Ethnicity, Economy and Historical Deconstruction in the Bakassi Borderland


Research Paper (undergraduate), 2012
34 Pages, Grade: none

Excerpt

Association for African Borderland Studies

The Association for African Borderlands Studies (AABS) is a group of borderlands scholars, students, policy-makers and other individuals interested in African borders, borderlands and border regions around the continent. It is a research network based on the realization that borders themselves have become more and more central to events unfolding in the world around us, in all continents and in all countries. We welcome members from all academic disciplines, as well as from media, political communities and activists. We promote an international exchange of ideas and scholarly conversations.

If you are an African border scholar, or have an interest in African borders, borderlands and border regions, we encourage you to consider joining the AABS. As an AABS member, you will receive each issue of the African Borderlands Monographs (ABM). As an AABS member you will be encouraged to join us each year when we hold our annual conference.

On behalf of the association I would like to commend this monograph to all those interested in African border issues.

Sincerely,

Aboubakr Tandia

General Secretary and Series Editor, ABSM

IFAN, Cheik Anta Diop University

B.P. 5005 Dakar-Fann Dakar Sénégal

Preface and Acknowledgement

This study offers a compelling revision of the meagre Nigerian historiography on the Bakassi Peninsula. It argues that Nigeria’s claim of ownership of the Peninsula is logically indefensible and historically unsustainable. It contends further that Efik irredentism which found its expression in Nigeria’s attempt to forcefully annex the Bakassi Peninsula is based on historical claims that are in reality largely ahistorical. The study is of the opinion that Nigeria’s occupation of, and attempts to exercise sovereignty over the Peninsula emanated from the predictable desire of the Nigerian ruling elite to appropriate Bakassi’s abundant natural resources and the strategic advantage that the Peninsula holds for Nigeria’s oil interests in the Gulf of Guinea.

This study further analyses the border-cum-migration problematics that prevail in the Peninsula. It argues that patterns of migrant life rooted in historic and still functioning socio-cultural and economic networks persist in defiance equally of national and international agreements and political claims to ethnic solidarity.

The study concludes that peace can only be guaranteed in the Bakassi Peninsula, and indeed in virtually all conflict prone African borderlands, if African governments respect the old ‘glass houses rule’ (i.e. the 1964 Cairo Declaration by the OAU) and acknowledge that colonial treaties and national borders, irrespective of their arbitrariness and artificiality, constitute the foundation of all modern African state structures.

I wish to thank the African Borderland Research Network (ABORNE), the African Union Border Project and the Forced Migration Studies Programme of Wits University for generous travel grants for this study. I am also grateful to Professors Anthony Asiwaju, David Coplan, Loren Landau and Dr. Dashan Vigneswaran for their incisive comments during the earlier presentations of some aspects of this study at the Universities of the Witwatersrand, South Africa, and Basel, Switzerland.

Olukoya Ogen

Osogbo, Nigeria

2012

The Author

Olukoya Ogen is of the Department of History and International Studies, Osun State University. He holds a PhD in History from the University of Lagos, and a Certificate in Trade, Growth and Poverty from the World Bank Institute, Washington D.C. He was a Leventis Postdoctoral Scholar at SOAS, University of London in 2008, a British Academy Visiting Postdoctoral Fellow in 2009, a CWAS Visiting Fellow at the University of Birmingham in 2010, and a Guest Researcher at Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone in 2011. He is currently a recipient of the American Council of Learned Societies, AHP Postdoctoral Fellowship as well as a Co-Investigator of a 5-year European Council Research Grant on ‘Everyday Religious Encounters and Social Identities in Southwest Nigeria.’ Dr. Ogen has won 14 foreign travel fellowships / grants for paper presentations at conferences and for research visits to several universities across the globe. He is an occasional assessor for African Studies Review, University of Massachusetts, Africa: Journal of the International Africa Institute, University of Edinburgh, and Journal of Latino-Latin American Studies, University of Nebraska at Omaha. He also sits on the editorial boards of the Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria as well as African Nebula. Dr. Ogen has numerous publications to his credit. His latest work on African environmental history recently appeared in African Insight, Vol.43 (3) Dec., 2011. Prior to joining Osun State University as an Associate Professor in 2009, the author had stints at the University of Lagos, 2000-2001, Adekunle Ajasin University, 2001-2006, and Obafemi Awolowo University, 2006-2009. He is a member of several research networks including the Association of Commonwealth Universities Research Management Network, African Borderlands Research Network and the International Research Network on Sierra Leone.

Olukoya Ogen is of the Department of History and International Studies, Osun State University. He holds a PhD in History from the University of Lagos, and a Certificate in Trade, Growth and Poverty from the World Bank Institute, Washington D.C. He was a Leventis Postdoctoral Scholar at SOAS, University of London in 2008, a British Academy Visiting Postdoctoral Fellow in 2009, a CWAS Visiting Fellow at the University of Birmingham in 2010, and a Guest Researcher at Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone in 2011. He is currently a recipient of the American Council of Learned Societies, AHP Postdoctoral Fellowship as well as a Co-Investigator of a 5-year European Council Research Grant on ‘Everyday Religious Encounters and Social Identities in Southwest Nigeria.’ Dr. Ogen has won 14 foreign travel fellowships / grants for paper presentations at conferences and for research visits to several universities across the globe. He is an occasional assessor for African Studies Review, University of Massachusetts, Africa: Journal of the International Africa Institute, University of Edinburgh, and Journal of Latino-Latin American Studies, University of Nebraska at Omaha. He also sits on the editorial boards of the Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria as well as African Nebula. Dr. Ogen has numerous publications to his credit. His latest work on African environmental history recently appeared in African Insight, Vol.43 (3) Dec., 2011. Prior to joining Osun State University as an Associate Professor in 2009, the author had stints at the University of Lagos, 2000-2001, Adekunle Ajasin University, 2001-2006, and Obafemi Awolowo University, 2006-2009. He is a member of several research networks including the Association of Commonwealth Universities Research Management Network, African Borderlands Research Network and the International Research Network on Sierra Leone.

I Introduction

The relationship between the uses and misuses of history is a very complex one. Misuse suggests that the past is instrumentalized and distorted for political and other purposes. It also means that there is a real past that must not be distorted (Iggers 2000, 3).

Exactly a year ago, a portion of Nigerian territory known as Bakassi was ceded to Cameroon. That event will for long be remembered as a veritable show of indecent haste and a violation of Nigeria's sovereignty and constitutional order by the same political leadership that had sworn to defend these same values (Abati 2009).

The Berlin West African Conference that met from 13 November 1884 to 26 February 1885 gave legal and international recognition to the partition of West Africa among the European colonial powers. While it is correct to assert that African polities were not homogenous or even cohesive, but “often a seething mass of political contradictions,” (Katzenellenbogen 1996, 47-49, Crowder 1968, 62-64)), nevertheless, the artificial and arbitrary partitioning which took place in Berlin did lead eventually not only to the creation of states with heterogeneous populations but also to the splitting of culturally and linguistically homogenous groups into separate political entities irrespective of socio-ethnic, religious and trading links (Ogbogbo 2002, 318-319; Meinhof 2004, 422). For instance, eleven major partitioned ethnic groups have been identified as straddling the Cameroon – Nigeria borderlands (Adejuyigbe 1989, 31-35). However, the recurring border problematic along the Bakassi Peninsula appears to be the most conflictual.

Historiographically, apart from a number of general works on the entire Cameroon-Nigeria borderlands (Anene 1970; Prescott 1971; Adeleye 1972; Oduntan 2006; and Konings 2005), academic literature specifically devoted to the Bakassi Peninsula is relatively sparse. In fact, in a review of the historiography of Nigeria’s borderlands (Akinyele 2007, 143-170), scholarly literature on the Bakassi Peninsula is conspicuous by its absence. Similarly, the comprehensive bibliography on African borderlands (Olanlokun and Ojo 2007, 171-194) reveals that the literature on the Bakassi Peninsula could only be perused from newspaper reports and news magazine articles.

The few exceptions to this trend include Asiwaju (1996), who merely proffers a political solution to the Bakassi crisis in a paper presented at the International Boundaries Conference at the University of Durham. Omoniyi and Salami (2004) investigate identity and identification discourses as captured mainly in news media commentaries on the inhabitants of the Peninsula. Omoigui (2004) is primarily concerned with exonerating the former Nigerian military ruler, General Yakubu Gowon of the widespread allegation that he ceded Bakassi to Cameroon as a mark of Nigeria’s appreciation for Cameroon’s support during the Nigerian Civil War. Mbuh (2004) devotes a chapter to the Bakassi Peninsula in his book on International Law and Conflicts: Resolving Border and Sovereignty Disputes in Africa. From a legal point of view the author emphasises the important nature of the 1913 Anglo-German Treaty. Following on the heels of Mbuh are other works that also situated their analyses within the framework of the legal interpretation and implications of the dynamics of the Bakassi crisis (Milano 2004; Kirchner 2005; Egede 2008; Oduntan 2006). This present study, however, examines the historical premise upon which Nigeria’s claims at the ICJ rested. These are the peopling of the Bakassi Peninsula, the 1913 Anglo German Treaty, the 1961 Plebiscite and the 1975 Maroua Declaration.

Other works such as Ogbogbo (2002); Mbaga and Njo (2007); Cornwell (2006); Egboka (2005); and Aghemelo and Ibhasebhor (2006), are plagued by glaring contradictions and fundamental weaknesses. These authors suffer from lack of adequate understanding of the intricacies of the land and maritime boundaries between Cameroon and Nigeria with regard to the Bakassi Peninsula thereby lumping the land and maritime issues together. Again, these accounts appear to be laced with nationalistic sentiments intended to provide an intellectual rationalisation and justification for Nigeria’s resource-driven territorial ambitions in the Gulf of Guinea. Not only was the history of these important developments distorted, ingenious attempts were also made to re-write the pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial history of the Peninsula. Methodologically, this development shows the danger of relying heavily on contemporary sources when analyzing historical developments. Of course, the associated arguments derive from the domination the Nigerian print media has exercised over the debates and discourses on the Bakassi Peninsula. Not surprisingly, Nigerian journalists fervently and uncritically aligned themselves with the official position of the Nigerian government and went into an emotive frenzy, beating the nationalist drum and successfully mobilising Nigerians into believing that sovereignty over the Bakassi Peninsula resides with Nigeria.

Given the afore-mentioned state of historiography on the Bakassi Peninsula, this paper relies primarily on evidence from historical fieldwork carried out in Calabar, Ikang, and Abana on the Bakassi mainland from February 4 to 16, 2008. In addition, archival data was also obtained from the National Archives, Enugu. A variety of primary and secondary literature was also consulted, including scholarly articles and the writings of journalists. Of special historiographical significance to this study are the voluminous documents submitted by Nigeria and Cameroon to the International Court of Justice at The Hague between 1994 and 2002 which immensely useful.

Theoretically and conceptually, some borderland theories and concepts are germane to this study. For instance the Bakassi region fits perfectly into the schema of African borderlands as identified by Adejuyigbe (1989, 31-35). Some of these features include remote and peripheral location from the capital city, lack of regional facilities, and pronounced intra and inter-borderlands interaction due to the transitional nature of borderland territorially, culturally and economically. The Bakassi crisis could also be situated within the purview of the traditional model of borderland disputes as enunciated by Ajomo (1989, 39). According to the author, border disputes are usually rooted in historical, geographical, cultural, economic and strategic claims. The dispute is historical because of Nigeria’s claim to sovereignty through the instrumentality of the alleged suzerainty of the Obong of Calabar over the Peninsula during the pre-colonial era. It is geographical because of the claim by the belligerents that the boundary should follow a natural feature such as the Rio del Rey or the Cross River. It is cultural because of the irredentist aspirations of the Efik ethnic group. It is also economic due to the fact that the Peninsula is very rich in marine and oil resources, and finally, it is strategic because sovereignty over of the Peninsula would definitely confer special strategic advantages on its owner.

The Bakassi Peninsula also fits into the concept of maximal borderlands (Momoh 1989, 52-53; Omoniyi and Salami 2004, 176). Maximal borderlands are zones of continuities rather than discontinuities. They are mainly characterised by vibrant cross-border interactions. Indeed, the extent of interpenetration in the Peninsula is clearly evident in the size of the settler population as well as the establishment of special fishing and trading outposts in the creeks that are mere extensions or adjuncts of root communities in the mainlands across the borders (Omoniyi and Salami 2004,176).

II Location and the Strategic Importance of the Bakassi Peninsula

The Bakassi Peninsula lies roughly between latitudes 40 25’ and 50 10'N and longitudes 80 20' and 90 08'E. It is an area of some 1000km2 of mangrove swamps, creeks and half-submerged islands located at the extreme eastern end of the Gulf of Guinea (Aghemelo and Ibhasebhor 2006,177). It is located precisely between the Cross River and the Rio del Rey estuaries (Ogbogbo 2002,321) where the warm east flowing Guinea current meets the cold north-flowing Benguela current. On contact, these two great ocean currents form huge foamy breakers thundering endlessly ashore, creating submarine shoals rich in shrimp, fish and other marine resources. As a fertile fishing ground, the Bakassi Peninsula has often been compared to Newfoundland in North America and Scandinavia in Europe (Mbaga and Njo 2007:7). In terms of its extensive reserves of oil and gas, the Bakassi Peninsula is potentially the richest Peninsula in Africa (Mbuh 2004; Mbaga and Njo 2007: 1-8). The coast of the Bakassi Peninsula is estimated to hold oil deposits of billions of barrels (Nwachukwu 2008). Besides oil, the Peninsula itself is believed to contain several trillion cubic feet of natural gas beds, potentially more profitable than the reserves of crude oil (De Konings 2008,4 n7).

Meanwhile, contrary to the claims put forward in the Nigerian media that the population of the Peninsula, mainly its Efik inhabitants, numbers approximately 300,000 (Mbaga and Njo 2007, 8; De Konings 2008, 2; Cornwell 2006, 49). It is noteworthy that United Nations officials who are closely involved in the UN brokered mediation between Cameroon and Nigeria say there are no more than 15,000 inhabitants living in the Peninsula (Ogen 2008a; Isaac 2005). The Ministry of External Relations in Yaounde suggests a population figure of 8, 562 based on a poll conducted in 1987. It is, however, doubtful if the Nigerian inhabitants of the Peninsula especially those in the relatively populous Abana and Achibong were counted during this poll. A projected estimate based on the 1991 population census in Nigeria gives the Bakassi Peninsula a population figure of 37, 500 (ICJ 1999, 33).

The location of the Peninsula is also very strategic. Its positioning in the extreme eastern end of the Gulf of Guinea makes it a potentially effective base for defensive and offensive military operations. The region is also a pathway and indeed, harbours two important seaports- Douala in Cameroon and Calabar in Nigeria. Described as ‘a strategic underbelly of Nigeria,’ the struggle for the control of the Peninsula should therefore be viewed as one for the control and appropriation of its natural resources and strategic values (Mbuh 2004: Ogbogbo 2002, 321; Mimiko 2007).

III The Peopling of the Bakassi Peninsula

The prevailing Nigerian literature on the origin and history of the Bakassi Peninsula is in perfect agreement with the view that during the pre-colonial period, and probably around 1450, the Efik founded a kingdom around the Bakassi which was under the ancient kingdom of Calabar in modern-day Nigeria. It is further alleged that the September 10, 1884 Treaty of Protection signed by the Obong of Calabar with Queen Victoria of England effectively placed the entire Calabar including the Bakassi Peninsula under the control of Britain, a clear indication that the Obong had political jurisdiction over the Bakassi Peninsula during the pre-colonial period (Henshaw 2001; Ogbogbo 2002, 325; Omoigui 2004, 3; Ita 2003; Nnanna 2006; Aghemelo and Ibhasebhor 2006, 177).

Cornwell (2006) also alleges that the chiefs of Bakassi signed treaties of protection with the British in September 1884 and acknowledged the fact they were under the suzerainty of the Obong of Calabar. He further insists that the Obong and the Chiefs of Calabar protested the 1913 Anglo-German Treaty that ceded the Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon up to the British parliament and were given assurances by the British government that the Bakassi Peninsula was exempted. Thus, on the basis of ancestral and historical ties the above assertions form the kernel of Nigeria’s claim of sovereignty over the Bakassi Peninsula. This historical claim is ultimately, however, insupportable. There is rather more powerful, contradictory historical evidence based on the migration and peopling of the Bakassi Peninsula.

Documents available at the National Archives, Enugu, reveal that the Ekoi, Efut and Okoyong ethnic groups who currently inhabit the Bakassi Peninsula and the Calabar region migrated from southern Cameroon. (Mylinie 1936, 6-36). Indeed, Portuguese records also show that the Efut had occupied both sides of the Calabar creeks since the fifteenth century and were the original inhabitants of Calabar before they were displaced by the Efik (Mylinie 1936, 14-15). Also corroborating the fact that the Efik were not the indigenous inhabitants of Bakassi, Prince Masingo Njong, the President-General of the Bakassi Indigenous Development and Cultural Association (BIDCA) argues that the Isangele people are the aborigines of the Bakassi Peninsula. According to him Bakassi is a derivative of Obah Kanssi in Isangele dialect which means ‘a coming into being’. He concludes that the Efik are settlers and itinerant fishermen who have their cultural roots elsewhere (Omoniyi and Salami 2004, 186-190; Etekenob 2003).

In 1884, when the Germans entered Southern Cameroon, they sailed along the Akwayafe River up to the Bakassi Peninsula. Some of the original inhabitants of the Peninsula that they met were the Oroko people who are the descendants of the Oroko clan in the mainland Ndian Division of present-day Cameroon (Mbaga and Njo 2007, 8). Apparently, since at least the fifteenth century, the territory in question has been occupied and governed by populations of Cameroonian origin especially the Bakole, Bakweri and Bakossi peoples. In fact, the Ndian Creek which is a side river to the Akwayafe River is the ethnic boundary between the Efik and the Isangele peoples of Cameroon (Kirchner 2005, 8–9; ICJ 1994, 4–5). In fact, evidence derived from ethno-linguistics and glottochronology (Malleson 2000, 40-41) indicates that the original inhabitants of the area originated from Western Cameroon and that the area around the Rio del Rey and Southwest Cameroon were already established by 1500. The author further insists that substantial trade between Europeans and the people of the Rio del Rey estuary was taking place by the 1660s, even before the establishment of Old Calabar in the eighteenth century. Harry Johnston opines that the Efik arrived Old Calabar about 1730 (ICJ 1999, 29-30). Interestingly, none of the 43 settlements claimed by Nigeria to have been founded by Efik settlers in what it terms ‘the previously unsettled Bakassi Peninsula’ (ICJ 1999, 61 – 62) was founded earlier than the nineteenth century (ICJ 1999, Table 2). Yet, available evidence suggests that human activities have been going on in the Peninsula since the sixteenth century (Malleson 2000, 40-41).

An interesting account of the peopling of the Bakassi Peninsula is contained in a report compiled by the Assistant District Officer of Kumba Division of the then Cameroon Province on the Isangele Community. The report corroborates the claim of the Isangele to indigeneity and ownership of the Peninsula and further suggests that Efik settlers started arriving in great numbers only after World War I. These settlers initially sought fishing and tenancy rights from the Isangele before they were allowed to settle down after taking the Isangele’s popular ‘blood oaths’ (De Koning 2008, 5-6; Konings 2005, 294; Miller 2004, 195). Furthermore, a map showing the Cameroon coast about 1600 as found in Edwin Ardener’s study of the Cameroon coast clearly indicates that the Isangele were the only occupants of the Bakassi Peninsula in 1600 and that the Efik could be found only around the Calabar region (Ardener 1996, 2).

Meanwhile, the Germans eventually succeeded in signing treaties with the kings of Akwa and Bell Town in Douala Cameroon on 14th July 1884. In effect, the treaties proclaimed the German Protectorate as extending from the Rio del Rey area up to Gabon (Mbuh 2007). It should be noted that the Bakassi Peninsula is sandwiched between the Rio del Rey and the Cross River estuaries. These treaties angered the British who signed their own treaty with the Obong of Calabar on 10th of September 1884. The British officials later downplayed the loss of the Bakassi region perhaps in order to save face by referring to the area as the ‘flat, swampy, and unhealthy Cameroons…’ (Weladji 1975, 166; Mbuh 2004). Ironically, the Native Court Proclamation of 1901, Calabar Division, Gazette No 1 of 31st January 1903 would seem to suggest that the Obong of Calabar had no jurisdiction over the Bakassi Peninsula (Mylinie 1936, 66-67).

Indeed, the 1884 treaty signed by the Obong with the British never referred to the Bakassi Peninsula as a territorial adjunct of the Efik Kingdom of Calabar. The peculiar political system of the Niger Delta which centred around city-states was incapable of projecting the political powers of segmented societies over large territories. Boundaries zones were very fluid as jurisdiction faded from the centre to the periphery (Tarango and Carter 2002, 1095). In fact, it appears that the Efik were the latest migrants not only to the Peninsula but the Calabar region. The mere fact that the Efik settlers in the Bakassi Peninsula eventually outnumbered the indigenous population is not sufficient proof that the Peninsula was originally and historically under the suzerainty of the Obong of Calabar.

It would, therefore, amount to a distortion for the cultural allegiance of the settler and migrant population of the Bakassi Peninsula to be adduced as evidence that the Efik kingdom of Calabar to which the majority of these settlers were subject, founded the settlements on the Bakassi Peninsula. It must be clearly understood that the identity of a people is not always the identity of the territory they live on (Ould-Abdallah 2007). This piece contends that Efik irredentism and Nigeria’s historical claim to the Peninsula on the basis of the majority population of the Efik inhabitants rests on a recent history of migration and state-building in the area which did not predate the twentieth century.

IV The 1913 Anglo-German Treaty

Brownlie (1985, 553-555) aptly captures the series of agreements that eventually culminated in the 1913 Anglo-German Treaty. The boundary delimitation agreements from April 14, 1893 to March 1906 and the subsequent exchange of notes of February 22 and March 5, 1909, served as the final precursors of the historic Anglo-German Treaty of March 11, 1913 which confirmed Cameroon’s sovereignty over the Bakassi Peninsula. Article XVIII of this treaty describes the boundary line between Nigeria and Cameroon in connection with the Bakassi Peninsula thus:

From the sea, the boundary follows the centre line of the navigable Channel of the Akwayafe River as far as the line joining the Bakassi Point and King Point… (NAE, CALPROF. 13/6/29, L-42/13).

Indeed, irrespective of climatic or environmental changes, the 1913 Treaty apparently foreclosed the possibility of Nigeria exercising sovereignty over the Peninsula. Article XX declares:

Should the lower course of the Akwayafe so change its mouth as to transfer it to the Rio del Rey, it is agreed that the area now known as the Bakassi Peninsula shall still remain German territory (NAE, CALPROF. 13/6/29, L-42/13).

The assertion by Mbuh (2004, 8 & 26) that the 1913 Anglo-German Treaty is the most important ground from which to make a definitive statement as to who owns the Bakassi Peninsula is underscored by the expert opinions of two leading Nigerian Attorneys General. Shortly after the end of the Nigerian Civil War in 1971, the then Nigerian Foreign Minister, Dr. Okoi Arikpo sought the opinion of the Nigerian Attorney General, Olawale Teslim Elias. On September 3rd, 1970, Elias unambiguously stated as follows:

This Ministry has given a most careful consideration to the whole question in the light of all the available evidence, and the conclusion is that there is no legal basis for Nigeria’s claims to the Bakassi Peninsula for the reasons stated herein … According to the information received from the Federal Directorate of Survey, the Bakassi Peninsula has never been included as part of Nigeria in the administrative maps of Nigeria since the Southern Cameroons ceased to be part of Nigeria in 1961. (Omoigui 2004, 21).

Based on the strength of this submission, Arikpo immediately recommended that Nigeria had no legal basis for contesting the ownership of the Bakassi Peninsula with Cameroon, and that even the delimitation of the offshore boundary between Nigeria and Cameroon which was vaguely defined in the treaty should be in accordance with the 1913 Anglo-German Treaty (Omoigui 2004, 7). Again, on May 12, 1982, Professor Geoffrey Marston of the University of Cambridge was commissioned by another Nigerian Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Chief R.O.A. Akinjide for his expert opinion on the historico-legal validity of the 1913 Anglo-German Treaty. Marston advised that:

The boundary regime established by the Anglo-German agreements of 13 March 1913 and 6 July 1914 is binding on both Nigeria and Cameroon by virtue of a rule of customary international law reflected in Article 11 of the Vienna Convention on the succession of states in respect of Treaties, 1978, as well as in the Declaration of the Organization of African Unity of July 1964 and, in respect of Nigeria, the Exchange of Note with the United Kingdom of 1 October 1960. This regime cannot thus be abrogated or modified unilaterally by either Nigeria or Cameroon (Omoigui 2004, 33-34).

In spite of these opinions, Chief Akinjide paradoxically became the most vociferous member of the legal team that defended Nigeria at the International Court of Justice. His major contention was that up to 1913, the Kings and Chiefs of Old Calabar exercised sovereignty over the Peninsula and that even the 1913 Anglo-German Treaty only purported to transfer to Germany a territorial title which Britain did not possess and which it had no power to transfer. Consequently, the title remained vested in the Kings and Chiefs of Old Calabar since Britain only acquired certain limited powers under the 1884 Treaty that established a British Protectorate but did not acquire sovereignty over the neighbouring territories of the indigenous Kings and Chiefs of Old Calabar (ICJ 1999, 79 & 203). Interestingly, a notification of the establishment of the British Protectorate of the Niger Districts published in the London Gazette of Friday June 5 1885 states that:

…the British protectorate of the Niger Districts comprises the territories on the line of coast between the British Protectorate of Lagos and the right or western river-bank of the mouth of the Rio del Rey.

Moreover, a close study of the United Nations (2005) cartographic map of the study area would readily confirm the fact that the Bakassi Peninsula conveniently falls within British territorial-colonial jurisdiction on the west coast of Africa. The Despatch by Major Macdonald to the Marquis of Salisbury on September 1, 1891 is also indicative of the ready consent of the Calabar traditional authorities to British suzerainty over the Calabar Province and its environs. The extract below from the Macdonald’s report is worth noting:

The tour commenced on the 30th of July … my first meeting was held at Bonny on the 30th July. There were present at the meeting all the more important Chiefs of Bonny, as well as King Amachere, and the Chiefs of New Calabar. I explained to them the reasons for the new order of administration which I was about to inaugurate, reminded them of my previous visit to them in 1889, on which occasion they had desired that their district might be administered as a Crown Colony… on the following day I proceeded …to Old Calabar. No Chief or Headman of any importance was absent on this occasion. I was listened to most attentively. They then signed the document herewith enclosed, and the meeting terminated. (ICJ 1999, Annex 1).

Furthermore, as part of the attempt to undermine the historical and legal credibility of the 1913 Anglo-German Treaty, the visit by a delegation acting on behalf of the Obong of Calabar to London on 30 May 1913 has also been misconstrued that the Calabar Chiefs went to London to protest against the implementation of the 1913 Anglo-German Treaty (ICJ 2002, 36-37; Cornwell 2006, 49). Though the Nigerian legal team acknowledged that the visit to London emanated from the alleged plan to transfer the ownership rights over land in Southern Nigeria from native communities to the British Crown, it argued that the protest over the land tenure issue would have encompassed the reservations of Efik Kings regarding the transfer of Bakassi to Germany, if only the Kings and Chiefs of Old Calabar had known of the existence of the Treaty as at the time they staged their protests in London (ICJ 1999, 179-180; ICJ 2002, 36-37).

An important treaty such as the Anglo-German Treaty of 1913, widely celebrated among the two colonial powers and published in the German Colonial Gazette, Vol. 24 of 1913 and in the British Treaty Series, No.13 of 1913 (ICJ 1999, 179-180; ICJ 2002, 36-37) could not have been signed without the knowledge of the local chiefs who were in control of the area. If no agreement was signed with the Obong of Calabar and his chiefs, it goes to show that Efik’s irredentist pretensions in the Bakassi Peninsula would be an afterthought.

Apart from the claim that the chiefs in the area merely accepted British protection without relinquishing sovereignty, Nigeria also maintained that the 1913 Anglo-German Treaty was never ratified and as such not valid (ICJ 1999, 143-174; Dzurek 1999, 99). But more important than the legal complexities among such variables as treaty of protection and sovereignty on the one hand, and treaty ratification and implementation on the other (Egede 2008, 1-4) is that the Anglo-German Treaty of 1913 remains a valid historical document, proving that sovereignty over the Bakassi Peninsula apparently resides with Cameroon. Nigeria’s former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Okoi Arikpo did not mince words in recognizing the validity of the 1913 Treaty. His exact words:

It should, however, be pointed out that the Anglo-German Treaty of 1913 clearly established that the disputed area (Bakassi) was on the territory of Cameroon, even though it was entirely occupied by Nigeria (Kirchner, 2005, 21; The Guardian, 22 March 1992).

Since 1913 the explicit recognition by the international community that the Bakassi Peninsula belongs to Cameroon has also been consistent and never disputed. The opinion of Professor A.I. Asiwaju on the historical and legal validity of the 1913 agreement is also worth citing:

Bakassi never belonged to Nigeria. All the treaties, all the maps and the antecedents to the crisis put the place in Cameroon because it belonged to German-Cameroon. Nigeria could not own more than it inherited from Britain (The Punch, January 21 2008).

Professor Michael Ayodele Ajomo, a renowned expert in jurisprudence, international law, arbitration and petroleum law is of the opinion that Nigeria wasted time and resources trying to hold on to Bakassi. According to him:

I am the authority on Bakassi, right from the time of General Babangida…; but every advice we gave to the Nigerian government, they did not take. We had a very bad case because we had conceded Bakassi to Cameroon long ago in all our maps that we have been using in schools over the years. And there are White Papers to indicate that we have conceded Bakassi to them…. I told them that it was bad for us to try to pursue the case to The Hague….but the advisers of President Obasanjo said no that Nigeria had a nice case. They even said we have won the case before it was decided at The Hague…. (Ajomo 2009).

A renowned Nigerian Cartographer, Professor Jonathan Ekpenyong is of the view that:

Bakassi is clearly in Cameroonian territory… the vegetation of the Peninsula is in character with the nature of lands in Cameroon. Geographically and physically the land belongs to Cameroon (African Concord March 4, 1994).

Nigeria wanted to re-write not only the 1913 treaty but also to deconstruct and re-write the origin and history of the Bakassi Peninsula by providing a central historical link between the Efik Kingdom of Calabar and the foundation of the various settlements lying within the Peninsula. As part of this design, the validity and credibility of historical treaties, plebiscites and international agreements were undermined.

[...]

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Title
Ethnicity, Economy and Historical Deconstruction in the Bakassi Borderland
Course
African Borderland History
Grade
none
Author
Year
2012
Pages
34
Catalog Number
V190330
ISBN (eBook)
9783656152088
ISBN (Book)
9783656152132
File size
557 KB
Language
English
Series
AABS Monograph Series
Tags
ethnicity, economy, historical, deconstruction, bakassi, borderland
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Olukoya Ogen (Author), 2012, Ethnicity, Economy and Historical Deconstruction in the Bakassi Borderland, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/190330

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