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Cameroon had no valid claim to Bakassi – Ofonagoro

The Bakassi sovereignty and international politics (3)
Prof. Walter Ofonagoro here asserts that  the Agreements of April 29, 1885 and April 14, 1893 confirmed the Western bank of the Rio Del Rey Creek, which is the Eastern borderline of Bakassi Peninsula as the Boundary, on the Rio Del Rey, between Nigeria and Cameroons

PROF. Ofonagoro’s Comments: Let me now examine Cameroon’s claims. By the end of this exercise, it must be obvious to everyone, that Cameroon had no valid claim to Bakassi, and that Nigeria merely went to the court to surrender Bakassi to Cameroon, and thereby legalize an action which she had already set in motion since August 1970, and concluded with the Maroua Declaration of 1975, through craftily contrived legal instruments and “Agreements” which cannot stand the acid test of empirical analysis, and none of which was ratified by Nigeria’s legislature. I will now discuss the issues raised by both Cameroon and Nigeria through their various postulations at the ICJ:

1.“Facts” adduced by Cameroon in support of her claim: Paragraph 4 of “Facts” adduced by Cameroon in support of her claims was a complete concoction of deceptive information, calculated to misinform the Court, in order to achieve undeserved acquiescence to her claims of right.

What is truly amazing is that the Nigerian defence participated in that deception, thereby enabling Cameroon to convince the Court to accept as truth, Cameroon’s concealment of material evidence masked in that opening statement.

Documentary evidence

Cameroon created in that statement, the impression that until the Anglo-German Treaty of March 11, 1913 , there were no treaties, or documentary evidence governing the definition of boundaries between German and British spheres of active colonial interests in their respective spheres of Nigeria and Cameroon on the coast of the Gulf of Guinea.

Prof. Walter Ofonagoro…Bakassi is in Nigeria

It reads: “In 1884, the Germans concluded with the Douala chiefs of the Cameroonian coast, agreements that enabled them to annex the hinterland, in conformity with the hinterland doctrine which was then recognized as a mode of acquisition of territory, provided for in various legal instruments including the final Act of Berlin Conference of June 26, 1885. Acting in conformity with the conclusions of the Berlin Conference, the German government of the day concluded with the colonial powers established in the neighbouring territories, agreements aimed at a precise delimitation of areas subject to their sovereignty. A large number of Agreements were thus concluded between Great Britain and Germany in relation to their possessions of Cameroon and Nigeria, including the agreements of London of March 11, 1918 and Obokum of April 12, 1913, by which the frontier was delimited between Cameroon, and Nigeria from Yola to the sea, and which regulated navigation on the Cross River.”

That statement appears innocent enough. However, the mind-boggling deception embedded in it would have been sufficient to dismiss the Cameroon’s case on first hearing. In that simple statement of half-truths, Cameroon tried, successfully, with the support of the Nigerian defence, to deceive the court by suppressing evidence of twenty-eight years of painstaking treaty making efforts, undertaken by the United Kingdom and Germany, to make treaties, piece-meal, section by section, to delimit, define and demarcate the boundaries separating their two respective colonies of Nigeria and Cameroons.

Innumerable agreements

They did not just go to Berlin in 1884/85, and then haggle over innumerable Agreements for twenty-eight years, and finally show up in London in March 1913, to sign treaties, globally covering the one thousand and one hundred miles (1,100 miles) of boundary between Yola and the sea. Rome was never built in a day. Even the Obokum Agreement of April 12, 1913 and the Anglo-German Agreement of November 15, 1893, dealing with areas north of the Cross River bend were signed in much the same way as earlier treaties signed and finalized between Germany and Britain between April 29, 1885, and April 14, 1893, covering the establishment of the boundary between British Nigeria and German Cameroon from the Gulf of Guinea, through the Rio Del Rey to a junction of two rivers just south of Archibong village.

Very brazenly, Cameroon even claimed in paragraph 5 of its “Memorandum of Facts” at the ICJ, that the Anglo-German Agreement of March 11, 1913, “superseded all previous texts, and provided in particular, in connection with the area in dispute, that the frontier runs along the Thalweg of the Akwa Yafe River (Article 18), and that “should the lower course of the Akwa Yafe River so change its mouth as to transfer it to the Rio del Rey, it is agreed that the area now known as the Bakassi Peninsula shall still remain German territory……..(Article 20)”.

We must note here the language of this provision. It says that “Bakassi shall still remain German territory.” The ordinary meaning of this expression is that Bakassi was already German territory before the drafting of this agreement! In that case, no one could lay claim to Bakassi Peninsula on the basis of Article 20, of the Anglo-German Agreement of March 11, 1913.

If Bakassi was already German territory before the March 11, 1913 agreement was drafted, when exactly did it become German territory? The Agreements of April 29, 1885 and April 14, 1893 confirmed the Western bank of the Rio Del Rey Creek, which is the Eastern borderline of Bakassi Peninsula as the Boundary, on the Rio Del Rey, between Nigeria and Cameroons.

If by the 1893 treaty, Bakassi was Nigerian, then Cameroon should have produced a document, perhaps an unknown treaty, to show when exactly, between April 14, 1893 and March 11, 1913, that Bakassi became German territory, so that it shall still remain so, regardless of whether the boundary goes East from Akwa Yafe River to the Rio del Rey Creek, by way of the Bakassi bank of the River?

It is surprising that the Nigerian defence team joined in this deception, and participated in creating the impression that there was no agreement covering the point of entry into land from the sea, and up to the Thalweg of Akwa Yafe River, before the Anglo-German Treaty of March 11, 1913.

In the process, both teams, by deliberately suppressing material evidence, misled the court into believing as stated in Paragraph 38 of the Court’s judgment, “That the maritime boundary between Cameroon and Nigeria was not the subject of negotiation until recently.

Thus, apart from the Anglo-German Agreements of March 11 and April 12, 1913, in so far as they refer to the end point of the land boundary on the coast, all legal instruments concerning the maritime boundary between Cameroon and Nigeria post-dates the independence of those two states.”


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