Prof Walter Ofonagoro in this concluding segment argues that Yaounde I declaration of August 4, 1970; Yaounde II declaration of April 4, 1971 and the Maroua declaration of June 1, 1975 which created the Ngo/Coker line on which the ICJ based its judgment were, in fact in conflict with the letter and spirit of the Anglo-German agreement of March 11, 1913.
AFTER the outbreak of the war, Isaac Boro was withdrawn from Bakassi, and replaced by the 3rd Marine Commando Division of the Nigerian Army. They were under the command of Col. Benjamin Adekunle. Adekunle had been sent to retrieve the Calabar area from the Biafrans. “As soon as Adekunle came to the Peninsula, he was reported to have set about flushing out Cameroonian security presence with a view to securing it against Biafran infiltrators. But he was reckoning without higher military chess games being played in Lagos between Gowon and Alhaji Ahidjo, the Cameroonian President.
Obviously, Britain had encouraged Gowon to pledge Bakassi to Cameroon. Without Cameroon’s active support, the “rebels” would break the policy of encirclement or blockades and maintain the resistance through supplies it would be receiving through the long border with Cameroon. Adekunle and his troops were told to vacate the Peninsula and allow Cameroon to hold it.”
Ocherome concludes that the “Maroua Accord, therefore, was only the honouring of the Civil War pact, and the reconfirmation of the pre-colonial Agreement between Britain and Germany.” The Nigerian defence team at the ICJ also made a point of stating at the Court, that the Nigerian military stationed at Bakassi, was under the command of Major Isaac Boro until 1968. Col. B.A. Adekunle, in his Nigeria-Biafra War Letters, also states that he found the Cameroon military a very reliable source of intelligence on rebel movements in the border areas. Omoigui in his “Bakassi Story” suggests that it was ethnic ties, rather than territorial cessions that motivated Ahidjo’s informal entry into the Nigeria/Biafra war as a bulwark against Biafran use of the Eastern Border, and the South-Eastern Coast, for movement of men and supplies in and out of the embattled rebel enclave.
According to him: “Late President Ahmadu Ahidjo of Cameroon was a Fulani man whose father was originally from Kano in Nigeria. His mother was from Garoua in Cameroon. In fact Ahidjo grew up around Yola and Mubi in Nigeria and was a playmate of Senator Iya Abubakar. His former District Head in Nigeria, Ambassador Malabu, was made Ambassador to Cameroon to cement the relationship. It is said that every time Alhaji Ahidjo saw the late Alhaji Malabu, he would genuflect. Thus, Nigeria gained and sustained Cameroon’s support during the Civil War, not only by territorial concessions as have been widely reported, but by manipulating primordial links between Ahidjo and Nigeria.”
It was Ambassador Malabu of Nigeria, and the Cameroonian Foreign Minister, that “ceded authority to technical experts from the Surveys, Fisheries, Immigration, Justice, External Affairs, Cabinet Office etc. departments of both countries”, to take decisions at the meeting of August 12-14, 1970, where under the leadership of Chief Oluwole Coker, the most Senior Nigerian Officer present at the meeting, they decided to adopt the Anglo-German Agreement of March 11, 1913, as the basis for further boundary negotiations. The plan for encirclement of Biafra during the war also included assistance to Fernando Po (now Bioko) to achieve independence by joining a tiny Spanish enclave on the Congo mainland known as Rio Muni. Together, they achieved Sovereignty under the new name, Equatorial Guinea in 1968, with Nigeria’s active support.
Suspension of relief flights
As soon as they attained independence, they suspended relief flights to Biafra, and expelled all relief agencies that had been based there in 1968. That island’s population had been 70 per cent Igbos and Ibibios, owing to intensive labour recruitment from Eastern Nigeria to serve as plantation labourers on that island, on an agreement negotiated by Spain and UK since 1942. The Anglo-Spanish Employment Agency’s recruitment offices were a familiar sign post in most of pre-civil war Eastern Region towns. Nigeria left Bakassi and the entire Eastern Regional Border with Cameroon to the defence of Cameroon during the war.
That arrangement made Cameroon a combatant in the war. N.U. Akpan, Chief Secretary of Eastern Nigeria, and later of Biafra, said that Ahidjo, a member of the OAU Consultative Committee on Nigeria, “was among the most hostile to Biafra’s existence.” Eventually, “far more people died in the civil war through starvation, than through military action, including Air Raids”. Could the cession of Bakassi and its consequences be the compensation for the loyal support of a friend during the civil war?
Evidence presented by the Nigerian legal team suggests that Nigeria was at the ICJ, to defend the cession of territory to Cameroon, and secure international recognition for the Ngo/Coker line. With regard to the seas offshore Bakassi, Nigeria told the Court, that Cameroon had a right to be there prospecting for oil, under the 1975 Maroua Agreement.
Existing oil concessions
In paragraph 10.106 of Nigeria’s response to Cameroon’s Memorandum of Facts, Nigeria stated in relation to existing oil concessions in the area: “The Cameroonian government has been prospecting for oil in the area which she considered as falling within her territory under the 1975 Maroua Declaration. Nigeria too had been prospecting for oil in the same zone. But according to geological surveys, productivity of oil in the zone has only a life span of two years”. Was that worth sacrificing the National Security interests of the people of the South-East and South-South areas, who are more seriously affected by the cession of Bakassi, or is to serve as a containment contingency policy against the possibility of future conflict in the area?
All Nigerians must at least be grateful to the Government of Sir James Robertson, the last Colonial Governor-General of Nigeria, and his Minister of Transport Hon. Raymond Amanze Njoku, for making it possible for Nigeria to make the transition from colonial rule to independence with the Rio del Rey boundary intact. We must never loose sight of the fact, that Nigeria remained a British colony and protectorate until mid-night, September 30, 1960. Consequently, the Rio del Rey Port Declaration Order enjoyed the protection of Colonial Laws Validity Act of 1865, as a British Colonial Law.
Conclusions: In this paper, I have examined issues in the Bakassi crisis, which has been mainly traceable to Nigeria’s cession of Bakassi to the Cameroons, through devious and unconstitutional means. In this context, I have had cause to examine the performance of the Nigerian legal defence team as regards the nation’s sovereignty over the Bakassi Peninsula, which was the main issue at stake in this case. This is so because, control of Nigerian territorial waters off the coast of Cross River State depended on the ownership of the Bakassi Peninsula, since the Coast of the Peninsula was the only coast line the nation had at the Rio del Rey Boundary with the Cameroons, which has been established with appropriate legal instruments since April 14, 1893.
We have found in the course of this study that the Nigerian legal team went to The Hague to defend her new “Border” with Cameroon, comprised in the Ngo/Coker line that stretched from the Akwa Yafe River, west of Bakassi, to the sea, purporting the same to be based on the Anglo-German treaty of March 11, 1913. We have stated, that on the contrary, the Yaoundé I Declaration of August 14, 1970, the Yaoundé II Declaration of April 4, 1971, and the Maroua Declaration of June 1, 1975, which created the Ngo/Coker line, on which the ICJ based its judgment, were in fact in conflict with the letter and spirit of the Anglo-German Agreement of March 11, 1913.
They contradict, rather than fulfill that Agreement, which in any case, had long lost its legal validity. We have also established that the Nigerian legal team failed to defend Nigerian sovereignty over Bakassi at the ICJ, insisting on establishing the legal validity, and acceptability of the Yaoundé Declarations I and II, and the Maroua Declaration of 1975, in confirmation of Nigerian unconstitutional cession of Bakassi to Cameroon perpetrated through the so-called Ngo/Coker “line of comprmise”.
We also established that rather than defend Nigeria’s territorial sovereignty over Bakassi, and her seas off-shore Cross River State, our legal defence team actually accepted Cameroon’s claim to Bakassi Peninsula and the seas off-shore the coast of Cross River State. To do so effectively, they individually in their evidence-in-chief concealed the existence of three important Boundary Agreements, which established the Boundary of Eastern Nigeria with Cameroons since April 14, 1893, purporting to the Court, as stated in the ICJ’s summary of evidence at Paragraph 38 of the judgment of that Honourable Court, that “The maritime boundary between Cameroon and Nigeria was not the subject of negotiations until relatively recently. Thus, apart from the Anglo-German Agreements of 11 March and 12 April 1913, in so far as they refer to the endpoint of the land boundary on the coast, all legal instruments concerning the maritime boundary between Cameroon and Nigeria post-date the independence of those two states .”
Nigeria did not challenge the false assumptions, implicit in that statement. By joining Cameroon in presenting this false description of the sea/land border situation of Eastern Nigeria, the Nigerian legal team supported Cameroon in falsely asserting that Nigeria had no Treaty documents defining her sea coast border with Cameroons before 1913.
Existence of Rio del Rey boundary
Thus, they jointly concealed the existence of the Rio del Rey Boundary, which has defined Eastern Nigeria’s land/sea border since 1893, and remains valid to this day, as our inherited border since independence. Under rules set forth in OAU Resolution AHG/Res. 16 (1) of the Cairo Conference of the OAU, 1964, which rendered such boundaries frozen at independence, and inviolable in international law, that boundary still remains the Nigeria/Cameroon Boundary.
This is because, the existence of that Boundary was concealed from the court, and the court consequently made no order as to its nullification. We have stated that the purpose of this concealment was to mislead the ICJ into legally recognizing the side-lining of our existing Rio del Rey international boundary which confirms Bakassi as a Nigerian territory, and canonizing its replacement with the new contrived Ngo/Coker boundary line which dates back to the 1970 – 1975 period in Nigerian history.
We have shown that the purpose of that deception and concealment of the legal reality of the Rio del Rey border, inherited from Colonial Rule, was to supplant it with the contrived Ngo/Coker boundary, with the unwitting approval of the International Court of Justice, thereby rendering the Honourable Court, a partner in the deceptive and treacherous manipulation of the nationally and internationally recognized boundary of Eastern Nigeria which entered the land from the sea coast of the Gulf of Guinea, through three Boundary treaties executed between April 29, 1885 and April 14, 1893.
We have demonstrated that this boundary was still legally in force at the time of deception of the honourable Court; and that by so doing, the legal teams representing both countries, through the suppression of available documentary evidence, persuaded the Court to unwittingly assume that an internationally recognized and inviolable boundary, did not exist, and consequently give legal sanction to the new one contrived by two Heads of State, who served their respective countries during the Nigerian Civil War, and enforced by a third President who had, as a field commander, led the Nigerian forces in the area to total victory, from 1969 to the end of the war in 1970. Eight months later, on August 12-14, 1970, the immediate post-war Government of Nigeria, commenced negotiations with her war-time ally, Cameroons, with a view to:
a) Compensating Cameroon for her war time loyal services to Nigeria, in ensuring the success of the total land and sea Blockade of Eastern Nigeria (or Biafra) during that war. That compensation has been paid in form of having Cameroon drill oil in Nigerian territorial waters, through the illegally contrived boundary established by the Maroua Agreement of 1975, and the Yaoundé Declarations. Although the Nigerian Defence team stated in court that Nigeria regards the Maroua Declaration as “lacking in legal validity”, it had no difficulty accepting it as binding at the ICJ.
b) It is my considered opinion that in these proceedings, Nigeria, by transferring Bakassi to Cameroon, in compliance with the Green Tree Agreement of 2006, has also transferred sovereignty over a large part of Eastern Nigeria’s Territorial Seas to Cameroon, consequently rendering these territories, now the States of the South – South zone of Nigeria, especially Cross River State, partially land locked, in the event of any future conflict; even though these territories are naturally endowed with an extensive sea coast, which have been recognized in international law, as being part of the territorial seas of Nigeria.
It is our hope that, in the light of these facts, urgent steps will be taken to redress this situation. These may be mistakes from a war time policy that have unfortunately spilled over into our 42 years post-war history. The consequence has been that Nigeria has maintained two international boundaries at the sea coast of Eastern Nigeria since 1972. The one, the Rio del Rey boundary which has been in force since April 14, 1893, and which this ICJ judgment has been cunningly procured to render nugatory; and the other, the newly contrived Ngo/Coker “Line of Compromise”, put in place to enable Nigeria “show her gratitude” to Cameroons for invaluable services rendered during the civil war, 1967-1970. We have pointed out however, that the April 14, 1893, Rio del Rey Boundary Treaty, which separates Nigeria from Cameroon at sea, has been in force since before independence, and still remains in force, since the court made no ruling as to its nullification.
We have also pointed out that for the purpose of ensuring that Bakassi remained in Nigeria, the Colonial Government established at the Nigerian Rio del Rey Boundary, on the Eastern river bank of Bakassi Peninsula, the Port Rio del Rey on September 29, 1960, on the exact geographical coordinates of the Rio del Rey boundary, thereby ensuring that this boundary remained in force, and Bakassi, in Nigeria, as we attained independence on October 1, 1960.
It is, therefore, evident that by coming to the Court to agree on what they had already agreed to between themselves, between August 14, 1970 and June 1, 1975, and since put into effect, while also maintaining the Rio del Rey Boundary whose existence they concealed from the Court, both Nigeria and Cameroon have managed, through suppression of evidence, to procure the legal sanction of a new boundary, established without parliamentary approval, and which boundary trivializes and violates all known international laws of treaties, and cannot stand the acid test of legality, without the “life-support” of the dubiously procured judgment of the International Court of Justice, issued on October 10, 2002, which has been obtained by concealing from the Court, the fact that Nigeria does have an inviolable, colonially inherited boundary at the Rio del Rey.
It is clear that the court gave that judgment in error, based on evidence presented, and not presented, before it, in the course of trial. For the dignity and integrity of the Court, and respect for extant principles of international law, this judgment must be reviewed, so that the International Court of Justice is not used to procure a serious breach of international law. A judgment procured by deception, and concealment of material evidence, cannot stand. Having complied with that judgment, Nigeria qualifies to benefit from a review, under the provisions of Article 61 of the International Court of Justice, the Hague.