AS DEADLINE EXPIRES in 48 hours: Imoke asks FG to push appeal on Bakassi

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By Our Reporters
LAGOS— CROSS River State Governor, Liyel Imoke, yesterday, made a desperate plea to the Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke, SAN, to push the directive from President Goodluck Jonathan by challenging the International Court of Justice, ICJ, judgment ceding of Bakassi peninsula to Cameroon.

Imoke made the appeal first as intrigue and personality clash stalled the meeting of the committee that was supposed to meet last night.

The Cross River State Governor said the issue of Bakassi was not about oil wells but about Nigeria’s territorial integrity and national security. He said since Bakassi was part of Nigeria, it was the duty of the Federal Government to protect Nigeria’s territory.

President Goodluck Jonathan had constituted a 10-man committee to look into the ceding of Bakassi with a view to appealing against the ICJ judgment before the expiration date of October 10, 2012, with Adoke heading the committee.

It was, however, alleged that the Attorney General was foot-dragging towards implementing the directives of the President despite the fact that there was no time to waste as the 10-year window of opportunity to appeal against the judgment expires on Wednesday.

The composition of the committee with persons who have either shown lack of interest in the appeal for the revision and those whose knowledge of the Bakassi case is limited, was already a source of discord, but the spanner in the works of the committee was thrown by the Attorney General of the Federation, Adoke, who said the committee was to study the directives given by Jonathan to find a way round the Bakassi quagmire.

The divided House

A source close to the committee said the House became divided as representatives of the Cross River State Government, House of Representatives and the Senate strongly saw the action of the AGF as a deliberate attempt to stall the effort to beat the deadline of October 10, 2012.

Sources said the meeting became heated as the AGF and the representatives of the Cross River State Government became embroiled in emotional verbal attacks while the meeting was adjourned to enable tempers calm down.  The source said the AGF promised to reconvene the meeting at 9.p.m. on Saturday but at press time, no meeting had been convened.

Vanguard learnt that the story that the committee sat to consider the fresh fact was part of the blatant lies which a section of the media was fed with to divide the focus of Nigerians.

Said a source: “Can you imagine that people like Professor Walter Ofonagoro was not invited by the Federal Government, rather, it was Justice B.U. Njemanze, the Chief Judge of Imo State, who invited Prof. Ofonagoro, but he was not allowed to make a presentation.”

Senator Ewah Bassey Henshaw told Vanguard: “What is playing out in Abuja is part of the grand design by forces that want to hand Bakassi over to Cameroon. President Goodluck Jonathan won the heart of Nigerians and Bakassi people when he ordered that there should be an appeal for a review in compliance with Article 61. It is not the duty of Nigerians to say whether the US, France, UK, or any other country for that matter should be happy with the moves being made by Nigeria. It is an issue that concerns the lives of Nigerians and that should be paramount in the minds of every Nigerian.”

Mr. Maurice Ekong said: “We have told the world that we have a solid case, we have told the world that we have engaged a high profile international lawyer in the past two months, is it not fair that the AGF hears us out?  Why are they always excluding the people of Bakassi from the meetings where their fate is determined? What does the AGF stand to gain if he frustrates our case? We did not just wake up to start this case, we have been on it but the Federal Government turned a blind eye. What they are trying to do now is to create the impression that we have no fresh fact, but we have a solid case to present.”

Govt officials in a fix

Meanwhile, top Presidential and Cross River State Government officials were in a fix as at last night, when it dawned on them that no action had been taken by the committee towards filing any brief with the ICJ.

Governor Imoke

As the deadline ran out, some officials from the state are reported to have tried desperately to seek the assistance of the Senate President, David Mark and a Principal officer to the President to prevail on the a senior minister to take necessary action on the matter.

The delegation from Cross River State, which was led by a Senator and some prominent leaders, were, however disappointed as they were unable to meet Mark and some senior Presidential officials to brief them on what was going on.

Mark was said to have expressed serious reservation over the way and manner the matter had been handled despite the presidential directive last Wednesday and was unwilling to say anything until it resurfaces in the National Assembly.

A source said that a top aide of the President, who was contacted by the delegation from Cross River State, regretted that there was nothing he could do since the man who was saddled the job had turned back his back on it, there was nothing the Presidency could do about the review of the case.

Another source who has been following up on the Bakassi matter lamented: “We went to see the Senate President with the hope that he could talk to some of these recalcitrant government officials to have a rethink on their despicable disposition towards the issue, but we could not meet with him.

“On the other hand, a principal aide to Mr. President told us that he was left in a state of confusion since the main person who was given the task of handling the matter appears to be singing a different tone.

AGF can’t go against President’s directive—Nwaosu

Meanwhile, a member of the inner bar, Chief Lucius Nwaosu, SAN, has said the Attorney General of the Federation was not in a position to go against a directive of the President. According to him, “He (AGF) is the mouth piece of the government that appointed him. He cannot on his own go against the direct order of the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.

“My take is actually, if the government appeals, it will give us time to look at the matter properly. I think it will be a great disservice not to take the matter to appeal, particularly as presiding Justice was said to be a French man in a case where French colony is a plaintiff. It is like asking a father to fine a son.”

Activist calls for AGF’s sack

As the controversy continues to swell round the AGF, a social critic and human right activist, Comrade Okoi Obono-Obla, has called on President Goodluck Jonathan to relieve the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Adoke, of his position over his alleged stance on the Bakassi matter.

Infuriated by the development, Obono-Obla, an Abuja-based human rights activist, said  it was treason for any government official to go contrary to the presidential directive which was on the protection of the territorial integrity of the country.

Also commenting on the alleged efforts of the government official to frustrate appealing against ICJ ruling, Chairman of Cakebird Development Corperation, Dr. Chinedu Jideofo-Ogbuagu, warned any government official to consider the security implications of not revisiting the ICJ ruling.

OBJ rejected UN’s plan to keep  Bakassi for 20 years

Report, yesterday, further confirmed that former President Olusegun Obasanjo shunned a proposal by the former Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr Koffi Annan, that Nigeria should administer Bakassi for 20 years before handing it over to Cameroon. According to a report published  by online medium, yesterday, on a secret US diplomatic cable dated Thursday, March 23, 2006, originating from the US embassy in Abuja, an emissary of the then UN Secretary General, Mr Koffi Annan, was said to have visited the US Mission in Nigeria to discuss the proposal placed before Chief Obasanjo to convince him to withdraw Nigerian soldiers from the territory.

Annan’s emissaries to the meeting were his Executive Director for Political Affairs, Carlos Lopes, and his Special Representative for West Africa, Ahmedou Ould-Abdullah. Both officials met with the embassy’s then Acting Political Counselor, who stood in for Ambassador Robin Sanders.

A dispatch to Washington on the meeting detailed Annan’s effort to get Nigeria to hand over the territory to Cameroon after administering it for about 20 years. Annan’s representatives expressed hope that US discussions with the parties on Bakassi would complement the Secretary-General’s endeavours especially as it concerned impressing “upon President Obasanjo and his aides that the Nigerians must withdraw their military completely from Bakassi.”

Obasanjo rejected the plan and went ahead to sign the Green Tree Agreement to give Bakassi to Cameroon.

According to another cable dated January 28, 2005, President Chirac’s advisor on African Affairs, Michel de Bonnecorse, told then US Ambassador Marquardt at a Paris consultation that there was need to persuade Obasanjo to comply with the ICJ ruling on Bakassi.

The cable said: “Bonnecorse said that at the Francophonie summit in Ouagadougou, Obasanjo had tried to enlist Chirac’s support for proposals which would leave Nigeria in control of the peninsula. Chirac, according to Bonnecorse, relayed the proposal to Cameroonian President Biya who, 15 days later, responded that the Nigerian proposals were unacceptable.

“Bonnecorse said that Biya was trying to avoid reopening negotiations over the Bakassi settlement, which Nigeria had tried to organise at Ouagadougou, under Algerian auspices.

“Bonnecorse noted that Obasanjo had told Chirac that his position was not based on petroleum interests, but on the concerns of the Nigerians living in Bakassi about being transferred to Cameroonian rule. Bonnecorse added that Obasanjo greatly exaggerated the number of Nigerians in the region as one million, whereas there were in fact only several thousand there.

“Bonnecorse also openly questioned Obasanjo’s denial of interest in petroleum. Bonnecorse said that the situation should become clearer next week, following Annan’s separate meetings with Obasanjo and Biya, but Obasanjo needed to understand that the issue was getting serious.

“As President of the African Union and with Nigeria advancing its candidacy for a permanent UNSC seat, Nigeria needed to resolve the Bakassi issue in accordance with the ICJ’s ruling.”

Classified by Amb. Jackie Sanders

1. (C) Summary: The Secretary-General’s Executive Director for Political Affairs Carlos Lopes and Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) for West Africa Ahmedou Ould-Abdullah briefed Acting Polcouns on sensitive efforts underway to resolve the Bakassi border issue. Lopes said SYG Annan remained engaged on the issue and still intended to organise a summit with Presidents Obasanjo and Biya in the  second quarter of this year.

Lopes said planning was being directed from the SYG’s office. The SYG was pursuing a  proposal which would allow Nigeria to administer a portion of the peninsula for less than the 20 years. Lopes and Ould-Abdullah expressed hope that U.S. discussions with Nigeria and Cameroon would complement the SYG’s mediation.

They stressed the importance of persuading Nigeria to withdraw all its military forces beyond the demarcated
international border. They also hoped the U.S. would accept a role (together with the UK, France and Germany) as a witness or guarantor to an agreement.

2. (C)USUN Acting Polcouns and Poloff, drawing from points in reftel, discussed the Bakassi issue with the SYG’s Executive Director Lopes and SRSG Ould-Abdullah on March 14. Lopes expressed appreciation for USG support and offer of assistance for SYG Annan’s mediation. Lopes gave assurances  that the SYG had not abandoned his mediation.

Although distracted by other priorities in the fall, the SYG had refocused attention on Bakassi in January. Lopes noted that the Nigerians, despite acceptance of the ICJ ruling, continued to delay its implementation. There was little likelihood that the Nigerians would withdraw soon on their own. The SYG remained committed to mediating what he hoped would lead to a pragmatic solution that Presidents Obasanjo and Biya would find acceptable and would ensure a transfer of sovereignty before Obasanjo left office.

3. (C) Lopes emphasised the sensitivity of the mediation. To ensure secrecy, the SYG had directed that planning for the mediation be confined to a handful of officials led by Lopes in New York and SRSG Ould-Abduallah.

(Note: Department of Political Affairs (DPA) officials confirmed that that information related to Bakassi was closely held, so much sothat Under Secretary-General of Political Affairs Gambari was not kept fully in the loop.)

4. (C) Lopes and Ould-Abdullah said the plan for a phased withdrawal of the Nigerian military from Bakassi by July 2006 that was agreed upon within the framework of the Mixed Commission was positive in that it fulfilled a pledge made by the two sides at the tripartite summit in Geneva. However, Nigeria’s implementation without some additional consideration had always seemed problematic because the plan was subject to the approval of the two presidents. (The SYG’s approval was also required, but this was a formality.)

Given his prior experiences and political realities in both Nigeria and Cameroon, the SYG was under no illusion that an Obasanjo-Biya agreement was easily achievable. Nonetheless, he thought it possible. He had directed Lopes and Ould-Abdullah to plan for a tripartite summit, preferably in the second quarter of the year, ie, by the end of June.

No date had been set as yet. However, Lopes said the SYG shared Cameroon’s concern that a further delay, with his own term of office ending and Nigeria’s presidential elections looming, would reduce the chances of a resolution.

5. (C) Lopes did not go into much detail about how he was proceeding with planning other than to describe the process  as a classic conflict-resolution exercise. He said there would be no attempt to resurrect what may or may not have been an agreement of the two presidents from their private discussions with the SYG last year. Ould-Abdullah noted that Biya had disavowed the agreement.

Lopes also observed that Cameroon had made crystal clear that it would not accept any  payments. Thus, he said a lease-back formula was not viable and was no longer under consideration.

6. (C) That said, Lopes said the SYG’s inclination was still to nudge the two presidents to accept an interim arrangement that would accelerate the withdrawal of the Nigerian military from Bakassi. Current conceptual planning was on developing a proposal that would allow the Nigerians to administer a portion of Bakassi for a limited period.

In general, he said he was focused on two issues: a transitional arrangement and the status of the Bakassi population. On the former, he said any transition period would have be less than twenty years (a period supposedly discussed by the two presidents last year) and preferably less than ten years. Lopes stated that he was making more headway “in narrowing the gap” on the issue of the status of the villagers. Lopes and Ould-Abdullah noted the importance of Nigeria fully withdrawing its
military to the international demarcated border, apparently prior to any transitional period.

7. (C) Lopes did not shed much more light on the transitional arrangement under consideration. He did confirm
that Cameroon would retain the full right to extract natural resources from Bakassi during any transition period.

8.(C) Lopes and Ould-Abdullah said that if there was a bilateral agreement, it was important to Cameroon that
certain “friendly nations”—notably the U.S., UK, France and   Germany—would be associated with this Bakassi agreement.  Cameroon preferred international “guarantors.” If this was  not feasible, Lopes said the countries would be asked to  serve as “witnesses.”

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