inimical options on Bakassi

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Mr. Mimiko and his inimical ‘options’ on Bakassi

By

Tatabonko Orok Edem (tatabonko@gmail.com)

I write in response to a two-part series interview conducted by Tunde Akinola, of the Guardian Newspapers which was published in the Guardian Newspapers of June 2nd and 3rd, 2014, titled: “We have options on Bakassi irrespective of ICJ ruling”. See -http://www.ngrguardiannews.com/features/policy-a-politics/163927-we-have-options-on-bakassi-irrespective-of-icj-ruling/. The subject of the interview Mr. Mimiko, was introduced as a Vice Chancellor of a Nigerian University, a Professor of International Relations and Comparative Political Economy, and a delegate at the National Conference, he claimed to have pushed for a repudiation of the GreenTree Agreement and a reclamation of the Bakassi Peninsula through conquest, even though he termed it a political solution. Fortunately, his irresponsible and unbecoming suggestion was turned down by the Conference. I agree.

As earlier posited by the one and only late Professor Samuel Aluko – in life, there are always options. It does not take rocket science to know the options before Nigeria: (a) Abide by the GreenTree Agreement and the Mandates of the UN Security Council (b) Appeal to Cameroon to sell the Bakassi Peninsula to Nigeria; or (c) Act as a renegade nation and start a war of conquest in the 21st century, with a country that shares over one thousand miles of land border with you. It should be noted that the war envisaged would be conducted by a Nigerian military, whose top echelons drive against traffic, and are being bested by a rag tag Islamist insurgency, as we speak. These are all options, and Mr. Mimiko wants us to choose the latter. Unfortunately for him, in normal societies when you submit yourself to the rule of law and take part in adjudication which you could rightly have refused to, you must abide by the outcome.

Mimiko’s option was hinged on three parameters- economic, strategic and constitutional. It is intriguing to note that the loss of Bakassi Peninsula, which was hitherto a part of Cross River State, did not result in the gain of any oilfield by the Cameroon Republic. The oilfield that belonged to Cross River State by virtue of Bakassi Peninsula was magically transferred by the Nigerian Supreme Court to Akwa Ibom State in 2012, when the maritime boundaries between Cameroon and Nigeria had not been completed and contrary to the holding and restraint of the same court in 2005. Honorable Justice Muhammad Uwais in the 2005 judgment stated inter alia:

In the light of the observations I have expressed above regarding the NBC revised boundary delimitation, I do not feel comfortable to grant the declaration sought. Until both Nigeria and Cameroon conclude their negotiation to finality and the international boundary fixed by the ICJ is modified and published, in line with the agreement, it will be premature for this court to determine the maritime boundary of the two states.

It is intriguing that the Nigerian Supreme Court in 2012 threw caution to the wind and without waiting for the maritime boundary between Cameroon and Nigeria to be demarcated pronounced thus:

“The judgment of this court in Suit SC.124/1999 – A-G Gross River State v. A-G Federation & anor (2005) 15 NWLR (Pt.947) Pg.77 adequately described the aftermath of the ICJ judgment on the plaintiff. This court held that the ICJ judgment wiped off what used to be the estuarine sector of Cross River State as a result of which the state is hemmed in by the International boundary between Nigeria and Cameroon. Cross River State no longer has any maritime boundary. It is landlocked”.

And just for the record, as at today, June 3, 2014, that maritime boundary is yet to be demarcated. What changed between the court of 2005 and that of 2012? All I heard was that the presiding judges became so rich after that judgment, that their relatives became targets for kidnappers. Maybe, their salaries and emoluments were increased, who knows?

On strategic grounds, Mr. Mimiko should be well advised to take a look at a map of the region and note the existence of a U shaped Cross River estuary that opens its mouth into the Atlantic Ocean. This U-shaped estuary has Sandy Point on Akwa Ibom State, West point on Bakassi Peninsula and Green Patch Point forming the bottom of the U-shape on Cross River State. There is a 12-mile wide body of water between Sandy Point and West Point, which is contiguous to Cross River State where all Nigerian naval ships sailing along each other could access the Atlantic Ocean without hindrance. Thus, the myth of the landlocked status of Cross River State is just a creation of the institutionally challenged Nigerian judicial system.

The issue of constitutionality is best left for legal scholars to chew over, which Mr. Mimiko is obviously not one. Also, the matter is sub judice as a group sued the Nigerian government over the handover. Hopefully, the Nigerian courts would do justice to the matter. But I am not holding my breath.

Finally, Mr. Mimiko added: “Mind you, the point I made is to the effect that well, for those who wanted compensation, I did not have any issue with that”. I wish to reiterate a fact has not been well canvassed in the public forum. It was Nigeria that lost Bakassi Peninsula; we the Efik People have not lost Bakassi. It is still located westward of Calabar, and has not moved an inch. We also did submit a Memorandum to the ongoing National Conference aptly titled: “A DEMAND FOR THE RESTORATION OF OUR LITTORAL STATUS, THE VACATION OF THE DECLARATION OF OUR BEING LANDLOCKED AND AN IMMEDIATE RESOLUTION OF THE INTERNAL DISPLACEMENT OF EFIK PEOPLE AND THEIR REFUGEE STATUS”. In it, we did not ask for compensation or “perpetual payment” for the loss of Bakassi. That was the brainwave of the Cross River State delegate – Mr. Orok Duke. All that we asked Nigeria for, is the restoration of our littoral status and the lifting of the declaration that no part of Cross River State is contiguous to the Atlantic Ocean.

The Efik People are grateful for all the goodwill, efforts and money expended to retain Bakassi Peninsula in Nigeria, and we find it improper to turn around and ask Nigeria for compensation, when Cross River State did not lose any oil field to the Cameroon Republic, but Akwa Ibom State of Nigeria. We would be grateful if Mr. Mimiko, and the Committee on Lands and National Boundaries of the National Conference deal with our petition based on the merit of its contents, instead of embarking on a quixotic quest over Bakassi.

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Eze Chucks is an experienced media practitioner. He has worked for several news organisation.He has pioneered many online news website as an editor . He holds a B.Sc Economics degree and a masters degree email:editor@compassnewspaper.com.ng