Nigeria will not launch an appeal against the ICJ ruling granting the Bakassi region to Cameroon but will develop methods to protect the interests of Nigerian Bakassi residents, the government announced citing diplomatic relations.
The Bakassi region is a peninsula located along the border of Nigeria and Cameroon, and is home to significant underground and offshore oil reserves. The region stretches roughly 2,000 kilometres along the border, reaching from Lake Chad to the sea.
On 10th October 2002, the ICJ ruled that the Bakassi peninsula belongs to Cameroon. Nigeria handed over the region to Cameroon in 2008, ending years of fighting between the neighbouring countries over who should exercise control over the oil and gas rich area.
With two days left to appeal the ruling – passage of the ten year limitation period blocking the potential for future claims regarding the judgment -, Nigeria had been expected to announce an appeal imminently. However, in a statement released today the government revealed that it would not be challenging the 2002 judgment, with Attorney General Mohammed Bello Adoke saying that the decision was based on the consideration that “a failed application will be diplomatically damaging to Nigeria.”
Adoke added that due to the fact that no new facts had come to light which could give an appeal a strong foundation, to launch a challenge at the international court would be time and resource consuming. He said: “The government has therefore decided that it will not be in the national interest to apply for revision of the 2002 ICJ judgment.”
It is thought that some 90 percent of the residents of the Bakassi peninsula are of Nigerian heritage, and the communities of Bakassi had been placing significant pressure on the government to appeal the ICJ ruling and request a revision of national territorial boundaries once again. The Nigerian Senate had also pushed for the option to be considered.
In response to the announcement by the Nigerian government, Bakassi local leader Etim Okon Edet told the local television Channels, that: “The ICJ judgment is fraudulent. The review of the ICJ judgement was still possible. I do not see any crime in doing so. Nigeria has abandoned the people”.
However, the government has made assurances that steps will be taken to protect the residents of the once disputed region, and that Nigeria would work on negotiating an outcome that could see the integration of residents of Nigerian heritage back into the country. Adoke said: “The government wishes to assure … the people living in the Bakassi Peninsula of its determination to explore all avenues necessary to protect their interests including … negotiations aimed at buying back the territory”.
He added: “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.”