Cameroon has condemned Nigeria’s decision to appeal the Judgment of the International Court of Justice ceding the Bakassi Peninsula to it, and cynically said they felt “sorry for Nigeria.”
Top diplomatic officials at the High Commission of Cameroon, Wuse II, Abuja, said Nigeria’s fresh initiative was an afterthought.
The officials warned that the latest move by the Federal Government could jeopardise cordial relations between Nigeria and its South-Eastern neighbour.
The diplomats at the embassy who pleaded not to have their names mentioned because of the sensitive nature of the case said, “We feel sorry for Nigeria because it is chasing shadows; this matter is capable of having a negative impact on the positive image it has earned for itself in the eyes of the international community.
“Nigeria has earned for itself an image of a respecter of the rule of law and promoter of peace on the continent and beyond; all of this happened after the Green Tree Agreement was signed.
“Why now? (the u-turn) This is clearly an afterthought which will not favour your country. I just think some smart lawyers and their friends in government just want to make money out of the system.”
The officials explained that Nigeria and Cameroon share an uncommon bond that had served both nations well in “very trying times.”
They added that it was because of this special bond that “Citizens of our two countries do not require a visa to visit one another even though Cameroon is not a member of Economic Community of West African States.”
The High Commissioner, Mr. Salaheddine Abbas-Ibrahima, was however, reluctant to talk to our correspondent as he said he needed to get clearance from his home government.
He said, “I suggest you write down your questions and bring them on Monday. I will send it to headquarters for an appropriate response.”
At the Nigerian Foreign Affairs Ministry, a highly-placed diplomat who pleaded anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the metter said that the country’s long wait before deciding to appeal was unlikely to work in its favour.
“You know, even the lawyers know what an afterthought means. The mistake has been made and I am afraid Nigeria may have to live with it.
“Nigeria’s chances of winning this appeal are slim if they exist. Worse still, win or lose, the relationship with Cameroon is not likely to remain the same again. Nigeria started off on the wrong footing; it ought not to have gone to court in the first place.
“Britain and Argentina are still feuding over the Falklands, China, Japan, the Philippines and others still have issues over the South China Sea.
“Why were former leaders and our legal luminaries so much in a hurry to give away Nigeria’s patrimony?
“What about the people who are predominantly Nigerians? Why was a plebiscite or a referendum not held for the people to choose where they wanted to be as was done for the Southern Cameroons earlier?”
Some Senior Advocates of Nigeria had earlier said that Nigeria’s chances of repossessing Bakassi was “very narrow.”
A professor of law, Itse Sagay, who faulted the court’s judgment for excluding the interests of the people in the community, however described the review plan as a fallacy, saying the sponsors of the plan did not understand the associated factors.
He said, “The judgment of the ICJ was a faulty one because most international laws respect the self-government right of the people. By applying the international law, the most superior factor is to allow the people to vote and determine where (which country) they want to belong.
“As it is now, the case appears incurable. You cannot appeal the judgment; you can only review it if there is a new fact that was not known to the court at the time of the judgment. This can only be done within six months and this is 10 years after.
“The situation is miserable and hopelessly difficult; it is technically impossible.”
Similarly, Yusuf Ali, SAN, said only the presentation of new facts and circumstances could enable the government make headway in the process. He added that the duration of the review could not be determined, as it was a judicial process.
He said, “Under the convention that established the ICJ, its judgments cannot be appealed but can only be reviewed. However, new facts and circumstances that rose up during and after the judgment was delivered, which are unknown to the court, may be presented before it for a review.
“The case would not be treated from the beginning all-over again but from the judgment level. However, it remains a judicial matter, its duration in the court may not be determinable.”
Meanwhile, the Cross River State Government said the FG’s new stance was a welcome development.
The state’s Commissioner for Information, Mr. Akin Ricketts, said any move that could reverse the situation would be encouraged by the state government.
“Any step taken, no matter how little, to address the ceding of Bakassi is a welcome development. As it stands, the Federal Government has decided to go on appeal, it is a good move and we will encourage it.
“Bakassi has always been part of us and their plight is ours. We never voluntarily ceded a part of us to Cameroon. I do not want to believe that President Goodluck Jonathan would be part of any kind of deceit on this matter. I believe he meant what he said.”
A former Special Adviser to President Olusegun Obasanjo on National Assembly Matters, Senator Florence Ita-Giwa, also stated that although the idea of an appeal was a good one, the decision of the FG might be coming rather late.
Ita-Giwa said, “I do not know how this latest position of government will work because of our way of doing things at the last minute. It is rather too late in the day but if it will work, it will be good. I have not moved away from my position which is proper resettlement of my people in Dayspring. My people will be happy if the Federal Government looks into their needs.
“An earlier plebiscite would have solved these problems. My people would have been asked where they wanted to belong to 11 years ago. I am appealing that the position of my people should not be politicised.”
A former chairman of Bakassi Local Government Area, Mr. Bassey Edet, however, said the new posture on the matter was just to appease stakeholders and members of the National Assembly that had passed a resolution on the issue.
He said, “I do not want to discuss the issue of appeal because I am convinced that the Federal Government will not appeal, but if they do, it is a welcome development. We believe if they wanted to appeal, they would have done that long ago.
“If that was their position, President Goodluck Jonathan would not have gone to the United Nations General Assembly to say something to the contrary. We do not really believe the Federal Government. They are trying to be diplomatic over the National Assembly resolution.”
The Federal Government had in 2006 signed an international treaty, known as the Green Tree Agreement, with Cameroon to formally cede the territory to the latter in compliance with the ICJ judgment without the approval of the National Assembly.
Lawmakers however, argued that the decision of the government was in breach of Section 12 of the 1999 Constitution, which required that such treaties must be ratified by the legislature to have the force of law in Nigeria.
The Senate had last week resolved that Nigeria should appeal the ICJ judgment.
Based on this resolution, President Goodluck Jonathan last Thursday set up a panel to consider the possibility of an appeal.
The Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba, explained that every agreement entered into by Nigeria must be ratified by the Senate for it to take effect. This, he said, was not done in the case of the ICJ judgment.
He said, “What was forwarded to the 6th Senate was the Green Tree Agreement for ratification. To the best of my knowledge, that agreement has not been ratified till date.
“As far as the Constitution is concerned, the treaty is an incomplete Act.”