By Hugo Odiogor, Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Dotun Ibiwoye, Nkiruka Nnorum & Kunle Kalejaiye
LAGOS — Fresh facts have emerged, showing that the disputed Bakassi peninsula which the International Court of Justice, ICJ, ceded to Cameroon, actually belongs to Nigeria.
Vanguard gathered that the jurists at ICJ might have been misled by the legal teams of Cameroon and Nigeria, who did not show vital information that clearly placed Bakassi as a territory within the geographical, political and administrative jurisdiction and control of Nigeria, contrary to the October 10, 2002, verdict which awarded the sovereignty of the peninsula to Cameroon.International relations experts, renowned historians, researchers and politicians told Vanguard in Lagos, last week, that contrary to the claims by the Cameroon and Nigerian legal teams that the first legal treaty on the Land and Maritime borders between Nigerian and Cameroon was the 1913 Anglo-German treaty, it was discovered that the limits of the Land and maritime boundaries between both countries went as far back as 1811 when the British made the treaty that went from the Lake Chad region down to the Atlantic ocean through the Rio Del Rey Estuary.
The Great Fraud
1. There are evidence to show that in 1994 when a dispute erupted between Nigeria and Cameroon, Nigeria asked the British government to attest to the true status of Bakassi Peninsula, the British government replied to assert that the Peninsula belongs to Nigeria.
2. This was when Alhaji Babagana Kingibe was Nigeria’s Minister of External Affairs but curiously that document was not tendered at the ICJ trial.
3. There are fresh evidence to show that in the March 18, 1961 plebiscite in Southern Cameroon, to determine areas that either wanted to stay in Cameroon or join Nigeria, Bakassi Penisular was not among the areas that participated in the exercise because it was given that it was not part of Cameroun.
According to Southern Cameroon gazette, Volume 7 no. 14, the areas that were asked to determine where they wanted to belong included Mamfe, Bamenda, Kumba, and Victoria. Also, the people of Bakassi have voted in Nigerian elections and the Nigerian Customs has been in control of the territorial waters since 1811.
4. The 1913 Anglo-German treaty which Cameroon rested its claim was not signed by both countries before the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.
5. Germany renounced all its terrirorial claims at the end of the war in 1919 and all the former territrories controlled by Germany came under the mandate of the League of Nations.
6. There were clear cases of ethnic cleansing in Bakassi peninsula in the past 10 years in violation of the Green Tree Agreement.
According to Prof. Walter Ofonagoro, a historian and former Nigerian Information Minister, who did his Ph.d thesis on Southern Oil protectorate, “fresh facts have emerged to show that the Cameroonian legal team deceived the ICJ into believing that before the Anglo-German treaty of 1913 upon which it rested its case, there were no other treaties that delineated the land and maritime boundary between Nigeria and Cameroon, which is a fraudulent claim”. Prof. Ofonagoro said that he has in his possession, 1822 documents which vested ownership of the Bakassi Peninsula to the Old Calabar Chiefs, by extension to Nigeria, and debunked claims that the 1913 Anglo-German treaty was the first recognised treaty on the land and maritime boundary between Nigeria and Cameroon. Said Prof. Ofonagoro: “This is not true because as far back as 1811, the British had already established a strong sphere of influence over the territories that eventually became Nigeria in 1914. The Anglo- German treaty upon which Cameroon built its case was contestible because after the First World war ended in 1919, all the territories controlled by Germany were taken away from them and given to the League of Nations.
He said: “There were other treaties between Nigeria and Cameroon on the Land and Maritime boundaries, which were entered into in 1884, 1885 and 1886, all of which clearly demarcated the land and maritime border between Nigeria and Cameroon from the Lake Chad region down to the Akwa Yafe River, which was the land border from Akwa Yafe to Rio Del Rey estuary to the Atlantic ocean.
He said: “When the Germans got to Akwa Yafe River, they discovered that they could not gain a direct access to the sea because going toward West of Akwa Yafe River will take them straight to the Calabar Sea Port. The Calabar Sea Port was clearly outlined in the treaty. This was the main port of entry for the British merchants, and later missionaries, who were the first to establish sphere of influence in Nigeria.” He said there was no way the British would have granted the Germans a boundary access that would have constrained their access to the Calabar power.
The British were fully in control of the Calabar Sea Port. The Germans went East of Akwa Yafe River, which took them to the Rio Del Rey estuary to the sea. This ensured that the Bakassi Peninsula was on the West, which put the Peninsula on the Nigerian territory. The predominant population on the Peninsula then were the Efiks and Efuts, who were of Efik kingdom which stretched up to Khumba, Victoria and Bamenda.
Grounds for Appeal for review
Although the Federal Government has been reluctant to listen to the calls from the National Assembly, the Judiciary, the Nigerian Bar Association to appeal for a review, Prof. Ofonagoro said “Nigeria has very strong ground to ask the ICJ for a review of its decision because there were concrete material facts and documentary evidence that were not before the ICJ in 2002, which would have helped to guide the world jurists in their decision”.
According to him, the Cameroonians concealed other vital treaties during the trial and told the court that the treaties were for mere adminstrative convenience, but more suprising is the fact that the Nigerian team did not do their home work to debunk the claims of Cameroon; rather they went there to resurrect a dead treaty in their attempt to justify the 1975 Maroua Declaration which was also an illegal treaty.
He said: “If the ICJ should allow a judgment that was obtained by fraud and concealment of fact to stand, grave in justice would have been done to the people of Bakassi. The reputation of ICJ would have been tarnished because the whole world expects it to do justice at all time”.
Ofonagora said the Nigerian defence team went to the Hague to agree with the Cameroonians that before 1913, there were no other treaties between the two colonial powers, which is false. But more fallacious is the fact that the Cameroon of 1919, was not the Cameroon of 1913, because after the end of the First World War, Germany was forced to give up all its territories in Africa, which came under the mandate of League of Nations.
Germany renounced all its claims to territories and all the treaties it entered into which gave it control of territories, became a nullity. The League of Nations consisting of Britain, France and Italy, the territory of Cameroon was carved up by France which took the Northern part.
Senator Ewah Bassey Henshaw, in his reaction said: “We have evidence from the memoir of the German Ambassador in 1913, who negotiated the so-called 1913 Anglo-German treaty”. He said the treaty was not signed because of the distrust between Britain and Germany at that time and the conflict between the envoy and some officials of his own country.
“In 1961, when a referendum was conducted in Southern Cameroon to determine on which part of it wishes to belong to Nigeria or Cameroon, after the British ended its colonial rule, Bakassi Peninsula was not included because it was regarded as part and parcel of Nigeria. In the areas such as Issangale that were included in the referendum, they voted to be in Nigeria”.
Speaking at the Vanguard Conference Hall in Lagos, Senator Henshaw said the ICJ has a duty to review its judgment wich gave the sovereignty of Bakassi to Cameroon because it was obtained by fraud and deceits.
He said: “We are not asking for too much for the ICJ to take a second look at the fresh facts and our action is covered by Artcle 61 of ICJ which empowers people to come back for a review of their judgment if there were fresh facts that surfaced after the decision was made, which have substantially affected the judgement.
The president who has sworn on oath to defend the territorial integrity of Nigeria and the constitution should assist the people of Bakassi by asking the AGF to appeal for a review of the ICJ verdict.”
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