Efforts by the National Boundary Commission, NBC, to demarcate the maritime boundary between Nigeria and Cameroon have run into a legal storm as leaders of Bakassi have taken legal action against the commission.
The suit,which was filed at an Abuja High Court, yesterday, may be the first of the series of legal actions which the aggrieved people of Bakassi want to take against individuals, governments and agencies that worked directly, or indirectly, to take away their land, endanger their cultural heritage and rendered them as refugees in their own country.
The people of Bakassi are challenging the NBC which is expected to start the process of demarcation of the new boundary between Nigeria and Cameroon based on the 1975 Marowa Declaration, which set the controversial Ngo/Coker line which jettisoned the April 1893 and the 1954 international boundary between Nigeria and Cameroon.
The old boundary sets the boundaries and co-ordinates at the Rio Del Re Estuary, which was concealed in the memorandum of facts which Cameroon took to the International Court of Justice in 1994.
Leader of Save Bakassi Group, Mr. Maurice Ekong, told Vanguard that the people of Bakassi had decided to take legal action against the NBC because the commission’s actions are illegal and unconstitutional.
He said: “President Goodluck Jonathan went to New York last month to tell the world that he believed in the rule of law. We want to test that mantra of the president in the case of Bakassi because there are several issues here that require the interpretation of legal minds. First, we know that the Green Tree Agreement, GTA, which they have been using has not been domesticated by the National Assembly, the highest law making arm of government in Nigeria.
The provisions of GTA are inconsistent with the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Supreme Court, the National Boundary Commission and all agencies of Federal Government should derive their powers from valid laws of the land and the constitution. We believe that the NBC is acting based on the provisions of GTA and the pronouncement of ICJ, both of which did not take into account the position of Bakassi people.”
Mr. Ekong said the decision to sue NBC is to forestall any violent reaction from angry Bakassi people and to prevent a foreclosure of the fate of Bakassi people who are still hopeful that they would reclaim their land.
Another prominent Bakassi leader told Vanguard that Bakassi people have also concluded plans to sue Nigeria for extracting oil from Bakassi illegally since 1975 and leaving the peninsula impoverished and under-developed.