Nigeria Cedes Bakassi To Cameroun2008/08/14
By Emma Una/ Calabar & Eromosele Ebhomele
The controversial Bakassi Peninsula has been formally handed over to the Republic of Cameroun.
The ceremony took place today, in Calabar, the Cross River State capital. Top government officials from Nigeria, Cameroun, representatives of the United Nations, the diplomatic community, etc. witnessed the ceremony.
The Nigerian delegation was led by the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Michael Aondoakaa. In his speech at the historic occasion, Aondoakaa said the handing over was a painful exercise. "We are saddled with the painful task of completing the implementation of the ICJ judgement," he said.
According to him, there are arrangements for the resettlement of those who have chosen to leave the peninsula, promising the Nigerian indigenes who would remain in the area that their fundamental human rights would be maintained.
While the Acting-Governor of Cross River State, R. Hon. Francis Adah, tasked the international community to assist in resettling the displaced Nigerians, who, he said, were already traumatised, the Camerounian minister of State for Justice, Professor Maurice Kamto, confirmed that his country would honour the Green Tree Agreement between the two countries. The United Nations Secretary General, who was represented, promised that the world body will support the displaced people and the governments of the two countries.
The hand over process started two years ago, at exactly noon on Monday, 14 August, 2006, when the Nigerian flag and that of the Nigerian Army were lowered at one of the islands, Archibong Town in Bakassi. They were handed over to the then Attorney-General of the Federation, Chief Bayo Ojo, and the former Chief of Defence Staff, General Martin Luther Agwai, while the Camerounian flag was hoisted. It was then the Bakassi people were first hit by the realisation of a possible hand over of their land to Caremoun. They had thought a miracle would happen to change the International Court of Justice's ruling in favour of Cameroun.
This ceremony became the first phase of the final hand over of the Peninsula extension of the territory of Calabar into the Atlantic Ocean with a population of between 250,000 to 300,000 people. The Republic of Cameroun had continually emphasised that the land belongs to it, capitalising on two agreements reached between it and the Nigerian government in the 1970s. The Yaounde II Declaration of 4 April, 1971, and the Maroua Declaration of 1 June, 1975, were devised to outline maritime boundaries between the two countries following their independence.
The line was reportedly drawn through the Cross River estuary to the West of the Peninsula, thereby implying Camerounian ownership over Bakassi which covers an area of 665sq kilometers. Nigeria never ratified the agreement and Cameroun regarded it as being in force and this prompted the ICJ ruling in the Hague on 10 October, 2002.
Despite the Green Tree Agreement between former President Olusegun Obasanjo and the Camerounian President, Mr. Paul Biya and the subsequent handing over process, a Federal High court sitting in Abuja put a hold to today's ceremony.
However, for the first time, citizens of the country think that President Musa Yar'Adua has gone against the rule of law. Even members of the House of Representatives think so.
The Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Information, Eziuche Ubani, said the National Assembly should have held on to the alibi of the Federal High Court, Abuja and remind the President of his beleif in the rule of laws.
"We didn't do our job at the National Assembly. There were things we could have done to stop the President from handing over our territory, at least for now," he said.
For the Senator representing Bakassi, Senator Bassey Ewah Henshaw, crying would not be enough to show the grief of the people. "Government has scathered my people all over the place. My people are all refugees everywhere with nowhere to call home," he said.
Noting that nothing has come out of the resettlement effort of the Federal government, the Senator said, "the people are very bitter against those people that have done them in. In time, the people will be able to identify the real people who have put them in this terrible condition."
According to him, the National Assembly was yet to ratify the ICJ judgement and the various agreements by the two countries.
Meanwhile, Dr. Ambrose Akpnika, a one time Commissioner for Health in Cross River State and the Mkpisong Ukara of Calabar, has described the proposed relocation of the Bakassi people to Ikang in Akpabuyo Local Government of Cross River State as a farce which is bound to fail.
Dr. Akpanika, who is a prominent indigene of Bakassi, said the people of Bakassi have lived in their present place of abode for over 200 years and have taken the Bakassi Island as their ancestral home, so it would be difficult to go where they don't know.
Akpanika, who is one of the Kingmakers in Efik Kingdom, said that for a people who have never known any other place as their home, they will resist any attempt made to move them in the name of relocation.
Speaking to P. M. NEWS in Calabar, Dr. Akpaniko said: "my stand on the issue is that there are Bakassi natives and there are also Bakassi people. People from all parts of Nigeria and from other countries who have lived in Bakassi for over 200 years, are called Bakassi people, they have no other home. Now you cannot ask these people to re-locate. But you cannot relocate Bakassi natives who are like the Aborigines Christopher Columbus saw when he went to America .
"But I think there is a contraption trying to remove the Bakassi people from Bakassi. Cameroon was given sovereignty over the land of the people of Bakassi.
"The question of moving them does not arise and the United Nations Charter did not stipulate that," he declared.
He said the people of Bakassi had made presentation to the Senate Committee earlier in the year asking for a stay in the handover but this has been overruled "and I think that they must have made up their minds already about the people of Bakassi and had given one thing that had never been mentioned by anybody."
Dr. Akpanika said the plan of those who are bent on relocating the people want to exploit the resources of the area.
"That Bakassi is full of manganese not just oil that they are fighting for. Those people might be looking at the Manganese and Manganese is a special metal some of which is used in making planes and space ships.
"So Manganese is more expensive than oil, so the people who are now trying to move the natives of Bakassi from their ancestral home to somewhere else are suspect.
"So what we say is that we trace the history of the people to know those who have linkage with Bakassi for some 200 years, those who have gone to Bakassi to do business and those who don't have homes.
"Above all, please, Bakassi natives cannot be relocated from their home land. We have islands that could be filled up for these people who have always done business in the river to resettle."
He asserted that the Calabar channel should therefore not be handed over just like that. "The Agreement that divides the channel into two for Nigeria to occupy one corner while Cameroon occupies the other corner and after five years Cameroon will take over completely, is wrong," he said.