BAKASSI: Boundary law places Peninsula in Nigeria

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Prof Walter Ofonagoro in this segment argues that the Law No.126 of 1954, placed Bakassi in Nigeria, and not in Cameroon, at independence. This shows that Rio del Rey has remained the Boundary since 1893.

THE BOUNDARY LAW No. 126 of 1954.  Let us return briefly to the Boundary law No. 126 of 1954. That law referred to the Southern Boundary of Eastern Nigeria as the “Sea”.

Prof. Walter Ofonagoro…Bakassi is in Nigeria

There is, therefore, no doubt that the Sea referred to in that boundary law was the Sea at the South shore of Bakassi Peninsula. The border is on the Western bank of the Rio Del Rey, and that entire Western bank is the Ports limit.

That law is still in force. What this means in effect, is that Britain never passed on any Bakassi inheritance to the Cameroons. Britain had simply returned Bakassi to its original owners before leaving Nigeria.

Consequently, Nigeria is the one with the title to Bakassi. Therefore, under the principle of the inviolability of inherited Colonial boundaries declared by the OAU Resolution AHG/Res. 16 (1) of the Organization of African Unity, in Cairo, Egypt, on July 21, 1964, the Uti Possidetis, Ubi Possidetis, so far as the Rio Del Rey boundary is concerned, belongs to Nigeria. Definition of the “Sea” as the Southern Border of Eastern Region of Nigeria, in the Constitution of the Federation of Nigeria, 1960; and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1963.

We have noted that the Boundaries Definition Law No.126 of 1954, defined the southern boundary of the Eastern Region of Nigeria as “the Sea”. Article 134 (6) of the Constitution of the Federation of Nigeria, 1960, states that “the continental shelf of the Region shall be deemed part of that Region.”

This same provision is repeated in Article 140 (6) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1963. At independence, Nigeria was a true federation, and Law No. 126 of 1954 defined the territories of the Federation of Nigeria, in terms of the territories of its component units.

The only territory belonging to the Federal Government of Nigeria under the 1960 and 1963 Constitutions as defined by the Boundaries Definition Law No.126 of 1954, was the Federal Capital Territory of Lagos. Thus, the continental shelf of Eastern Nigeria, in 1960, included the land under the seas off-shore Bakassi Peninsula.

That was why the Eastern Region, and after 1967, its successor littoral states of south-eastern Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Rivers and Bayelsa, have continued to enjoy off-shore oil derivation revenues from the Federal Government. This constitutional confirmation, makes Bakassi part of the territory of the Eastern Region, and part of the territory of Cross River State, because the east end boundary of Eastern Nigeria at the Rio del Rey is right on the Bakassi Peninsula.

Thus, clearly, the Law No.126 of 1954, placed Bakassi in Nigeria, and not in Cameroon, at independence. This shows that Rio del Rey has remained the Boundary since 1893.

In a recent advertisement in The Punch Newspaper of August 3, 2012, the Government of Cross River stated, in connection with the matter of the 76 oil wells dispute with Akwa Ibom State: “The dispute over the 76 oil wells is simple.

The territory and oil wells have always been in Cross River State as part of Bakassi, Akpabuyo and Calabar South Local Government Areas. Because Bakassi has been handed over to Cameroon, Akwa Ibom State now wants to take over this portion of Cross River State which did not go to Cameroon”.

The Nigerian Supreme Court, without waiting for parliamentary ratification of the Agreements, on the basis of which the ICJ made its controversial ruling, has already implemented it by ruling that Cross River State is no longer a Littoral State.

The significant point here is that the Federal Government signed into international law, the Ngo/Coker line of demarcation of sea frontiers between Nigeria and Cameroon, since June 1, 1975, and the Yaoundé I and II Declarations of August 14, 1970 and April 4, I971, ignoring the Nigerian International Border which we inherited at independence, which had been there since 1893, and allowed Cameroon to be drilling Nigerian oil, even at the cost of destroying the old Calabar River Navigable Channel since 1971.

Calabar river navigable channel

What this means is that Nigeria has been maintaining two international boundaries since 1970-75, the one, at Rio Del Rey is the legal one. It is inviolable, and therefore not nullifiable, by an established principle of international law. The other is, the Ngo/Coker line, drawn and signed by General Gowon himself, on the advice of his Director of Surveys, at the Yaoundé meeting, where he reached an agreement with his Cameroonian counterpart, Alhaji Ahmadu Ahidjo, who also signed.

Some scholars, both Cameroonian and Nigerian have stated that during their one-on-one meeting in April 1971, President Ahidjo asked his surveyor to produce a map, and stop arguing, and turned to his Nigerian guest, and asked him to indicate the spot on the map where the Thalweg of the Akwa Yafe River should start, to draw out the three mile line which should indicate where the maritime demarcation should begin. Surveyor Coker pointed to a spot and General Gowon drew the line.

It turned out not to be the center of the navigable channel of the Akwa Yafe River, which the Treaty of March 11, 1913 stated, must be wholly to the East of the Navigable Channels of the Cross River and Calabar River:

“The line that General Gowon drew, on the advice of Chief Coker, was not the Navigable Channel of the Akwa Yafe River, instead, it ran into a ridge, and cut across the Navigable Channels of the Cross and Calabar Rivers, which the British had intended, (with German agreement), to be completely on the Nigerian side, west of Akwa Yafe channel”.

Drawn out to its nautical limit of 18 miles, it gave away to Cameroon a huge area of the seas off-shore Cross River State, and brought Cameroonian oil drilling platforms right into the navigable channel of the Calabar River, since April 1971. What did Nigeria do?

She went right in there and sank her own drilling rigs. In 1972, the Nigerian Ports Authority was instructed by Commodore Wey, to dredge a new Navigable Channel for Calabar Port, this time, more to the West of the old one.

The only problem is that the new one is dangerously close to the Ibeno Springs, a whirlpool area, in the Sea, close to the Ibeno shore, which has been pronounced a hazard to shipping. Every Head of State, including General Gowon, has rejected and denounced that line, and that includes General Muritala Mohammed, General Obasanjo (1977), President Shagari, President Babangida, and General Abacha.

The Supreme Military Council refused to ratify it in 1971 and 1975, but because it had been signed, Nigeria was caught! It was on that line, trickishly extorted from General Gowon by Alhaji Ahidjo that the World Court decision has been based. It was not drawn as stipulated in Article 21 of the “dead” Agreement of March 11, 1913, “due wholly East of the Calabar and Cross River Navigable channels”.

Instead, it was drawn West across the two channels of Calabar and Cross River. It destroyed them both for the purposes of Marine Navigation. Can the Ngo/Coker line be therefore said to have been established as stipulated in Article 21 of the Treaty of March 11, 1913? Certainly not.

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