LAST week, the Senate asked President Goodluck Jonathan to appeal the October 9, 2002, judgment of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ceding the oil-rich Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon. The upper legislative chamber declared that the decision was illegal, unconstitutional and inchoate hence the demand for its reversal.
At the heart of this debacle is the country’s hasty subscription to the Green Tree Agreement on this matter which becomes operational and binding on October 10, 2012. The Senate is basing its submission on the fact that there were shortcomings in Nigeria’s signing of the contentious agreement, which, it said, ought to have been domesticated by either the House of Representatives or the Senate as required by Section 12 of the 1999 Constitution. Article 94 of the United Nations Charter says that member states must comply with the decision of the ICJ on any case to which they are party.
Parties involved cannot even appeal as Article 60 of the ICJ Statute says its ruling is final and not subject to any appeal. An aggrieved party can only appeal to the UN for the interpretation of aspects of any ruling. There is, however, a window of optimism in this case as Article 61 (1) of the ICJ Statute states inter alia: “An application for revision of a judgment may be made 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 judgment was given, unknown to the Court and also to the party claiming revision, always provided that such ignorance was not due to negligence.” This Article, definitely, supersedes Article 60.
We expect that the legal experts in government should be able to sieve these technicalities and establish strategic thrusts for the pursuit of the breaches in the so-called Green Tree Agreement that seems to have been foisted on Nigeria as further confirmation of the ceding of Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon. Considering the short period left for appeal, officials charged with the responsibility should know that time is of essence in this case.
Nobody should dilly-dally in the days ahead. This is the country’s last chance to address the anomaly. Repudiation of the ICJ ruling, as being mooted in some quarters, should not be one of the cards on the table in this age and time. Rather, let us explore all the legal angles and fresh expositions for the last time and see what comes out of it. Nigeria is a law-abiding, peace-loving and responsible nation and therefore cannot do anything that will jeopardize international justice.
This is the more reason we should get our acts together in this last-ditch appeal effort. We cannot renege or bungle the process at this point.
The fact that we honoured the ICJ ruling by signing an agreement with Cameroon on recognition of land and maritime boundaries as delineated by the ICJ does not in any way affect this fresh desire to correct subsisting anomalies and illegalities. There are reports even of contravention of some aspects of the ICJ ruling by Cameroonian gendarmes! If not for Nigeria’s maturity, the disposition of the Cameroonian authorities is such that has the potency of provoking conflicts.
But the federal government insists that the country, being a signatory to global conventions, has a bounden duty to respect international laws and obligations and to settle international disputes by negotiation, conciliation and adjudication.
Nigerians in this disputed territory must comport themselves as efforts to redress the matter continue. The government needs to equally take their welfare seriously. Let us be hopeful on the bid for an appeal. There must be diligence in the pursuit of a happy resolution of this matter. If there is no such commitment, the whole exercise will amount to a fiasco and this could give rise to avoidable lawlessness by the neglected inhabitants of this disputed area.