The Nigeria-Cameroun border conflict, which had claimed many lives and properties, was finally resolved on October 2002 following the ICJ ruling which ceded the disputed Bakassi Peninsula to the Republic of Cameroon. The rapidity with which President Obasanjo implemented the handover of Bakassi to Cameroon was seen in the average eye of a Nigerian as a diplomatic blunder considering the historical underpinnings of the people of Bakassi. This study was therefore aimed at a critical examination of the fundamental rights of the people of Bakassi Peninsula in the management of the Nigerian-Cameroun dispute by President Obasanjo. In doing this, the study was anchord on two research questions, thus: (1) Did Olusegun Obasanjo’s support for the ICJ ruling over the disputed Bakassi Peninsula undermine Nigeria’s national interest in the protection of her citizens and territorial integrity?; (2) Has the Nigerian government is inability to explore alternative policy options to ICJ ruling undermined the right to decide where to belong by the Bakassi people?. We used qualitative descriptive method to collect data from secondary sources. Qualitative descriptive method was equally used in analyzing our data. Thus, applying logically the core assumptions of Games theory, the study contended that Obasanjo’s acceptance of the ICJ ruling to cede away the disputed Bakassi Peninsula to Republic of Cameroon was against the national interest of Nigeria. Arising from this therefore, we recommended, among other things, that Nigerian foreign policy machinery should be henceforth situated and located in the hands of experts
- Background of the Study
The dispute along the Nigeria-Cameroun border was a matter of historic proportions, especially along the Cross River to the Sea section wherein the Bakassi Peninsula (Ekpenyong, 1989) lies. The disputed Bakassi Peninsula is an area of some of mangrove swamp and half submerged islands mostly occupied by fishermen settlers (Anene, 1970). Remarkably, Bakassi Peninsula came under British protection on September 10, 1884. Following the Berlin West African Conference of 1885, Britain and Germany defined their territorial spheres of influence in Africa in November 15, 1893. When the two installments of amalgamation were proclaimed in Nigeria in 1906 and 1914, the Bakassi Peninsula was subsumed under the frontiers of Southern Cameroon. Then the London Treaty of March 11, 1913 established clear-cut regulations on navigation on the Cross River. The end of World War I brought Bakassi under British Cameroon. During the interwar years, the Franco British Declaration of July 10, 1919 on Bakassi and what came to be known as British-Cameroon were placed under British mandate and were administered conterminously with Nigeria. In 1946 following the end of World War II Britain divided Cameroon into Northern Cameroon and Southern Cameroon (Idumange, 2010). While Southern Cameroun fell under the British colony, the Northern Cameroun was administered by France. Upon gaining political independence by Nigeria and Cameroun as well as the discovery of oil and other natural resources in the Bakassi Peninsula, the border conflict between the two countries began to gather fresh momentum.
Successive Nigerian governments had made various efforts in settling the Bakassi question. Specifically, after the ‘Maroon Accord reached between the Heads of state, General Yakubu Gowon of Nigeria and Ahmadu Ahidjo of Cameroon in which Gowon allegedly gave out the territory to Cameroon, General Murtala Mohammed that took over from the Gowon military regime threatened that rather than accept the outrageous agreement, Nigeria would go to war if Cameroonians refused further negotiations (Babatola and Jadesola, 2012). On assumption of office as the military head of state after the bloody coup d’etat that led to the assassination of General Murtala in 1976, Obasanjo made significant efforts to re-open the border negotiations with the Cameroonian authorities with little or no achievement recorded (Babatola and Jadesola, 2012)
Between May 15th 1981 and 1993, the Peninsula remained a subject of serious dispute, between Cameroon and Nigeria with scores of lives lost due to military aggressions and tribal squabbles (Olumide, 2002). As tension continued to mount and many more lives lost as a result of the conflict, the Cameroonian government got tired and, on March 24, 1994, filed a law suit against Nigeria at the International Court of Justice, at Hague, seeking an injunction for the expulsion of Nigerian force, which they said were occupying the territory and to restrain Nigeria from laying claim to sovereignty over the peninsula.
Remarkebly, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling (on Thursday 10th October 2002) over the Bakassi conflict in favor of Cameroon (against the wish of the Bakassi people and the majority of Nigerians) during the Obasanjo Civilian Administration has indeed, opened a vista of debates among scholars pertains to the implications of the ICJ position on the national interest and in extension, foreign policy of Nigeria
Against this background, this study critically examines the fundamental rights of the people of Bakassi Peninsula in the management of the Nigerian-Cameroun dispute under President Obasanjo civilian administration.
1.2 Statement of the problem
At the core of foreign policy of any given state is its national interest. Thus, according to Igwe (2007:157):
Foreign policy is the coordinated application of the elements of national power for the promotion of national interest as defined by the ruling class in relations between states and other international actors, a practical substantiation of grand-strategy, the external expression of domestic policy and the main object of foreign policy analysis
Since actors in the international system are numerous, interest pursuing cannot exist without interacting with other actors in the system. It therefore behooves on them to draw up well-defined programmes and activities coupled with certain behavioral traits or tendencies with which it interacts with other actors so as to maximize their interest, and possibly, even at the detriment of other actors in the system (Ofoeze, 2011)
Interestingly, at the core of Nigerian foreign policy is the advancement of her national interest, especially as it affects the interests of the citizens. But suffice it to say that President Obasanjo’s diplomatic approach to Nigerian-Cameroun border dispute, which eventually led to Bakassi people being ceded away to Cameroun, had indeed, raised serious debate as it concerns the Nigeria’s national interest.
The Nigerian-Cameroon border conflict gained international dimension and prominence in March 24, 1994 following a law suit filed by Cameroonian government in the International Court of Justice in Hague against the Nigerian government. The suit sought an injunction for the expulsion of Nigerian force, which they claimed were occupying the territory and to restrain Nigeria from establishing to sovereignty over Peninsula (Tariebbea and Baroni, 2010). The 1913 Anglo-German agreement shifted the Peninsula from its original position in Nigeria in favor of Cameroon. This was indeed, supported by the 1975 “Maroon Declaration” between the Heads of state, General Yakubu Gowon of Nigeria and Ahmadu Ahidjo of Cameroon in which Gowon allegedly gave out the territory to Cameroon (Olumide, 2002)
Various steps taken by successive Nigerian leaders to retain Bakassi as part of Nigerian federation proved abortive. This was indeed, to climax in the ICJ ruling in October 10, 2002, which placed Bakassi under the ownership of Cameroon. By this judgment, sovereignty over Bakassi was transferred to the Republic of Cameroon. The judgment was overwhelmingly condemned by the mass of the Nigerian people.
The swift and unilateral action that was taken by the Obasanjo civilian administration in aiding the outright ceding of Bakassi to Cameroon had indeed, generated mixed feelings in Nigeria pertaining to the rationale behind the ICJ judgment.
Scholars such as Asobie (2003), Baye (2010), Anene (2005), Nweke (1982), Ngan (2010), Fombo (2006), Rose and Sama (2006), Eke (2009), among others, have written extensively on the Nigerian-Cameroon border conflict and its management. However, none of these scholars has critically examined the ceding away of the disputed Bakassi territotry to Cameroon by the Obasanjo civilian administration and the fundamental human rights of the people of Bakassi Peninsula. It is however, this noticeable and existing lacuna in the extant literature that this research work is aimed at filling using the under listed research questions as a guide:
- Did Olusegun Obasanjo’s support for the ICJ ruling over the disputed Bakassi Peninsula undermine Nigeria’s national interest in the protection of her citizens rights and territorial integrity?
- Has the Nigeria government inability to explore alternative policy options to ICJ ruling undermined the right to decide where to belong by the Bakassi people?
- Objectives of the Study
The broad objective of this study is to critically examine the ICJ ruling over the Bakassi Peninsular and the extent to which it infringes on the fundamental human rights of the Bakassi people. However, the specific objectives include:
- To ascertain whether Olusegun Obasanjo’s support for the ICJ ruling over Bakassi Peninsula undermine Nigeria’s national interest in the protection of her citizens rights and territorial integrity
- To determine if Nigeria government inability to explore alternative policy options to ICJ ruling undermined the right to decide where to belong by the Bakassi people
1.4 Significance of the study
This study has both theoretical and practical significance. The theoretical relevance of this study derives from its focus on ascertaining whether the role played by Olusegun Obasanjo in Bakassi dispute undermined Nigeria’s national interest of protection of her citizens and territorial integrity and if the Nigeria government inability to explore alternative policy options to ICJ ruling undermined the right to decide where to belong by the Bakassi people, thereby providing a new framework under which the problem could be explained and analyzed. Furthermore, the findings of this study will add to the existing stock of scholarly literature on the Nigerian-Bakassi boundary dispute. As such, it will then serve as a reference material or data for scholars whose interest would eventually be aroused by the findings to undertake further studies on the area.
Practically, this study will be of immense importance to the Nigerian government and law makers at various levels, international observers, and indeed, other relevant bodies interested in the issues pertaining to the Nigerian-Cameroon border dispute. And as such, will provide valuable data/information that will assist them to articulate potent policies that will help to address the issue.
The understated hypotheses are put forward to guide the study:
- Olusegun Obasanjo’s support for the ICJ ruling over the disputed Bakassi Peninsula undermined Nigeria’s national interest in the protection of her citizens’ rights and territorial integrity
- The Nigeria government’s inability to explore alternative policy options to ICJ ruling undermined the right to decide where to belong by the Bakassi people
- Thesis and Contribution to Knowledge
The central thesis of this study derives from our major findings arising from lacuna that exist in the views of scholars in the area of the study. These findings are in two different dimensions. Firstly, it was one the findings of this study that even though there were policy options to Obasanjo’s civilian administration, the Nigeria government support for the ICJ ruling over the disputed Bakassi Peninsula undermined Nigeria’s national interest of protection of her citizens and territorial integrity. To this end, and in order to ensure that this thesis has not been implicated in the views of other scholars that have carried out research on the area, we reviewed the views of scholars such as Asobie (2003), Baye (2010), Anene (2005),To Ngan (2010) and Fombo (2006), Rose and Sama (2006),among others. Asobie (2003) and Baye (2010) admit that the existence of authoritarian regimes in both countries and military approach equally posed difficulty in resolving the crisis. Anene (2005) was of the view that the lingering border crisis between Nigeria and Cameroon and its difficulty in managing it stems from the manner under which African boundaries arbitrarily demarcated. Rose and Sama (2006) whether President Olusegun Obasanjo’s support for the ICJ ruling over the disputed Bakassi Peninsula undermined Nigeria’s national interest in the protection of her citizens and territorial integrity
Secondly, it was equally the finding of this study that the Nigeria government’s inability to explore alternative policy options to ICJ ruling undermined the right to decide where to belong by the Bakassi people. This was derived from the lacuna that exists from the views of scholars we reviewed on the area. For instance Ebeghulem (2008) contends that the diplomatic impact of the Nigeria’s foreign policy over Bakassi, and the Nigeria’s handling of the Bakassi imbroglio before, during and after the ICJ judgment, had left nothing to desire. His argument centers on the fact that the population of Bakassi is overwhelmingly Nigerians. Its local government, functions as part of Cross River State since the inception of the State. The Efik Nigerians have always voted to choose their representatives whenever the civilian governments hold sway since Nigeria’s independence in 1960. The residents of Bakassi according to him believe themselves as Nigerians because they have always participated in all decision-making process since the nation was born. He recommends that Bakassi people should have therefore, been given the privilege to determine their future instead of being partitioned into Cameroon as implied by the ICJ’s ruling.
Aghemelo and Ibhasebhor (2006) noted that the arbitrary delimitation of Africa into sovereign entities has remained the root cause of the dispute between Nigeria and Cameroon. They opine that the African territories which have attained independence and national sovereignty, cannot in a strict sense, be regarded as national states. They do not embrace a common past and a common culture. They are indeed, the arbitrary creations of colonialist. Rouke (1997) has however examined the general trend of European colonial imposed boundaries on Africa; pointing directly at Bakassi as one of such imposed African boundaries. He assessed at length the legacy of colonialism in Africa. He points out that the industrialization of the North was one factor that caused the colonization of the South in the late 1800s and early 1900s. He noted that Africa was largely controlled by its indigenous peoples in 1878 but had, by 1914 become almost totally subjugated and divided into colonies by the European powers.
However, these scholars, among others, have failed to examine whether the Nigeria government inability to explore alternative policy options to ICJ ruling undermined the right to decide where to belong by the Bakassi people. This constitutes our second thesis and contribution to the existing knowledge.