18 July, 2008


Nigeria: Bakassi Green Tree Deal - Obasanjo Didn't Consult Military

17 July 2008
Abdul-Rahman AbubakarAbuja
The military brass was not consulted before President Olusegun Obasanjo signed the Green Tree Agreement which ceded the Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon, Chief of Defence Staff General Andrew Owoye Azazi said in Abuja yesterday.
Speaking at the Senate Investigative Hearing on the Green Tree Pact signed by Obasanjo and Cameroonian President Paul Biya in 2006, General Azazi said, "I am not sure that the military made any contribution to the Green Tree Agreement, but I know that the then Chief of Defence Staff, General Martin Luther Agwai traveled with the former president to New York when the agreement was signed."

Azazi also told the Senate Committee that in the event of hostilities between Nigeria and Cameroon, France is likely to get involved in the conflict due to an existing defence pact between France and its former colonies.
The CDS said although no document shows the involvement of the military in the drafting and signing of the agreement, his office will continue to search and if anything turns up, he would send it to the Senate.
A senior Naval Officer on the CDS' team, Commodore Dele Ezeoba told the Senate panel that ceding Bakassi to Cameroon was not in the interest of Nigeria's security as the area will take away the adjoining deep marine routes, leaving Nigeria only with shallow waters which cannot be navigated. He said the area is more strategic to Nigeria than it is to Cameroon.
"I want to believe that if anything happens between Nigeria and Cameroon, the defence treaty between France and Cameroon will be called into force. They have such treaty with their former colonies. We don't have defence treaty with any country, we only have training agreements," General Azazi added.
Testifying before the Senate panel, Secretary General of the Bakassi Peoples General Assembly, Chief Ndabo Umo Nakanda said former President Olusegun Obasanjo intimidated the people of Bakassi, forcing them to dump their protest against the judgment of the International Court of Justice in the matter. He said, "We were invited by former President Obasanjo to the Aso Rock Villa. When we were seated the president said the press should excuse him and he warned us not to mention the case again. He said we should not make any further publications because according to him, we were provoking Paul Biya by our complaints. We were intimidated not to talk."
Asked why the Bakassi people failed to make their voices heard on the matter, former Cross River State House of Assembly member representing Bakassi, Mr. Joe Etame said the former president intimidated the people of the area not to contest the matter. "He told us that he was at the verge of having a meeting with Biya, but that because of our publications and he brought out some newspapers out that Biya was no longer ready to meet with him. He warned us to desist from further media campaign, that he was going to negotiate in our best interest and that not even an inch of our land will be ceded. After that we were scared."
Chief Nakanda also alleged that the former president threatened to leave the Bakassi people's fate in the hands of Biya, saying, "He told us not to make any pronouncements again on Bakassi. That was enough intimidation. He even said, if you ever make any publication again, I will leave you to Biya, can you fight Biya?
At yesterday's hearing, the Bakassi Peoples Assembly rejected the Green Tree Agreement and called on the Senate to device means which will enable Nigeria to appeal the ICJ ruling on Bakkasi. It said, "This Senate should put machinery in place to appeal the ICJ ruling to the United Nations Security Council. From the inception we have ten years option to appeal and three years is still left."
Chief Nakanda said the people of Bakassi have been hurt by both Nigeria and Cameroon saying, "We have seen that the overriding interest was solely economic rather than human interest. We appeal to Nigeria and Cameroon to sort their economic interests in the area and leave us alone."
He said the Bakassi people reject any plan to resettle them in an area already occupied by other ethnic groups, adding that such move will neutralize their culture and tradition and make them lose their identity. "We are saying the government of Cross River is trying to make a makeshift relocation camp. We reject it in its entirety. If we are forced to go there, there is going to be problem because we will lose our identity in three years. Where are we going to practice our traditions and religion? We have our shrines and deities; we cannot go and worship other people's deities. This cannot be overlooked because we still have our traditional religion," Chief Nakanda said.
He said the people are not happy that presently, their identity is already in jeopardy because they no longer have political presence either in Cross River State or at the National level. Chief Nakanda also said Bakassi Local Government formerly had ten wards but that has now been reduced to only five, while village names have been replaced with numerical figures. "Those names mean nothing to us," he said. According to him, the Green Tree Agreement is not in the interest of the Bakassi people as it infringes on their fundamental human rights.
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