Peeved by the lack-lustre handling of the resettlement of the Bakassi people years after the October 10, 2002 International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling, which ceded the oil-rich peninsula to Cameroon, the Cross River State government is readying a mouthwatering N3trillion suit against the Federal Government.
Besides, the state wants to be compensated in perpetuity for the loss of Bakassi, and the consequent loss of 76 oil wells to neighbouring Akwa Ibom State, a development that has left it with skint finances.
Twelve years after that landmark verdict, the distraught people are particularly irked by the fact that despite a groundswell of promises made by the Olusegun Obasanjo-led government to resettle them at a befitting location, which would support their lifestyle and occupation, as well as the interest shown in the matter by the international community, they are still living as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in different camps, with scant attention from the Federal Government.
Consequently, they are also considering suing the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which they believe did not follow due legal process in arriving at the verdict.
Chairman of Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), Aliyu Mohammed, during a recent visit to the state, said as part of efforts to assuage the pains caused by the ruling, about N38b has been paid as special allocation to the state by the Federal Government over a period of 11 years, as compensation for the loss of Bakassi and by extension the wells.
But the state government insists that this amount was grossly inadequate, considering the enormity of the dislocation suffered by the people, and the attendant economic loss to the state.
Chief Press Secretary/ Special Assistant on Media to Governor Ben Ayade, Christian Ita, in an exclusive interview with The Guardian said the state was not satisfied with such a paltry sum.
He said: “We have 12 months in a year, so multiply that by 11 years and divide it by N38b, that is when you will know whether that money was meant to achieve anything or not. By the time you finish the calculation per month, you would know that the amount would have become pittance. It is nothing. We are thinking that we should be compensated in perpetuity; we should be compensated heavily. I know that the governor is even considering taking the Federal Government to court to ask for over N3trillion damages over the loss of Bakassi Peninsular and its oil wells because no laid down procedure in international law was followed in ceding the area.”
Ita, who said the ceding of Bakassi was an issue between two sovereign nations- Nigeria and Cameroon, and Cross River State had no hand at all added, “Even when you look at the Green Tree Agreement, it has nothing to do with Cross River State, so there is no need to beg the issue because I think we are begging the issue. The truth of the matter is that the little element of comfort that the people of Bakassi are enjoying is coming from the state government even after the state suffered what can be described as double jeopardy. After the peoples’ land was ceded without their consent, the state also lost over 70 oil wells as a consequence, and it is the same Cross River State, which now has less money that is being left to cater for the wellbeing of the people.”
He stressed: “Is there no justice in the land anymore?”
Counsel to the Bakassi Strike Force (BSF), a militant group in the area, Ozinko Ozinko, also threatened that the group would sue the ICJ on behalf of the Bakassi people saying, “If care is not taken in this matter, this will be the first matter that we will even be suing the ICJ. They are not sincere. There are lots of interests and politics that come to play at international level. With the new evidence we have, it is clear that the judgment was obtained by fraud. When you obtain judgment by fraud, it is one of the grounds that one can appeal.”
The counsel added that: “Consent of the direct parties in the matter was not obtained. The direct party in this circumstance is the Bakassi people. In law, we have proper parties, nominal parties, desirable parties and necessary parties. So which of the parties did they give the judgment against? As far as we are concerned, when former President Olusegun Obasanjo went there to sign that document, he was only a nominal party. We are serious about it. If you check the treaty, you will see. We will approach the court of law and we will test our ammunition there.
“The militants have their ammunition, but in the court we have our own ammunition. The fact that the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) refused to act does not mean that all hopes are lost. All hopes are not lost. Bakassi is still one of the 774 local councils listed inside the First Schedule, Part One of our constitution. It has not been amended, so the treaty cannot come and redefine, or bind our court when it is not yet law by Section 12 of the constitution. And by Section One, the supremacy clause of the constitution says that, this constitution is supreme and its provisions shall have binding force on all persons and authorities throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The constitution is supreme.