Contrary to earlier claims, the Nigerian Bar Association yesterday in Abuja said the federal government had till October 9, to apply for the review of the International Court of Justice’s judgement which ceded Bakassi to Cameroun, "after which it would forever lose the chance to so do".
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, stated last week that the federal government could not appeal the ICJ judgement given in October 2002 because "there is no higher court in the international judicial system than the ICJ."
But the NBA in a communiqué issued at the end of its week long 52nd Annual Conference in Abuja said this was not true and that the government could still appeal for the review of the judgement.
The communiqué reads: "The NBA is aware that there are grounds upon which the government of Nigeria may legitimately apply for a revision of the ICJ judgement of 10th October 2002.
"Having adjudged those grounds as being worthy of reconsideration by the ICJ, the NBA calls on the government of Nigeria to, without further delay, apply under Article 61 of the ICJ statute of 1946, to the ICJ for a revision of what is an unjust judgement over Bakassi.
"In this regard, it must be borne in mind that the government of Nigeria has only six weeks (that is, up to October 9, 2012) to apply to the ICJ or be forever shut out in the light of Article 61 (5) which provides inter Alia that; "no application for revising may be made after the lapse of ten years from the date of the judgement."
Chief Joseph Daudu, SAN who formally vacated office as NBA’s President read the communiqué before handing over to the new executive committee led by Mr. Okey Wali, SAN.
The lawyers, in the communiqué alleged that both Nigeria and Cameroun have continuously violated the rights of the Bakassi people.
"In the case of Cameroon, there exists discernible and visible violation of Articles 3 (1) and 2 (a) of the Green-Tree Agreement of June 12, 2006," he added.
Daudu cited Articles 3(1) and 2(a) of the Green Tree Agreement of June 12, 2006 which provided inter alia that" Cameroon, after the transfer of authority to it by Nigeria, guarantees to Nigerian nationals living in the Bakassi peninsula the exercise of the fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined in international human rights law and freedoms in other relevant provisions of international law.
"In particular, Cameroon shall not force Nigerian nationals in the Bakassi peninsula to leave the zone or to change their nationality."
NBA said that in spite of the aforementioned provisions of the Green Tree Agreement, "Cameroon continued to compel Nigeria citizens residing in Bakassi to change their citizenship through imposed possession of an identity card known as "waka book."
On the part of the Nigerian government, NBA noted that "Bakassi people fleeing the gross breach of their rights by the Cameroonian government into Nigeria were treated as refugees, in Nigeria with the effect that the Bakassi people had become stateless and denied the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
"We resolved that the gross violation of the rights of the Bakassi people aforementioned have the potential of spiralling into major insurrection spawned by the exercise of the right to self determination," the communiqué added.
It called on Cameroon to respect the Green-Tree Agreement and also urged Nigeria to resettle those 300,000 citizens along uninhibited coastal terrain in Nigeria complete with housing, healthcare, educational facilities and fishing industry logistics.
The new President of the Association Okey Wali and members of his Executive were later sworn-in by Daudu.
Wali, in his acceptance speech, promised to fight corruption, human rights abuses and ensure the inculcation of ethics as a course for law students in the nation’s universities.
Adoke said last week that despite the high emotions the issue is generating, "there is no fresh ground now for the federal government to urge the ICJ to review its judgement."
"Go and check Article 60 and 61 of the ICJ rules, there is no room for appeal. What Nigeria can do if at all we want to act, is to call for a review of the case.
"But from what most people are putting forward as reasons for us to go back to the ICJ, they are not tenable. We would only go there to embarrass ourselves," the minister said.
Article 60 of the ICJ Statute reads: "The judgement is final and without appeal. In the event of dispute as to the meaning or scope of the judgement, the Court shall construe it upon the request of any party."
Article 61 sub sections 1, 4 and 5, which stated the conditions under which a review could be sought, reads: "An application for revision of a judgement may be made only when it is based upon the discovery of some facts of such a nature as to be a decisive factor, which fact was, when the judgement was given, unknown to the Court and also to the party claiming revision, always provided that such ignorance was not due to negligence."