Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM

BAKASSI: Transferred from Satan to Lucifer

BAKASSI: Transferred from Satan to Lucifer

By Bashiru Idris

On Thursday 10, October 2002, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) delivered judgment on oil rich Bakassi Peninsular and finally gave its ownership to Cameroon, Nigeria’s neighbouring country. The court decision was based on Ango-German agreement of 11 March 1913.

The Peninsular is an area of some 1,000km of mangrove swamp and half submerged island protruding into the Bight of Bonny (previously known as Bight of Biafra). Since the 18th century, the Peninsular has been occupied by fishermen settlers most of whom are Efik speaking people of Nigeria. Since 1993, the Peninsular, which apart from oil wealth also boasts of heavy fish deposit, has been a subject of serious dispute between Nigeria and Cameroon with scores of lives lost from military aggression. This land dispute further took another dimension on March 24, 1994 when the Cameroonian government instituted a legal suit against Nigeria at the ICJ in Hague, seeking an injunction for the expulsion of Nigerian nationals and its force from occupying the fish and oil rich area and to further restrain Nigeria from laying claim to sovereignty over the Peninsular.

To further buttress its point, Cameroon argued that the Anglo-German agreement between British and German imperialism during the colonial period had ceded the ownership of the Peninsular from its original occupant (Nigeria) to Cameroon. The Cameroonian government also established that the 1975 agreement between the then Nigerian Head of State General Yakubu Gowon and his Cameroon counterpart, Ahmadu Ahidjo in which Gowon allegedly gave the territory to Cameroon during what is now known as the Maroun Declaration. Of course, the Nigerian government went ahead to debunk this position saying that the colonial powers had no locus standi to cede its territories and that the agreement was not ratified by any of the parliaments of the two nations. Besides, the Nigerian government also maintained that the alleged ceding of the Bakassi Peninsular by Gowon was not endorsed by the Supreme Military Council (SMC), which was the law making body of the country by then.

Since then, there had been a lot of moves by the Cameroonian government to reclaim the Peninsular while the Nigerian government did not rest on its oars until the final judgment on the issue delivered. Despite the judgment, the Nigerian government still retained its military and other forces in the territory. It was not until mid this year that Nigerian government finally handed over the area to Cameroon officially.

The formal handing over to Cameroon by Nigerian government has generated a lot of concern and objections by Nigerians, most especially, the occupants of the area who are mainly fishermen. They are of the view that with their oil and fish, they would be better of within the confine of Nigerian state. Same culture, language and background with Nigerian state might have been responsible for this view.

Bakaasi had been long under the governance of Nigeria yet there were no fundamental social and physical infrastructure developments in the area, just like their counterparts in Niger Delta who live in poverty and penury despite the fact that the region is source of wealth for the Nigerian government. This does not however suggest that their lots will be automatically improved under Cameroon. On the basis of anti-poor, neo-liberal capitalist governments their choice between Nigeria and Cameroon is like that between Satan and Lucifer.

Anyway, the Bakaasi people should have been allowed to democratically determine where they would love to belong. They could even decide to exist as an autonomous nation, independent of Nigeria and Cameroon. United Nations recommends that 45,000 people can make nation and Bakassi is occupied by not less than 150,000 people.

The precarious situation of Bakaasi has further underscored the need to overthrow capitalism in Nigeria and Cameroon. This is in order to remove the fetter against the use of the enormous resources of the society to provide qualitative education, health care, roads, electricity, mechanized farming, housing, decent jobs and other basic needs of life for the poor working masses.