Statement by Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke, SAN, CFR on the position of the Federal Government of Nigeria in response to the agitation for the review of the 2002 International Court of Justice judgment in respect of the land and maritime boundary between Cameroon and Nigeria.
IT will be recalled that on 10th October 2002, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) delivered judgment in land and maritime boundary between Cameroon and Nigeria, which covers about 2000 kilometres extending from Lake Chad to the sea. It will also be recalled that before the judgment was delivered, President Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR of Nigeria and President Paul Biya of the Republic of Cameroon gave their respective undertaking to the international community to abide by the judgment of the court.
The commitment and undertakings given by both Heads of Government were confirmed by the establishment of the Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed Commission (CNMC) pursuant to the joint communiqué adopted at a summit meeting on 15 November 2002 in Geneva. The CNMC is composed of the representatives of Cameroon, Nigeria and the United Nations and is chaired by the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General for West Africa.
The CNMC has held 29 Sessions since its inception and has peacefully, amicably and successfully:
(a) brought Cameroon and Nigeria back to negotiation table;
(b) supervised the handing over of 33 ceded villages to Cameroon and one to Nigeria in December, 2003 and received three settlements and territory in Adamawa and Borno states Sectors from Cameroon in 2004;
(c) initiated the Enugu-Abakiliki-Mamfe-Mutengene road project as part of the confidence building measures between the two countries;
(d) supervised peaceful withdrawal of civil administration, military and police forces and transfer of authority in the Bakassi Peninsula by Nigeria to Cameroon in 2008 in line with the modalities contained in the Greentree Agreement signed by Cameroon and Nigeria in 2006 which the United Nations, Germany, USA, France, UK and Northern Ireland witnessed; and
(e) commenced the emplacement of boundary beacons/pillars along the land boundary and initiated final mapping of the whole stretch of the boundary. It is instructive to note that about 1800 kilometres of the boundary have so far been assessed for pillar emplacement leaving only about 220 km to complete the assessment of the entire boundary.
The Greentree Agreement was also signed by H. E. Paul Biya, and President President Olusegun Obasanjo GCFR, on 12 June, 2006, in Long Island, Greentree, New York, USA; reaffirming their willingness to peacefully implement the judgment of the ICJ. The Agreement contains the modalities for withdrawal and transfer of authority in the Bakassi Peninsula by Nigeria to Cameroon in pursuance of the ICJ Judgment. The Follow-Up Committee comprising representatives of Nigeria and Cameroon was established to monitor the implementation of the Agreement and settle any dispute regarding the interpretation and implementation of the Agreement. Nigeria handed over the Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon in 2008.
The Statute of the International Court of Justice provides that the Judgment of the court is final and without appeal. However, following the Resolutions of both Houses of the National Assembly calling on the Executive to take steps to apply for a review of the judgment, His Excellency, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR called a stakeholders meeting comprising the leadership of the National Assembly, the governors of Akwa Ibom and Cross River States, members of the National Assembly from both states, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, the Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs and Director General, National Boundary Commission to review the situation.
The stakeholders meeting after due deliberations constituted a committee comprising of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the Attorney General of the Federation, the Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs, Director General, National Boundary Commission and members of the National Assembly namely: Senator Victor Ndoma Egba, SAN, CON, Hon. Dr. Ali Ahmed and Hon Nnena Ukaje to examine all the issues in contention and available options for Nigeria including, but not limited to the application for review of the ICJ Judgment, appropriate political and diplomatic solutions.
Although the judgment of the ICJ is final and not subject to appeal, the ICJ Statute provides for circumstances under which its judgment can be reviewed. The relevant provisions are:
(a) Article 61 (1) which provides that the Court can review its judgment upon the discovery of some fact of such a nature as to be a decisive factor, which fact was, when the judgment was given, unknown to the court and also to the party claiming revision, always provided that such ignorance was due not to negligence;
(b) Article 61 (4) which stipulates that application for revision must be made at least within six months of the discovery of the new fact, and
(c) Article 61(5), which provide that no application for revision may be made after the lapse of ten years from the date of the judgment.
The implication of the above provisions of the ICJ Statute is that a case for revision of the judgment of the court can only be successful if:
(a) the application for revision is based on the discovery of a new fact;
(b) the fact must have existed prior to the delivery of the judgment;
(c) the newly discovered fact must be of a decisive nature; and
(d) the party seeking revision (Nigeria) and the Court, must not have known of the fact at the time of the delivery of the judgment.
The Committee proceeded to examine the case for revision against the requirements of Article 61 of the ICJ Statute and was constrained to observe from the oral presentations made to it by the proponents of the revision that the strict requirements of Article 61 could not be satisfied. This is because their presentation was unable to show that Nigeria has discovered a decisive fact that was unknown to her before the ICJ judgment, which is capable of swaying the Court to decide in its favour. This is more so as most of the issues canvassed in support of the case for a revision of the ICJ judgment had been canvassed and pronounced upon by the ICJ in its 2002 judgment.
The Federal Government also retained a firm of international legal practitioners to advise on the merits and demerits of the case for revision. The firm after considering all the materials that were placed at its disposal against the requirements of Article 61 of the ICJ Statute came to the reasoned conclusion that “an application for a review is virtually bound to fail“ and that “a failed application will be diplomatically damaging to Nigeria”.
In view of the foregoing, the Federal Government is of the informed view that with less than two days to the period when the revision will be statute barred (9th October, 2012), it would be impossible for Nigeria to satisfy the requirements of Articles 61(1) -(5) of the ICJ Statute. Government has therefore decided that it will not be in the national interest to apply for revision of the 2002 ICJ Judgment in respect of the Land and Maritime Boundary between Cameroon and Nigeria.
Government is however concerned about the plight of Nigerians living in the Bakassi Peninsula and the allegations of human rights abuses being perpetrated against Nigerians in the peninsula and is determined to engage Cameroon within the framework of the existing implementation mechanisms agreed to by Nigeria and Cameroon in order to protect the rights and livelihoods of Nigerians living in the peninsula. Nigeria will also not relent in seeking appropriate remedies provided by international law such as the invocation of the compulsory jurisdiction of the ICJ; petitioning the United Nations Human Rights Council and good offices of the United Nations Secretary General which has played pivotal role in ensuring the peaceful demarcation and delimitation of the boundary between the two countries and other confidence building measures and calls on the United Nations to continue to provide assistance to the affected populations.
Finally the Federal Government wishes to assure all Nigerians especially the people living in the Bakassi peninsula of its determination to explore all avenues necessary to protect their interests including but not limited to negotiations aimed at buying back the territory, if feasible, the convening of bilateral meeting of the Heads of State and Government to ensure protection and development of the affected population. In the meantime, we call on all well meaning Nigerians in the Bakassi peninsula to be law abiding and to allow the various initiatives being undertaken by the Federal Government to bear fruitful results.