispute:

Nigeria and Cameroon have for many years laid claims to the possession of Bakassi. This has led to considerable tension between the two nations. In 1981 the two countries came to the brink of war over Bakassi.

There were armed clashes between Cameroon and Nigeria in the early 1990s. This was when Cameroon decided to take the matter to the International Court of Justice on 29 March 1994. In hindsight Nigeria should never have agreed for the court to arbitrate on the matter, but Nigeria thought it had an air tight case. If Nigeria did not agree to submit itself to ICJ for arbitration, we will not be here discussing this matter today. In part, this is why I did not completely fault OBJ (provided he had no vested interest in the transfer). It will seem to me that he was only honoring the fact that Nigeria consented to appearing at the ICJ and Nigeria maintained defense representations at the court and as it will turn out the final judgement was not in favor of Nigeria. It is in fact an injustice to humanity.

The case as we know was extremely complex, where century old diplomatic exchanges were carefully sifted through. Nigeria it turned out, relied too heavily on the Anglo-German documents dating back to 1885 as well as treaties between the colonial powers and the indigenous rulers in the area, particularly the 1884 Treaty of Protection. Cameroon also pointed to the Anglo-German treaty of 1913, which defined spheres of control in the region, as well as two agreements signed in the 1970s between Cameroon and Nigeria. Cameroon has its boundary line drawn through the Cross River estuary to the west of the peninsula, thereby implying Cameroonian ownership over Bakassi. The problem here again was mainly due to some regulation which came out in Cameroon in 1971 and 1975 but were never ratified by any Nigerian government let alone be accepted by it.

The Fraudulent ICJ verdict:

The ICJ delivered its judgment on 10 October 2002, finding (based principally on the Anglo-German agreements) that sovereignty over Bakassi did indeed rest with Cameroon. It instructed Nigeria to transfer possession of the peninsula, but did not require the inhabitants to move or to change their nationality. Cameroon was thus given a substantial Nigerian population and was required to protect their rights, infrastructure and welfare.

The verdict caused consternation in Nigeria. It aroused heated comments from Nigerian officials and the Nigerian media also. Chief Richards Akinjide himself, a former Nigerian Attorney-General and Minister of Justice was a leading member of Nigeria's legal team. He described the decision as "50% international law and 50% international politics", "blatantly biased and unfair", "a total disaster", and a "complete fraud". The judgment was a rape in the face of acceptable logic and clear evidence unanticipated international conspiracy against Nigerian territorial integrity and sovereignty and part of a Western nations ploy to create and perpetuate problems in Africa.

Nigeria must refuse to withdraw its troops from Bakassi and thereby rescind transfer of sovereignty to France through its proxy, the Cameroon nation. The unfortunate thing is that Obasanjo allowed Chirac to mesmerize him into accepting the ICJ fraud in the weeks which preceded the ICJ ruling. This was why Nigerian government did not openly reject the judgment but instead called for an agreement that would provide "peace with honor, with the interest and welfare of our people. A key point that we must not allow to slip away from our consciousness is that the judgement was not unanimous, two judges, Ajibola and Judge Koroma both wrote dissenting opinion to the Judgment of the Court.

The ICJ judgment though backed up by the United Nations, whose charter potentially allowed sanctions or even the use of force to enforce the court's ruling MUST in fairness never be allowed to hold even in the face of unprovoked military assault by the UN forces and/or other Western nations. The world knows all too well that none of the ICJ judgements had ever been enforced against non African nations. This may be a time for us to finally expose the hypocrisy of the United Nations and its Agencies all over the world.

A possible Resolution:

The people of Bakassi and their leaders should make true their threat to seek independence if Nigeria completely turned its back on them and renounced sovereignty. Democratic Republic of Bakassi to me is a reality after all, there are countries in Europe that are by far smaller, Monaco, Luxemburg and Belgium come to mind. In the minimum a plebiscite should take place where the people chose a path for their future.

What we can do is to protest in front of the Embassies and Consulates of France, Cameroon, and Nigeria anywhere we find them. This can not be a one time protest, we must find a way to sustain it until we give this just cause the worldwide awareness it deserves.

advertisement
IMAGES IN THE NEWS