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Bakassi: Going: Going: Gone! - Senate, Reps Okay Handover Today - Politics - Nairaland

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Bakassi: Going: Going: Gone! - Senate, Reps Okay Handover Today by kaypound(m): 8:41am On Aug 14, 2008
ALL is now set for the final handing over of the oil-rich Bakassi Peninsula by the Federal Government to the Camerounian government today.

This development followed the decision of President Umaru Yar’Adua to obey the ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ceding the peninsula to Cameroun in a case filed by Cameroun against Nigeria.

The ICJ, in 2002, literally caught the entire world unawares when it ruled that the oil-rich peninsula belonged to Cameroun, ordering the Nigerian government to vacate it for consequent occupation by its rightful owner.

No sooner was the ruling, premised on the Anglo-German Treaty of 1913 given, than mixed reactions from Nigerians and foreigners alike began to trail it, with many urging the Nigerian government not to obey the ruling.

Part of the argument of many of those opposed to the ruling bordered on the composition of the judges in The Hague as they had an overbearing French influence. Cameroun was a colony of France.

However, President Yar’Adua, in line with the respect for the rule of law by his government, resolved to defy all the odds and act in line with the ruling of the ICJ by handing over the oil-rich peninsula to Cameroun today.

Meanwhile, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) on Wednesday did not discuss the handing over of the peninsula and other Nigerian territories at its Wednesday meeting.

Briefing State House reporters after the meeting, Minister of Information, Mr. John Odey, said the FEC approved a contract of N81 million for consultancy services for the conduct of due diligence as well as valuation and audit of assets and liabilities of the defunct Department of National Civic Registration (DNCR).

It will be recalled that the Federal Government on Tuesday issued a statement saying it was going ahead with the handover of the territories in compliance with the judgment.

In a related development, the Senate on Wednesday tactically backed the handover of Bakassi to Cameroun when it stated that today’s event might just be a symbolic way of commencing the process of handing over the disputed area, but added that the issue could still be revisited.

Besides, the Senate said the issue of Bakassi was a delicate one which must be handled with caution, adding that a lot of issues were involved and Nigeria must choose between being the bad boy of the international community or hand over peacefully.

It also stated that following investigations, the parts of Bakassi being ceded to Cameroun were not really very heavy with mineral deposit as alleged.

Addressing journalists after a brief sitting of the Senate on Wednesday, Senate spokesperson and Chairman, Senate Committee on Information and Media, Senator Ayogu Eze, said:“ One other point that people have spoken about is the issue of the treaty and its domestication, well, processes like this, from experience, are not something that can be concluded in a day.

“The handover, for instance, is just a process. Tomorrow (today) might just be a symbolic day of starting the process of handover. Because when you hand over, you have to take care of creating or re-naming or re-creating the Bakassi Local Government as enshrined in the Third Schedule of the constitution.”

He said: “The Senate in its wisdom has already done quite a lot of work on the Bakassi issue. You know that we have a joint committee that has been working on it and it would be over-flogging the issue for us to come to floor today and start talking about it.

“As I said in some of the interviews I gave before I travelled, the issue of Bakassi is an issue that is very delicate and we have to handle it with a lot of caution and a lot of care.”

Also, ahead of the handing over of Bakassi to Cameroun, some members of the House of Representatives on Wednesday insisted that should the Federal Government obey the Green Tree Agreement, it must ensure that people of Bakassi were properly resettled.

But Minority Leader of the House, Honourable Mohammed Ali Ndume, still maintained that the handing over was illegal and declared that the House’s position on the issue was clear.

Honourable Patty Etete, who spoke on the issue, said since the government was resolved to obey the ICJ ruling on Bakassi, the government should endeavour to ensure that the citizens to be affected did not suffer.

Also, Hon. Lanre Agoro canvassed for the same position, even as both lawmakers expressed displeasure at the anguish of the Bakassi people on the matter.

But Minority Leader, Honourable Ndume, maintained that the Federal Government had committed illegality by obeying the ruling on the ceding of Bakassi, saying since the executive wanted to disregard the House on the issue, there was nothing the National Assembly could do.

In a related development, the Oron Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State on Wednesday inaugurated a seven-man committee to ensure the welfare of the returnees from the Bakassi peninsula.

Last week, Governor Godswill Akpabio also inaugurated a similar committee when he called on members to assess the impact of the ICJ ruling on the people.

Akpabio said 80 per cent of the returnees were indigenes of Akwa Ibom, and expressed the determination of his administration to resettle them.
Factsheet on Bakassi

•The 3,000 sq km peninsula in the Gulf of Guinea is mostly wetlands, rich in fish. Its offshore waters contain several oilfields and there are expectations of more to be discovered.

•With its close proximity to the Niger Delta, heart of Nigeria's oil production, industry experts believe the peninsula could hold significant amounts of oil deposits that would help boost Cameroun's declining production of around 90,000 barrels per day.

•The International Court of Justice (ICJ) gave Bakassi to Cameroun in a 2002 ruling, based largely on a 1913 treaty between former colonial powers, Britain and Germany.

•Nigeria and Cameroun fought over Bakassi in 1994 when Cameroun first took its case to the World Court. There were serious clashes in 1996.

•The handover has been delayed since an initial 2004 deadline, but Nigerian troops have gradually handed over control and the process would be complete on August 14.

•Some Bakassi leaders and Nigerian lawmakers object, saying 300,000 people are there and do not want to become Camerounians. UN. officials put the population much lower.

•Suspected Nigerian rebels killed 21 Camerounian soldiers on November 12, 2007 in a raid for which no group claimed responsibility.

•Last month, a little-known armed Nigerian group launched two attacks on Camerounian soldiers in Bakassi and threatened more violence until the transfer is renegotiated.

•Nigeria's border with Cameroun, which runs from Lake Chad to the Gulf of Guinea, has never been established using modern surveying techniques and was charted in colonial times using landmarks such as rivers and trees.

•A UN.-led joint commission was set up in 2002 to define the 1,600-km land boundary between the two countries following the ICJ ruling on Bakassi.


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