by Juliet Bumah and Ihuoma Chiedozie
An Abuja Federal High Court on Wednesday dismissed a suit in which the indigenes of Bakassi asked for an order to compel the Federal Government to repossess the Bakassi Peninsula and nullify the Green Tree Agreement it entered with Cameroon.
The International Court of Justice, in a judgment on October 10, 2002, ceded the oil rich Peninsula to Cameroon.
However, the Senate President, David Mark, at the ongoing 127th Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly in Quebec, Canada, said Nigeria had discussed the fate of Nigerians in the Peninsula with Cameroon.
A few days to the October 9, 2012 deadline for Nigeria to appeal for a review of the ICJ judgment, the Bakassi indigenes, in a motion ex-parte moved by their counsel, Mr Festus A. Ogwuche, had dragged the Federal Government, President Goodluck Jonathan and the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke (SAN), before the Abuja FHC.
They asked the court, presided over by Justice Gabriel Kolawole, for an order of mandamus compelling the government to, “by any means available to it, repossess, occupy and take full legal and administrative control of the Bakassi Peninsula.”
The motion was initially slated for hearing on October 9, 2012 but Kolawole’s absence stalled it.
However, when he eventually ruled on the motion on Wednesday, he said the court lacked the jurisdiction to determine the matter. Kolawole noted that the issues raised by the plaintiffs in the motion were political.
He also noted that the motion was not competent enough, as the plaintiffs did not support it with enough grounds of appeal.
The judge said, “The court lacks the jurisdiction to determine the issues raised by the plaintiffs. The issues raised in the motion are political in nature and volatile, and the court is ill-equipped to handle it. The motion is hereby dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.”
The motion was filed, pursuant to section 1 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Enforcement and Ratification Act Cap 10, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990, as well as Order 34 Rules 1(a), 3(1) and (2) of the Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rules, 2007.
The suit was endorsed by nine executives of the Free Bakassi Association – Prince Imoh Imoh, Godwin Ukpong, Christian Umoh, Anthony Ukong, Kingsley Edu, Etim Ndong, Offiong Ekpeyong, Bassey Osua and Bassey Antiga.
The Federal Government, Jonathan and Adoke were joined as respondents in the suit.
The Bakassi indigenes sought leave for an order of mandamus, compelling the respondents to “unilaterally resile from, withdraw, rescind, repudiate and/or revoke Nigeria’s obligations under the Green Tree Agreement” entered into between Nigeria and Cameroon in Green Tree, New York, USA on June 12, 2006.
They told the court that they were neither consulted nor was their consent sought before former President Olusegun Obasanjo endorsed agreement.
They argued that the said agreement was invalid and in breach of Articles 1, 2, 20, 21, 22 and 24 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, Article 1 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Article 1 (2) of the UN Charter, and the UN Declaration on the Rights of indigenous peoples.
They also claimed that the Green Tree Agreement was inconsistent with sections 1-3, 2(1) and (6), 13, 14(1) and (2)(b), 17(1), (2)(b), (c ) and (d), sections 19(a) and 9d0, 21(a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
The Bakassi indigenes, in the motion, maintained that the ICJ gave its judgment based “on archaic and anachronistic colonial declarations, and communications between colonial officers.”
They said the ICJ, “in reaching its decision, relied on (a) Henderson-Flerichau Exchange of Notes of 1931, (b) The Anglo-German Agreement of March 11 and April 12, 1913 and (c) The British Order-in-Council of August 2, 1946.
“The treaty, signed years before Nigeria came into existence as a sovereign entity was a ‘Treaty of protection’ conferring limited ‘protectionist’ rights on Britain and cannot by any shade of imagination translate to sovereignty or absolute power of transfer of title, sufficient to extinguish the rights of the kings and chiefs to the traditional over lordship of the territory.”
Mark, who led Nigerian delegation, including the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha, to the Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly, said in spite of the court ruling on the Peninsula, Nigeria would seize the opportunity of the IPU meeting to harp on the need for Cameroon to respect the fundamental human rights of the Bakassi people.
He said, “Bakassi is a different story entirely because for Bakassi, there’s a judicial decision and once there’s a judicial decision, you must be careful on revisiting it. Is it revisiting it so that it will bring more profit or whether we should ensure that Nigerians who are in Bakassi have all their rights intact, to ensure that they are protected; that their human rights are protected?
“We will ensure that they are not maltreated by the Cameroonians. That is one of the issues we will actually take time to discuss with Cameroonian parliamentarians here at the IPU.”
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