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‘Why Obasanjo Handed Bakassi Over To Cameroon,’ – Ambassador Mbu

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Late Ambassador M. T. Mbu has claimed that former President Olusegun Obasanjo ceded the Bakassi Peninsular to Cameroon for personal interest.

He made the claims in a posthumous book titled, “M.T. Mbu: Dignity in Service.”

The foreword to the book, which is slated for public presentation on April 10 in Abuja, also gives an account of the 1966 coup.

According to his son, Mark, the late Mbu was encouraged by the renowned Ibadan book publisher, Chief Joop Berkhout, to write his memoir before he died on February 6, 2012.

The late Mbu, who was privy to most of the negotiations on Bakassi, argued that the decision to cede the Peninsular to Cameroon was taken because “Obasanjo was hoping to impress the international community, the outside world and to be hailed as having avoided war. He was gunning for a Nobel Peace Prize to be in the same column as Al Gore and Nelson Mandela”.

According to Mbu, when Obasanjo went to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) with Cameroon, there was no need for it.

“Nigerians have been occupying their land. Nigeria was not obliged to go to that court.

Also Read: “I’d Commit Suicide If There’s No Hope For Nigeria,” Says Obasanjo

“With that judgement and our compliance with the jurisdiction, we have only postponed the evil day that a solution has been found. And what is annoying is our indifference to the optional clause of the statute of the International Court of Justice,” he wrote in the book.

From the direct quote of the ICJ statute, Mbu argued: “It is clear that the judgement of the court is not binding on any member unless the member accepts its jurisdiction. What was it that compelled Nigeria to accept in such a hurry the judgement of the court? Yes, our government made terrible mistakes in law, whether history will forgive us, I don’t know.”

Tracing his own personal efforts, Mbu wrote: “I’ll begin with 1993 when I was Minister of Foreign Affairs, during the military regime of General (Ibrahim) Babangida.

“Paul Biya, the President of Cameroon, like most neighbours would, was interested in hydrocarbon resources. He promised me that he would not go to war with Nigeria over Bakassi.

“All he wanted Nigeria to do was allow Cameroon to participate in the development of the hydrocarbon resources in the area. This is on record, signed and published as a communiqué about the agreement reached between Nigeria and Cameroon, August 1993.

“At no time was Bakassi an empty territory without people in it. The people in it have always been the Efiks that the King of England in 1912 signed a treaty with the Obong of Calabar recognising him as the King of Bakassi before Lugard amalgamated Southern and Northern Nigeria in 1914.

“In other words, there was no time as we say in international law that Bakassi was a terra nullius, that is, ‘No man’s land.’ It has always been somebody’s land.

“Did we explore the options available within the court? The court discharged its duties as a full court but, at the request of the parties, it may also establish ad hoc chambers to examine specific cases.

“The sources of law that the court must apply are: international treaties and conventions in force; international custom; the general principles of law and judicial decisions; and the teachings of the most highly qualified publicists.

“Moreover, if the parties agree, the court can decide a case ex aequo et bono, i.e., without limiting itself to existing rules of international law.

“Were members of our legal team aware that a case in that court could be brought to a conclusion at any stage of the proceedings by a settlement between the parties or by discontinuance?

“In the latter case, an applicant state may at any time inform the court that it is not going on with the proceedings, or the two parties may declare that they have agreed to withdraw the case. The court then removes the case from its list.

“And again even if the judgement of that court cannot be challenged, what happens when there are new facts that were not obvious during the proceedings. It is annoying that we did not even attempt to explore Article 61 of ICJ.”

The late Mbu, who was a lawyer by profession, said Nigeria had the right to challenge the procedures leading to that decision within six months of the discovery of new facts.

He said: “We did not challenge it. We had up to ten years to seek a review. We could not even make an attempt.

“The only power that can get the judgement of that court compelling and applicable is under Section 94 of the Charter of the UN. The Security Council alone has the power to enforce the judgment under pain of punishment. Did we approach the Security Council?

“Obasanjo went to court with nothing, without even asking for a plebiscite. He went and came back empty-handed. He handed over Bakassi without making any serious effort. He did not engage in any legislative consultation. Where did Obasanjo get the two-thirds to give away part of Nigeria?

“The government with Obasanjo as president acted in breach of the Nigerian Constitution. The National Assembly could have declined the implementation of the Green Tree Agreement under Section 12 of the Constitution, thereby depriving it of any force of law domestically. Was the National Assembly properly informed?

“There is overall incoherence of national policy in important matters. Indeed, the giving away of Bakassi from Cross River State, my state, despite the objections of the indigenes, now turned into refugees, prompted me to ask whether the government that succeeded Obasanjo could have done anything further to rectify the blunder?”

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