Continues from yesterday
Prof Walter Ofonagoro in this segment argues that Bakassi, having not been transferred to German Cameroons before the outbreak of war in 1914, never became part of Southern Cameroons; and remained Nigerian till date

THE Nigerian legal team accepted Articles 1-17 of the Anglo-German Agreement of March 11, 1913, but rejected Article 20, which purportedly gave Bakassi to Cameroon. Nigeria and Cameroon even bound themselves before the court, to accept Articles 18-20 of the said Agreement, but neglected to bind themselves by Article 21, which sends the boundary left from the mouth of the Akwa Yafe River, thence to Rio del Rey River and the sea.

Experienced geographers are aware that a smaller river like the Akwa Yafe can never overwhelm two bigger rivers like the Cross and Calabar Rivers at their mouth. The greater force of the other two rivers could never allow the Akwa Yafe River flow west into the full force of the two bigger Rivers. Thus, from 1917 to 1975, it has not been possible to find the Akwa Yafe flowing west to the Calabar and Cross River direction.

They even ignored Article 25 of the said Agreement which enforced Nigerian sovereignty over the Cross River Basin, but were anxious to execute and implement Articles XVIII-XX of the said Agreements. The other treaties mentioned in the Cameroon claims, need not detain us here, as they deal with areas north of Bakassi and the coast.  We need not look at all the other treaties mentioned in that petition because; none of them had anything to do with Bakassi.

Back to the League of Nations: Let us return briefly to the League of Nations. Cameroon held it aloft at the ICJ, like the sword of justice. Cameroon was economical with the truth in discussing her history during the inter-war years, 1914 to 1919, and claimed that “between 1913 and the end of the First World War, the above-mentioned agreements was not called into question”.

Bakassi protesters Photo by Johnbosco Agbakwuru

The agreements referred to here, refer to the Anglo-German Agreements of March 11, and April 12, 1913. The above claim is clearly false. It completely ignores the defeat of Germany in February, 1916, by the combined forces of Britain and France, the subsequent partition of Cameroon by these two powers, and its effect on the pre-war boundaries of Cameroon, after France had recovered its pre-1911 territorial concessions to German Cameroons, and Britain recovered its pre-1913 territorial cessions to German Cameroon in Borno, Adamawa, and Bakassi.

The Nigerian legal team did not challenge this statement. Cameroon further stated that “pursuant to the relevant provisions of the Versailles and then of the United Nations Charter, Cameroon was placed successively under the Mandate and Trusteeship Systems, the Mandatory Powers and thereafter, the Administering Authorities being in both cases, France and the United Kingdom. These two regions embodied international recognition of the frontier between Cameroon and Nigeria, and Cameroonian sovereignty over Bakassi Peninsula”.

This statement was not challenged by Nigeria. It is a half-truth. It is true that the two regimes of France and Britain became Mandatory Powers over Cameroon in 1922, but that did not necessarily confirm Cameroon’s pre-war borders. In fact, between 1916 and 1922, these powers shared Cameroon among themselves, three years before the League of Nations came into the scene, effectively reducing her to her pre-1911 frontiers. It was during this period, that Britain recovered her former territories such as Dikwa Emirate of Borno, parts of Adamawa, and Bakassi, which were not included in the Mandated Territories of British Cameroons.

Based on Cameroon’s claims, unrefuted by Nigeria, the Court was misled into assuming that the pre-war borders of Cameroon as reflected in the Agreements of 1913, were intact at the time of signing the Mandate Treaty in 1922; and that therefore “Bakassi was necessarily comprised in that Mandate”, and that “Great Britain had no powers unilaterally to alter the boundary.”

Territorial changes

But, as Professor David E. Gardinier stated in his article “The British in Cameroons” presented at the Yale  University Conference of Spring 1965, with all the territorial changes that took place in Cameroons between February 18, 1916 and July 20, 1922; with France transferring her recovered territory from Cameroons back to French Equatorial Africa; and with Germany no longer on the scene, “the Cameroon, the fate of which the (Versailles) conference decided was the German territory with its pre-1911 frontiers”.

Could we expect Britain to keep the territory extorted from her by Germany in the pre-war days intact for Cameroon to inherit in 1960, when France, with whom she shared Cameroon, and took the smaller share, was revoking previous territorial cessions? On May 7, 1919, the Supreme Council of the League of Nations, comprising Woodrow Wilson of the United States, Lloyd George of the United Kingdom, Georges Clemenceau of France, and Vittorio Orlando of Italy, decided to exempt Togo and Cameroon from the Mandate System; and asked Britain and France to make joint recommendation to the League of Nations on the future status of Cameroon and Togo. During the period, 1916-1922, the League had no power to decide what Britain and France did with Togo and Cameroons, because the League did not exist before 1919, and when it did come into existence, it ceded power to Britain and France on May 7, 1919, to decide what to do with these two territories.

It was during this period that Britain took the decision to retain Bakassi in Nigeria; and it did not need the permission of the League to do so. It was Britain herself that drafted the terms of her mandate over Togo and Cameroons, and although the Mandate authorized her to administer British Cameroons “as if” it was part of the Southern Provinces of the Protectorate of Nigeria, that Mandate did not include Bakassi.

Britain simply treated the 1913 Agreement as dead, once the war broke out in 1914, and so Bakassi remained Nigerian long before the signing of the Mandate Treaty on July 20, 1922.

In practice, Britain ran Southern Cameroon as a separate province, and never integrated her with any Nigerian province. Bakassi, having not been transferred to German Cameroons before the outbreak of war in 1914, never became part of Southern Cameroons; and remained Nigerian till date.

Additional territory

British actions in its sphere of Cameroons prior to signing the League Mandate in 1922 are better explained by Viscount Milner, the Colonial Secretary, in his memorandum of May 29, 1919, entitled “Cameroons and Togoland” as follows: “we shall not indeed, have added much to our possessions in West Africa, either in the Cameroons or in Togo. But the additional territory we have gained, though not large in extent, has a certain value in giving us better boundaries and bringing completely within our borders, native tribe which have hitherto been partly within British territory and partly outside it.”

It is in this light that the restoration of Bakassi to British territory, and the non-revival of the Anglo-German Agreement of March 11, 1913 were effected. Bakassi simply remained British, and Britain was interested in picking up bits of territory here and there to give her territory of Nigeria better and more natural boundaries. These were reflected in the Report by His Majesty’s Government on the British Mandated Sphere of the Cameroons for the year 1923.

The ICJ was therefore misled by Cameroon into believing that the Cameroon of 1922 had the borders of the Cameroon of 1914. Consequently, the ruling of the ICJ in Paragraph 212 of the judgement, regarding the status of Bakassi in Nigeria during the Mandate period, was made in error. The Mandate simply covered whatever portions of Cameroon were presented to the League as Mandated Territories by Britain and France, in 1922. That Cameroon did not include Bakassi.

Production of older treaty

It is not by drawing post-independence maps, and arranging to have them in Cameroonian colours, that Cameroon can take Bakassi, it is by Cameroon producing a treaty older than that of April 29, 1885, and April 14, 1893 . In any case, the treaty of March 11, 1913 is a legally invalid treaty, and it cannot survive on the catalogue of misrepresentation and concealment with which it has been presented to the Court.  Nigeria accepted all the agreements pleaded by Cameroon, which were

1. The Anglo-German Treaty of March 11, 1912, and the

2. Yaoundé I and II Agreements of August 14, 1970, and April 4, 1971, and

3. The Maroua Agreement of June 1, 1975.

Nigeria failed to tender the British Admiralty Chart of 1885, and the German Admiralty Chart of 1889-90 which showed Bakassi as Nigerian territory, and Rio Del Rey as the boundary between Nigeria and Cameroon. Even in the map of oil concessions in the Bakassi Area, presented by Nigeria at the ICJ, the portion of the old 1893 boundary from the Archibong Creek to the sea coast at Bakassi, through the Rio del Rey, has been erased!

Nigeria’s legal team never even cross-examined Cameroon on her claims at the ICJ. Yaoundé I may have been a blunder committed by the Head of Federal Surveys in Yaoundé when he agreed to adopt the 1913 Anglo-German Agreement of March 11, 1913, without seeking advice so to do.

That is probably why the learned Professor T.O. Elias gave his advice on September 3, 1970, to the effect that given the commitments already made, Nigeria had no chance of winning the case based on that treaty. It did not mean that Cameroon had a case. They never did.

What we see is Nigeria and Cameroon combining to conceal the Rio Del Rey Treaties, in order to replace them with the “Ngo/Coker” line, the so called ‘line of compromise.’ Nigeria did mention the Treaty of April 14, 1893 briefly, but described it as mere administrative arrangements! Yet they presented the Treaty of November 15, 1893, which dealt with some interior districts, as a real treaty. The reader may compare both and form an opinion.

Violation of Berlin conference decisions

Cameroon also mentioned the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885, in justifying her claim to Bakassi. Actually, her claim to Bakassi was a violation of the Berlin Conference decisions. Legal instrument No.128 of 1885 was invoked by Great Britain and Germany in both Agreements No. 260 of April 29 – June 16, 1885, No. 270 of July 1, 1890, and No. 273 of April 14, 1893, binding themselves never to seek any territory beyond their respective boundaries.

For the British in Nigeria and the Germans in Cameroon, that boundary was the Rio del Rey. By going beyond the Rio del Rey boundary to try and acquire the Bakassi Peninsula, Cameroon has been in violation of the stipulation of the General Act of the Berlin Conference, 1885.

Furthermore, the Berlin Act also stipulated that “henceforth, the validity of a new deed of possession (a treaty) shall be dependent upon certain forms, such as, “a simultaneous notification so as to enable other powers to recognize the act or to state their objections,” and “for an occupation to be considered effective, it is moreover, desirable that the occupier should manifest, within a reasonable delay, the will and the power to exercise his rights within it, and fulfill the duties which it entails.”

Germany was conquered in the World War, and expelled from Cameroon before she could fulfill the second part of the Berlin Act requirements listed above. She could not, therefore, sustain a claim to Bakassi under the Berlin Act, especially because Britain occupied her share of Cameroon for seven years, 1916 to 1922, before signing the Mandate Treaty in 1920. The league was not in charge of Cameroon during those seven years.

The Plebiscite of 1961

Another issue raised by Cameroon in that memo is the idea that Bakassi voted in the Plebiscite of 1961. Southern Cameroon, as a UN Mandate, underwent a plebiscite before joining French Cameroon at Independence. It is necessary, therefore, for the UN to organize a plebiscite to enable the Bakassi people to decide whether they want to stay in Nigeria for their future, or stay with Southern Cameroon that voted to join Cameroon in February, 1961.

The Nigerian legal team also made this demand at the ICJ. The 1961 plebiscite was organized by the UN Plebiscite Commissioner, and he had reported that Bakassi people voted in Victoria, Southern Cameroon, a very distant place from Bakassi. The nearest Cameroonian Division to Bakassi is Kumba, not Victoria; and since Britain administered both adjoining colonies, they must have had very good reasons for leaving Bakassi people in the voters register, for both Federal and Regional elections, in Nigeria. In the Electoral Districts Proclamation, 1958, L.N. 115 of 1958, is published a Schedule of Electoral Constituencies covering the entire Federation of Nigeria.

For the Eastern Region, the following constituencies ought to be of interest in terms of the status of Bakassi Peninsula in Colonial Nigeria. Bakassi villages were included in Eket West, Eket East and Calabar District Council Areas, (Constituencies No. 265, 264 and 262 respectively). The same colonial power acting as Mandatory Administrator, just across the Rio del Rey boundary, had no difficulty placing polling districts in all 26 constituencies of the Southern Cameroon House of Assembly, in which Bakassi people of Nigeria had never been represented since 1954.

Results of the plebiscite

The ICJ believes that since the plebiscite held in Southern Cameroon, and Bakassi is supposed to have been part of Southern Cameroon by virtue of the 1913 Anglo-German Treaty, and Nigeria voted in favour of approval of results of the plebiscite, and the transfer of Southern Cameroon to the French Cameroon, then Bakassi must surely have voted! It is of course much easier for the UN Plebiscite Commissioner to produce documentary proof that Bakassi residents voted in that election. Not just the far-fetched suggestion that they all trooped to far away Victoria, to cast their vote.

In Paragraph 233 of the ICJ judgment, the court noted the lack of any provision for Bakassi people to vote in the Plebiscite of 1861 on Bakassi peninsula: “It is true that the Southern Cameroon Plebiscite Order in Council, 1960, makes no mention of any polling station bearing the name of a Bakassi Village.”

Since it is a fundamental obligation of the UN Mandate (unlike the League of Nations which had no such requirements), that the subjects of the Mandatory Powers be given an opportunity to determine their future, and the people have just found out from the ICJ in the Hague, that they have been Southern Cameroonians since 1913, but only administered in Nigeria “as if” they were Nigerians, then the Court has to ensure that a plebiscite must be organized for them, to decide whether they want to go with Cameroon, or remain with Nigeria. It is the next logical step.


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