By Onwuka Nzeshi and Jude Okwe
The House of Representatives Committee on Treaties and Agreements Wednesday summoned the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke (SAN), over the status of treaties and agreements signed between Nigeria and other countries.
Speaker of the House, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, dropped the hint of the summon while declaring open a public hearing on the Amendment of the Treaties Act, organised by the House Committee on Treaties and Agreements.
Adoke’s summon came on the heels of the controversy trailing the Green Tree Agreement (GTA), in the aftermath of the 2002 judgment of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ceding Bakassi to Cameroun.
The Federal Government, despite public clamour, on Monday had ruled out seeking a review of the ICJ judgment that made Nigeria to cede Bakassi to Cameroun.
Adoke cited weak fresh facts for the action, noting that should the government bow to public pressure to seek a review of the judgment, Nigeria was bound to lose.
However, the Cross River State Government, in whose domain the oil-rich peninsula is located, faulted the Federal Government’s submission just as lawmakers from the state House of Assembly marched on the streets of Calabar, the state capital, to show their grievances over the decision.
The state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Attah Ochinke, said the state gave the Federal Government new information that could have assisted in reclaiming Bakassi.
The Federal Government’s refusal to utilise the window for a review of the judgment, angered Bakassi indigenes who are now considering teaming up with the Efik in Cross River State to form an alliance with South-west Cameroun as a prelude to seceding from Nigeria.
Tambuwal, represented by the Deputy House Leader, Hon. Leo Ogor, said Adoke needed to brief the committee on the status of all bilateral and multilateral treaties pending at the presidency.
“I think that besides the agreement on Bakassi, there are several treaties before the Attorney General of the Federation that have not been domesticated and without them been ratified by the National Assembly in line with section 12 of the 1999 Constitution, they will not have the force of law. So, the committee must engage the AGF in the course of the public hearing on the treaties pending before us,” he said.
Chairman of the committee, Hon. Ekundayo Alebiosu, said the public hearing was designed to seek the views of stakeholders on how to make a more robust guiding treaties and agreements.
Sponsor of the bill to amend the Treaties Act, Hon. Emmanuel Jime, said Nigeria needed a better Treaties Act to protect its national interests.
Bakassi indigenes, who are unhappy with the loss of the campaign for the Federal Government to reclaim their oil-rich peninsula from Cameroun, yesterday pondered on their future, which they believe does not lie within the Nigerian territory.
They are considering teaming up with their Efik kinsmen to seek an alliance with South-west Cameroun for the formation of a new country.
The protest over the Federal Government’s decision continued yesterday, as thousands of black-armband-wearing Bakassi indigenes assembled at the Calabar Cultural Centre ground from where they staged a protest march through major streets of the state capital, over the ceding of the peninsula.
The protesters, who carried placards with various inscriptions, said the forum was a “gathering of sons and daughters of Efik to seek the way forward for the Bakassi struggle”.
Their placards read: “Return Bakassi to Nigeria; Shame on those who sold Bakassi; Donald Duke Betrayed Bakassi, Our leaders do not cede our heritage away to a foreign land”, and “Abacha, our hero” among others.
Those who addressed the forum said the battle to reclaim their ancestral home had just begun.
The Obong of Calabar and Grand Patriarch of Efik Kingdom, Edidem Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu (VI), in whose territory Bakassi is situated, said the land belongs to Efik Kingdom.
He said that the Efik Kingdom “will not rest on its oars until the time ownership of the area is ascertained”.
The Obong was represented by the Chairman, Etubom Traditional Council (conclave of kingmakers), Etubom Bassey Oko Bassey Duke.
Otu said the treaty for the ownership of Bakassi as an Efik entity was signed by the Obong of Calabar in the 1890s.
“Bakassi is truth. Today, the truth is being buried, it will germinate and grow again,” he said.
In his contribution, Senator Bassey Ewa Henshaw said: “Today (yesterday) October 10, will be marked as Bakassi Day annually. We will continue to mark it until the people of Bakassi are returned to their original home.”
He regretted that the whole issue surrounding the ceding of Bakassi was “fraudulent because we provided enough evidence and very soon, we will release it to the entire world to see. The people of this land will not rest until we find justice”.
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