By Hugo Odiogor
With less than 48 hours to the October 9, 2012 deadline for Nigeria to launch its appeal for a revision of the International Court of Justice (IJC) verdict ceding Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke, is stalling on the presidential directive to revisit the issue.
At the end of its Wednesday emergency meeting with Vice President Namadi Sambo, Senate President David Mark, Speaker of House of Representatives Hon Aminu Tambawal and governors of the six South-South States, President Goodluck Jonathan had ordered that Nigeria should file for a revision of the case based on the fresh facts exclusively made public by Vanguard newspapers.
But a member of the committee set up by the president to prepare Nigeria’s case for the appeal told Sunday Vanguard, at the weekend, that “the AGF is still not disposed to assembling the documents for the revision because time is too short”.
Sources said, last night, they were not surprised about the AGF inaction as he had argued at the Wednesday meeting “that time was too short for Nigeria to present a formidable document, make contact with renowned international lawyers to package the case in conformity with ICJ specification and standards”.
Sunday Vanguard learnt yesterday “that the AGF is still in Abuja contrary to the initial reports that he was heading to the Netherlands to expedite action on the matter”. But sources said the Bakassi people had made contact with the wife of Mr. Tony Blair, a former British Prime Minister, who had prepared their brief months ago.
A member of the Save Bakassi Group, Mr. Maurice Ekong, also said the Efik Kingdom had secured the services of a high profile international lawyer two months ago and paid the initial commitment fee. “We have packaged the Bakassi brief in conformity with the ICJ standards”, Ekong said. “All that Nigeria needs to do is to take over the services of the international lawyer and our local lawyer, Mrs. Nella Andem Rabana (SAN), and submit necessary documents before the deadline”.
Rabana was among those who attended the Wednesday top level meeting in Abuja. Yesterday, was reportedly sad that no action had been taken by the committee the president set up as if they had all the time in the world to make the appeal.
Mr. Hon Ani Esin, who was Bakassi Local Government Chairman when the territory was handed over to Cameroon, told Sunday Vanguard, yesterday, that “indeed our brief is well packaged and will withstand any international scrutiny”. But Adoke, the AGF, was said to be reluctant to take a decisive action because he felt not enough work had been done given the limited time frame.
Said a source: “The AGF has not equally availed himself of the knowledge of those Nigerians who have dug up the fresh facts neither has he called on those who have done their research to come up with their findings to brief the government on the way forward. This is a national assignment and the AGF is acting as if he has some axe to grind with Bakassi people. How can an officer appointed to serve his nation stall a directive given by his principal? What does he stand to gain if we lose Bakassi and sentence our people to eternal misery?”
Sunday Vanguard learnt that the AGF is waging a cold war against the governor of Cross River State, Mr. Liyel Imoke, whom he alleged was uncharitable in the remarks made by the governor when the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Akwa Ibom on the 76 oil wells that were given to the latter based on the interpretation of the Green Tree Agreement, GTA.
Imoke was said to have criticised the Minister and the Supreme Court for using the GTA as the basis to award the case to Akwa Ibom because the GTA is an international agreement that has not been domesticated by the National Assembly.
Lagos lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), said the governor was right because the interpretation of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, SCN, on the Cross River, Akwa Ibom case only succeeded “in making Bakassi people refugees in their own country”.
Sources said the action of the AGF on the Bakassi case bordered on ego because, as an appointed officer of Nigeria, his mandate is to serve the people of the country regardless of his personal prejudices and ego.
Ekong said it was surprising that someone in the office of AGF should see himself as superior to his boss and the entire country in a matter of utmost national importance and urgency.
BACK TO PAST MISTAKES
Senator Ewah Bassey Henshaw told Sunday Vanguard, yesterday, that Nigeria was back to the same old ways that caused the country to suffer defeat before. According to him, the new team put together to look into the possibility of the ICJ reviewing the verdict on Bakassi was without reference to the aboriginal people of Bakassi whose fate was at stake.
“The Obong of Calabar is not being carried along, the same thing with the Etiyin of Bakassi, Dr. Edet Okon Etim, who is the chairman of Council of Traditional Rulers in Cross River State. Prof. Walter Ofonagoro, whose seminal work exposed the fraud in the first case, has not been contacted and we are back to using the same people who made us to suffer defeat and went back to negotiate Bakassi people and land away to Cameroon”, Henshaw said.
According to him, the Federal Government should, as a matter of urgency, demand the demilitarisation of Bakassi as stated in the GTA and allow unhindered access of independent monitors from the United Nations to interact with the peninsula people to ascertain what they have been going through.
“The president should write to the United Nations to demand that the UN police are sent to the peninsula while Cameroonian security agents are withdrawn from the peninsula in compliance with the GTA. There should be unhindered access to Nigerian officials who want to visit the peninsula to find out the atrocities that have been carried out against our people in clear violation of Article 3 of the GTA”.
According to him, Cameroon is exploiting the fact that the GTA has no provisions for enforcement of Article 3 of the agreement and lack of sanctions for its violations to brutalise Bakassi people on the peninsula. “There is the need for Nigeria to petition the UN to send multinational police team to Bakassi to protect the lives of the people there”.
The senator said the UN and the world owe it a duty to the people of Bakassi to determine where they want to belong rather than rely on judicial pronouncements and colonial treaties to determine the fate of indigenous people against their will and in violation of Article 21 of the African Charter of Human and Peoples Rights
Meanwhile, the people of Bakassi have hailed Jonathan for accepting to ask the ICJ to review its verdict that gave the sovereignty of Bakassi peninsula to Cameroon. They also singled out Vanguard Newspapers and Professor Walter Ofonagoro, Prof. Bola Akinterinwa for commendation for leading the charge to denounce the fraud which Cameroon perpetuated ten years ago by denouncing an international boundary that had exited for centuries.
The paramount ruler of Bakassi, Etiyin Edet Okon Etim, said the president was not going against his statement in New York that Nigeria will abide by the rule of law because Article 61 of the ICJ Statute made provision for the action that Nigeria has taken which is also imposed on him by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the oath of office that enjoined him to protect the territorial integrity of Nigeria and the welfare of its citizens. He said with a 95% ethnic population of Bakassi people coming from Nigeria as the aboriginal population, the least Jonathan could do was to ask the international community to ascertain the wishes of the people rather than yoke them with the government and people of Cameroon, to live in perpetual bondage.