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Nigerian High Court stops government on Bakassi handover
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19:54, August 01, 2008

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A Federal High Court in Abuja on Thursday restrained the Federal Government from going ahead with the ceding of the oil-rich Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon scheduled for Aug. 14 this year, local media reported Friday.

Justice Mohammed Umar who issued the order during a hearing in the case said his decision was in the interest of justice, according to report on Lagos-based Vanguard on Friday.

He ordered the parties in the suit to maintain the status quo pending the determination of the litigation on the disputed oil rich enclave.

He adjourned further hearing to October 20 when the court would have resumed from it annual vacation.

So far, there is no report on Nigerian Federal Government's reaction toward the court's decision.

Nigeria and Cameroon had signed the "Green Tree Agreement" under which Abuja agreed to cede the peninsula to Yaounde in compliance with the verdict of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague which held that the territory belonged to Cameroon.

Under the agreement signed in New York on June 12, 2006, Cameroon was to assume full sovereignty over the peninsula on Aug.14.

Reacting to the order of the court, the Cross River State Government, represented by its Deputy Director of Civil Litigation Bassey U. Bassey, said the order "is not capable of being obeyed."

This order is not capable of being obeyed because this court cannot sit as an appellate court on the judgment of the International Court of Justice at The Hague.

"All the issues in this case as well as the final cession of Bakassi are fallout from the judgment of the ICJ," he said.

Counsel to the plaintiff Kayode Fasetire said the suit was not to challenge the judgment of the ICJ but the modalities for its implementation.

"We know that we are bound by the judgment of the ICJ. The Presidency did not submit the Green Tree Agreement to the National Assembly for ratification while the legislature also failed in its oversight functions to call the President to order," he said.

"We are challenging the Agreement and we are surprised that the President has said he would go ahead to handover in the face of it. Nigeria has not done what it is supposed to do before implementing the Agreement," Fasetire said.

The plaintiffs, led by two former chairmen of Bakassi Local Government, Chief Emmanuel Etene and Mr Ani Esin, are seeking 456 billion naria (about 4 billion U.S. dollars) as compensation before the cession.

They also want the court to order the Federal Government to resettle their people in a place of their choice before the cession.

Besides, the plaintiffs are calling for the amendment of the 1999 Constitution to reflect the cession and their relocation to anew home.

On the ceded areas of Bakassi, the plaintiffs said they have rejected the resettlement of the affected people in the newly created "New Bakassi."

"New Bakassi is already inhabited by people other than Bakassi people and the inhabitants are hostile to the Bakassi refugees," they added.

They also said New Bakassi was landlocked and ideal for farmers and not fishermen like them.

The plaintiffs, therefore, want an order of the court directing the respondents to resettle them at Nsutana Iyata in Cross River or any other area or location in the state where they might choose by way of plebiscite or referendum.

The plaintiffs contended that the 206,000 natives of Bakassi are entitled to be protected and catered for by the Federal Government.

Source: Xinhua



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