Bakassi peninsular is a 1,600-kilometer land limit between Nigeria, close to the city of Calabar in Cross River State, and the Rio del Ray estuary in Cameroon. It was a region possessed by natives of both Nigeria and Cameroon.
Because of populace development, which was once put at somewhere in the range of 150,000 and 300,000 individuals, and the specialist increment in human activities on the both sides, the boundary that existed between the two nations ended up cloudy.
Cameroon Nigeria conflict in Bakassi
After some time, the ownership for the region, said to be extremely wealthy in assorted mineral resources, before long turned into an issue of contention among Nigeria and Cameroon. While Nigeria contended that it had been in control of the territory in question and that its residents were dominating in the zone, Cameroon kept up that paying little mind to who had been in occupation, the land had a place with it since the colonial era.
Bakassi Peninsula has never been part of Nigeria – Robert Clarke
It included that the British surrendered Bakassi to Germany through the Anglo-German agreement of 1913 and that Germany surrendered it to France and afterward France surrendered same to it (Cameroon).
The conflict strained the relationship between Nigeria and Cameroon severely, to the extent that there were military confrontations between the two countries. Few years after, precisely in 1994, Cameroon took the matter, among other issues, to the International Court of Criminal Justice, also known as the World Court, at The Hague, for adjudication.
Nigeria/Cameroon Land Dispute: Many Feared Injured, Properties Destroyed In Clash
The matter was in that court for eight years, and at the end, the court ruled on October 10, 2002 that Bakassi belonged to Cameroon, relying on evidence available, especially the Anglo-German agreement. This decision did not go down well with Nigeria, prompting the United Nations to set up the Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed Commission, so as to avoid further confrontations or even war between the two countries. In 2008, after series of dialogue, President Olusegun Obasanjo officially ceded Bakassi to Cameroon by signing the Green Tree Agreement produced by the commission.
In an interview conducted in 2016 by punch a Nigerian, known as Prince Bola Ajibola, was one of the 17 judges who presided over the matter at the World Court, and he also led the delegation of Nigeria to that commission. Prince Ajibola, who is 82 years old now, tells TUNDE AJAJA in the interview conducted about their sitting at The Hague and other issues about Bakassi
Tunda Ajaja noted that it had been 14 years since the International Court of Justice gave the judgment that ceded Bakassi to Cameroon and that he (Prince Bola Ajibola) happened to be one of the judges that adjudicated on the matter. He was asked What exactly came to his mind when he remembered the incident
He began by saying that he was thankful to God that people with conscience and good understanding that Nigeria handled the matter the way it did. And he was also thankful that he played that singular role for Nigeria and he would not forget it in his entire life. He said that when he looked at some activities going on in Nigeria now, he keeps congratulating himself from within, also saying that he was not in the habit of relaying it or playing back the record, because it was a terrible time; an unfortunate time, but he did his best as a true and conscientious, reasonable Nigerian, saving this nation. he had that opportunity of saving the nation and he did it.
He was asked about the fact that some people felt Nigeria should not have lost that case because they had been in occupation of that land for long and a number of the residents there were Nigerians, and what was the cause of Nigeria losing the land.
He replied that all the documents and evidence before the court were all pointing to the ownership of the land as being part of Cameroon. and also the people in Nigeria had also said that they did not own Bakassi. In fact, the then Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Teslim Elias, also made a statement that Bakassi was not part of Nigeria, and that even before the minister said that, Jaja Wachuku, who was then the Foreign Affairs minister, already said it two years after Nigeria got her independence; 1962, that Bakassi was part and parcel of Cameroon. They had all said so, but that was not all. Nigeria maps all indicated that all that area of Bakassi was not part of Nigeria.
He added that it was after Cameroon had taken the matter to court and Nigeria had already started going to court that Nigeria changed her map. He said that the original map that they had about that area was carved into Cameroon. So, those were also issues. he also shed more light on the origin of the land by saying that years ago, Germany had bought that part of Bakassi and when the land was being partitioned, after taking care of Germany out of the whole enclave, it fell into the hand of France and France ceded it to Cameroon.
He was asked about the dissenting judgment that he had written and he replied that
He replied that he wrote his own dissenting judgment against the judgment of the majority of his colleagues in the court. He made it clear in his judgment that in the judgment the court gave on Burkina Faso, if one have possession for a certain period of time, you are as good as having the ownership of the place. That was his position and he told the rest of his colleagues who all favored Bakassi land as belonging to Cameroon. Although unfortunately 17 of them sat and about two or three of them gave dissenting opinions. He and the others were in the minority and it wasn’t a number that could make it.
He also expatiated on why he had said at the beginning of the interview that Nigeria had alot to be thankful for eventhough the country was in a state of utmost quagmire. He explained that Judgment was given at the International Court of Justice against Nigeria holding on to Bakassi but the judgement of the World Court was generally in Nigeria’s favor, except of course the matter of Bakassi. But Bakassi was not the only matter Cameroon brought before the court against Nigeria.
There were about six major issues brought to the court by Cameroon, including criminal offense; that Nigeria unjustifiably took over its land, and that they also fought us on some land inside Nigeria which they had seized and occupied in the eastern part, which Nigeria had decided to take back. There was also an issue of maritime boundary in which they tried to acquire a large portion of southern Nigeria into Cameroon, but they also failed in that because they really fought that seriously and they won that too and the land was retrieved from them. He was also asked about the concerns that have been raised by people concerning the oil rich region that Nigeria lost to Cameroon
He said that it was quite nonsensical to say that Nigeria lost to Cameroon. And that Nigeria had absolutely lost nothing that you cant say you loose what you don’t have, and that Bakassi was never Nigeria’s to begin with. And that even some Nigerians had agreed that Bakassi did not belong to them. When asked about how he felt about some Nigerians opinion that we had given up the land too hastily and what could have happened if Nigerians had not given up the land.
He said that the fact remained that if we had not given up the land Nigerians would have still been at war with Cameroon. And that what someone like him did was to prevent such a thing from happening. He emphasized that holding on to the land would have led to war, and the Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed Commission had most definitely prevented it.
He was asked about the reports that Cameroon had already procured some weapons from Russia to use in engaging Nigeria. And if the situation had really been that bad. He revealed that it was not only only Russia. And that what had happened in Syria is exactly the situation Nigeria would have been in, all along, and perhaps till now. Because not only Russia, China, France and Malaysia were with Cameroon, some other countries were standing in-between, watching when the whole matter would start.
He added that when they got to America, he went to Washington on the matter and the authorities in America at that time were really astounded that the war had not started, and they told him that the war would soon start. That was it. They tried their best to prevent the war from happening and it did not happen. He explained that it would not just have been between Nigeria, on one side, and Cameroon, China, Malaysia, France and Russia on the other side, and how could Nigeria have survived that.
When asked about Nigerians crying over spilt milk, and insinuating if the judgement could be appealed.
He said there was no room for appeal in the international court of justice, and what had been done count not be undone. That the judgment that had been given on October 10, 2002 was final and there was nothing anyone could do about it.
He was asked about the affected residents from Bakassi which included people from Cross River and Akwa Ibom states, and if they still had free entry into Nigeria
He replied in the affirmative that he feels they still have think they have the right to come to Nigeria and the right to be Nigerians in Nigeria.
He was asked about his experiences in the world court and he explained that before he had gotten there, he had been involved in a lot of adjudicatory and judicial matters all over the world, particularly Paris, for international arbitration matters. And, from that time, he had learnt the European’s adherence to time and the way they worship time. To them, time determines who is in the third world, who is in the backward world and who is in the world. He added that they have never considered us They never considered us to be part of anything. As far as they are concerned, we are from undeveloped countries because of our attitude to time. It was when we started making noise that they started describing us as developing countries. In fact, in their books, we are under-developed countries. And they started judging us from our attitude to time.