Members of the Nigerian Senate on Wednesday morning asked the Federal Government to urgently file an appeal against the judgment of the International Court of Justice, ICJ, which ceded Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroun.
President Goodluck Jonathan last Monday told the United Nations General Assembly that Nigeria will comply with all the rulings of ICJ, a statement which was interpreted to mean that Nigeria will not appeal the ruling of the court on Bakassi.
Mohammed Adoke, the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General of the Federation has also severally said Nigeria is not interested in appealing the judgment of ICJ on Bakassi.
Nigeria has barely two weeks to re-open its case under Article 61 in respect of the Bakassi Peninsula.
The ICJ judgment which ceded Bakassi to Cameroun was delivered on 10 October, 2002. But Nigerian Senators citing the non ratification of the Green Tree Agreement through which the territory was ceded to Cameroun and lack of consultation with people occupying Bakassi, asked the Federal Government to take immediate action to appeal the judgment.
The Senators also argued that the ceding of Bakassi to Cameroun is a violation of Nigeria’s Constitution as nobody is empowered by the constitution to give any part of Nigeria away.
Most of the Senators who spoke on the issue asked the Federal Government to urgently file an appeal against the judgment before the opportunity to do so elapses in about two weeks.
Some of the Senators, including Heineken Lokpobiri and Ben Ayade even asked Nigeria to be ready to militarily occupy the Bakassi Peninsula, if the opportunity for appeal fails. But Senate President David Mark said in spite of what the President said at the UN, the best option for Nigeria is to appeal the judgment of ICJ.
The Senators were in the process of passing resolutions on the issue as at the time of filing in this report.
While moving the motion on the issue, Senator Abdul Ningi, Deputy Majority Leader, noted that Bakassi was easily given away because the territory was inhabited by minorities.
He, therefore, asked the National Assembly to prevail on the Federal Government to invoke article 61 of the International Court of Justice which provides opportunity for appeal of the judgments of the court.
Ningi added that members of the National Assembly are ready to fund the legal cost of the appeal.
Also contributing to the debate, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba noted that Cross River State, the immediate victim of the loss of Bakassi Peninsula is helpless, hapless and unprotected over the issue.
The Cross River State Senator said the way Nigeria complied with the ICJ judgement on Bakassi was the fastest compliance with the judgment of the court in history.
He pointed out that there are judgments of the court delivered in the 1930s and 1940s that have not been complied with by the parties to the case.
Ndoma-Egba also noted that the Green Tree agreement through which Bakassi was ceded to Cameroun by the Federal Government was never ratified by the National Assembly, thus the peninsula remains part of Nigeria.
The lawmaker therefore said the Federal Government should take advantage of the window of opportunity available to appeal the judgment.
Senator Eta Enang said the government must take urgent steps to appeal the judgment in line with stipulations laid down by ICJ for appeal of its judgment.
He also said the fact that President Goodluck Jonathan told the world at the ongoing United Nations General Assembly that Nigeria will abide by the rulings of ICJ should not stop the Federal Government from appealing the judgment.
He said “what the President said is that as the judgment stands, we will obey it, that does not mean that we cannot appeal the judgment.” In his own contribution, Senator Bassey Otu said Nigeria has no business respecting the ICJ judgment on Bakassi and that Cross River did not at any time support the ceding of Bakassi.
The Cross River State Senator said there are fresh facts on which the appeal of the judgement of the ICJ can be based and that it is better to appeal and lose, than not to appeal at all.
Senator George Akume noted that the National Council of State never ratified the ceding of Bakassi to Cameroun when the matter was placed before the body, but former President Olusegun Obasanjo never respected the view of the body.
He noted that other parts of Nigeria in Taraba, Benue and so on were also ceded to Cameroun without a plebiscite.
He asked the Federal Government to capitalise on gaps in the judgment of ICJ to appeal against it.