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ICJ judgment: Can the House of Reps save Bakassi people?
WHEN, in October 10, 2002, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) delivered its judgment awarding sovereignty over the Bakassi Peninsula to the Republic of Cameroun, various interest groups in the area have had cause to roundly condemn the ceding of the oil rich area to the neighbouring country, with claim that the ICJ judgment was faulty and political in nature, hence the need to have the judgment reviewed.
At different fora, affected people of the oil rich area had claimed that they were abandoned by Nigeria. Reports had it that after the controversial Bakassi Peninsula was ceded to Cameroun via the ICJ judgment, some Nigerians who agreed to relocate to Cross River State were promptly abandoned while those who chose to stay under Cameroonian authority were reportedly been treated like second class citizens and subjected to humiliation by the gendarmes, the country’s security agency.
This development has, however, continued to generate bad blood among the affected people of the area with threats to declare self autonomy when the Federal Government failed to address their plights and ensure that the right thing was done regarding proper resettlement and rehabilitation.
To this end, the House of Representatives have commenced moves to compel the Federal Government to initiate process, aimed at reviewing the ICJ judgment. It is on record that the ICJ had, in October 10, 2002, in a judgement, ceded Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon, after a prolonged legal battle which pitched Nigeria against the Francophone country at the world court, in Hague, Netherlands.
The move by the House to have the ICJ judgement reviewed was sequel to a motion of Urgent National Importance moved by Honourable Essien Ayi on July 18 entitled:”A Call for Review of the International Court of Justice Judgment on Bakassi”. The motion stated that the judgement was entered in error.
Honourable Ayi maintained that there was need to review the judgement based on new facts that have now emerged on the case, just as he cited legal precedents where ICJ judgments were challenged and reversed. The different countries of the world that have applied for the revision of ICJ judgements according to him, include, El Salvador vs Honduras in 2002, Yugoslavia vs Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2001 and Tunisia vs Libya in 1982.
Honourable Ayi also backed up his arguments with a document called “Green Tree Agreement”, noting that “in line with section 12 of the 1999 Constitution and legal precedents, the ICJ’s pronouncement on Bakassi holds no water. He explained that “the section provides that all treaties or agreements entered into by Nigeria and any other country, must be ratified by the National Assembly”.
Said he:”The Bakassi people are insisting on having a United Nations supervised plebiscite where they will exercise their right to self-determination, which is an inalienable right provided for in Article 1 of 1966 International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, General Assembly Resolution 2200A, which provides for the Right of all people to self-determination by virtue of which they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development”.
Speaking further, he said: “Article 61 of the statute of ICJ provides that an application for the revision of a judgment be made only when it is based on the discovery of some facts of such a nature as to be a decisive factor, which fact was when the judgment was given, unknown to the court and also to the party claiming revision”.
The Chairman, House Committee on Business and Rules, Honourable Albert Sam-Tsokwa, who spoke in support of the motion, said: “Whatever yardstick the decision to cede Bakassi was based on, it must be ratified by the National Assembly or it cannot stand. By the statute of the ICJ, we have the right to apply for a review of the ICJ judgement”.
After the plenary session, Honourable Ayi who briefed newmen alongside, paramount ruler of Bakassi and Chairman, Cross Rivers Council of Chiefs, Chief Etim Okon Edet said, “We still insist on having a United Nations supervised plebiscite where we will exercise our right to self determination which is an inalienable right provided for in Article 1 of 1966 International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, General Assembly resolution 2200A”
Honourable Ayi maintained that the judgement has deprived them of their rights to their ancestral land, alleging that the Green Tree Agreement (GTA) was signed without consultations with the natives of Bakassi.
While expressing dismay on the turn of events, the lawmaker maintained that at no time has Nigeria or Cameroun consulted the people of Bakassi since the dispute over the territory began several years ago, stressing that the GTA did not take into consideration the overwhelming desire of the Bakassi people to remain Nigeria citizens in the Nigerian political entity.
The lawmaker, however, warned that “unless the wishes and welfare of the Bakassi people were accorded due priority in the negotiations, the dispute will remain a threat to peace between Nigeria and Cameroun. Bakassi is not a vacant piece of land; Bakassi is a society; it is the ancestral land and home to people that are resolutely Nigerian.
“The most neglected but very significant issue is the right to self determination for the inhabitants of Bakassi. This universal right which is enshrined in the United Nations Charter as well as the Charter of the African Union, was not given any consideration by the International Court of Justice, which decided in 2002 to give sovereignty over Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon.
“The people of Bakassi are Nigerians and look up to Nigeria as a prominent member of the United Nations to project and protect their rights, basic freedoms and lives. Surprisingly little has been done to mitigate the sufferings of the people. Very little premium has been placed on the people in the course of trying to resolve the dispute,” he said.
He then maintained that “the plebscite conducted in the then British Cameroon in which the people of Southern Cameroon then administered from Nigeria voted to join Cameroon Republic was not conducted in Bakassi and cannot be binding of natives of Bakassi”.
On his part the Bakassi ruler said that if not for his advise, the Bakassi youths would have taken up arms to fight for their right stressing that Boko haram and militancy insurgent in the country was as a result of injustice, submitting that “justice is needed to bring peace back to Nigeria.”Share