The Senate on Wednesday appealed to the Presidency to invoke Article 61 of the International Court of Justice statute to appeal against the judgment ceding Bakassi to Cameroon.
The Senate’s appeal followed a debate on a motion titled, “The Judgment of the ICJ on the International Boundaries between Nigeria and Cameroon including Bakassi.”
Leading the debate on the motion, Abdul Ningi (PDP-Bauchi), who sponsored it along with 18 other senators, noted that the deadline for appealing against the ICJ judgment would expire on October 9. The judgment was given in 2002 and Nigeria had a 10 year period within which to appeal the verdict or lose Bakassi to Cameroon forever.
Mr Ningi noted that the judgment was erroneously based on an agreement between the British and Calabar chiefs in 1884. He said that there had never been a precedent in history where a case of this nature was executed without a referendum as enshrined in the UN rules.
“We are disturbed by the lack of faithful implementation of the Green Tree Agreement signed by both the Cameroon and Nigerian governments, thereby vitiating the basis of the implementation of the court’s judgment.
“Articles 3(1) and 2(a) of the Green Tree Agreement stipulate that after the transfer of the territory to Cameroon, the Cameroonian authorities should guarantee the Nigerian citizens in the Bakassi Peninsula the exercise of their fundamental human rights,” he said.
The Senator said the motion was premised on the fact that new facts had emerged after the ruling that were not available before the first trial coupled with the absence of a Nigerian legal representation.
The Leader of the Senate, Victor Ndoma-Egba (PDP-Cross River), said that there had been three motions in the previous Senate urging the Federal Government to tarry a while before ceding Bakassi.
Mr Ndoma-Egba expressed regret that the appeals were not heeded by the government and in spite of the protest by the people of Cross River; the government went ahead to hand Bakassi over to Cameroon.
“Bakassi was ceded in spite of the protest by Cross River State. Bakassi was ceded when Cross River had no governor because the election of Liyel Imoke had been annulled.
“There was an acting governor in place. The ceding of Bakassi will go down in history as the fastest compliance with the judgment of the International Court of Justice,” he said.
Mr Ndoma-Egba said the least that the people of Cross River demanded was compensation if they could not be put back to where they were before Bakassi was ceded.
Contributing to the debate, Enyinnaya Abaribe (PDP-Abia) wondered which country in the world would willingly give away its own property.
Mr Abaribe said the question of whether Bakassi was ceded because Cross River was a minority should not even arise since they were still citizens of Nigeria.
Hadi Sirika (CPC- Katsina) noted that the issue of referendum was very crucial and essential to the matter.
He called on the Senate to do all within its powers to make the Presidency to appeal against the judgement.
In his contribution, George Akume (ACN-Benue) said that the matter was brought before the National Council of State at the time by then President Olusegun Obasanjo for advice.
He said it had been a very contentious issue, adding that at the end of the debate, the resolution of the council was only advisory.
He said its members were made to understand that Nigeria was being represented by the best legal brains.
Heineken Lokpobiri (PDP-Bayelsa) noted that the motion should have come much earlier, saying Nigeria could take the second option which was to go back and reclaim Bakassi.
“There are two options, one is for us to appeal from now to October 9 and the second one is for us to go back to Bakassi and reclaim it.
“If Nigeria had not elected to appear before the court, it would not have had jurisdiction over it.
“My candid opinion is that Bakassi has not been legally ceded to Cameroon,” he said.
The Senate President, David Mark said he would on his own write a personal letter to President Goodluck Jonathan on the matter.
“Time is not on our side and so whatever decision or resolution we take should be that Bakassi should be returned to us,”” Mr Mark said.
He noted that going on appeal was the only right thing to do since Nigeria had subjected itself to the international court.
Mr Mark noted that it was the belief of every Nigerian that Bakassi should not have been ceded to Cameroon, saying that the Senate would protect all Nigerians.
Bakassi is the peninsular extension of the African territory of Calabar into the Atlantic Ocean. It is currently ruled by Cameroon following the transfer of sovereignty from neighbouring Nigeria as a result of a judgment by the International Court of Justice. On 22 November 2007, the Nigerian Senate rejected the transfer, since theGreen Tree Agreement ceding the area to Cameroon was contrary to Section 12(1) of the 1999 Constitution. Regardless, the territory was formally transferred to Cameroon on 14 August 2008.