Urhobo Historical Society



The Federal Republic of Nigeria makes the following statement in respect of  the judgement by the International Court of Justice in The Hague, in the  case concerning the land and maritime boundary" between Cameroon and  Nigeria.

The Government of Nigeria has substantially examined the implications of the judgement delivered by the International Court of Justice in The Hague on  10th October 2002. The decision of the Court covered five specific areas: 1.  Lake Chad 2. The Land Boundary between Nigeria and Cameroon. 3. Bakassi 4.  Cameroon's claim to a major share of offshore resources - particularly oil  in the Gulf of Guinea; and 5. Claims of both sides for reparations involving State responsibilities.


In 1884, the Kings, Chiefs and people of Old Calabar signed a treaty of  protection with Great Britain, That treaty did not give the British power to alienate all or any part of the land which they were supposed to protect. The protectorate included Bakassi. This is what they claimed to have done in 1913 when Great Britain allegedly ceded Bakassi to Germany. The Court, in disregard of the inalienable rights of the Kings, Chiefs and people of Old Calabar to their land and ancestral homes, upheld the Anglo-German Treaty of  1913 by which Britain ceded the Bakassi Peninsular to Germany. This treaty was essentially the basis of the judgement giving sovereignty over Bakassi to Cameroon. The Court, without any justification whatsoever, failed or refused to follow its own precedent set in the Advisory Opinion on Western Sahara where it recognized the local rulers' possession and title as superior to other forms of title. In the case of Bakassi, the root: of title belongs to title King, the Chiefs and the people of old Calabar. Neither Germany nor for that matter Cameroon could therefore claim Bakassi as terrae nullius. In the judgement in the case of the frontier dispute, Burkina Faso-Mali which the Court relied upon in the Nigeria vs. Cameroon judgement, they interpreted the first part of that paragraph (i.e. para 63 of that case) as being in favour of Cameroon but failed to take cognizance of the latter part of the paragraph which states that effectivites must invariably be given consideration. The Court failed to give that consideration.

The Court decided that during the League of Nations Mandate, and subsequently, the United Nations Trusteeship, Bakassi had been administered by Nigeria as part of the Mandate/Trust territory. However, the Court, having admitted that the Southern Cameroons plebiscite Order of 1960 "made no mention of any polling station bearing the name of a Bakassi Village" (and Nigeria knowing as a fact that they never participated), went ahead to presume that the inhabitants of Bakassi had indeed exercised their rights to self- determination.

Furthermore, the exercise of authority of traditional rulers, the Efik and Efiat toponymy of the territory, its ethnic affiliation with Nigeria and not with Cameroon, the long established permanent settlement of Nigerians which continues to exist undisturbed and the manifestation of sovereign acts, such as tax collection, census-taking, provision of education, judicial and public health services, which formed the basis of Nigeria's historical territorial title was totally disregarded in the judgement of the Court.

In the instant case, for purely political reasons, the Court, headed by a French President, upheld a legal position which is contrary to all known laws and conventions, thus legitimising and promoting the interests of former colonial powers at our expense. The French President of the Court and the English and German Judges should have disqualified themselves since the countries which they represent are, in essence, parties to the action or have substantial stakes. These Judges, as citizens of the colonial powers whose action had come under scrutiny, have acted judges in their own cause and thereby rendered their judgement virtually null and void. Nigeria does not accept that a Protectorate Treaty made without jurisdiction should take precedence over community's title rights and ownership existing from time immemorial. Great Britain could not have given to Germany what it did not have, For a stronger reason, what Germany did not have could not have been transferred to Cameroon.

Bakassi and the thirty-three villages in the Lake Chad area in Issue have, from time immemorial, been inhabited by Nigerians who owe their allegiance to local Nigerian rulers, State Governments and the Federal Government. These areas have always been administered by Nigerian authorities and there is no record or any evidence of their; having come under Cameroonian rule. The Court did not dispute this evidence but maintained, quite erroneously that the colonial treaties took precedence over the inalienable rights of  ownership of the land by the Nigerian inhabitants.

Furthermore, all land and territory comprising the nation of Nigeria is specified in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999. Bakassi as a Local Government is so specified in Part 1 of the First Schedule to the Constitution. Being a nation ruled by law, we are bound to continue to exercise jurisdiction over these areas accordance with the Constitution. The responsibility for the amendment of the Constitution being that of the National Assembly of Nigeria and the State Assemblies, the Federal Government, all affected State Governments and Local Government Councils will continue to exercise their constitutional responsibilities over all Nigerian territory as specified in the Constitution until the National and' various States Assemblies effect amendment to the Constitution.


The Court also held that the, Maroua Declaration of June 1, 1975 was a valid international treaty binding on both Cameroon and Nigeria. The Maroua Declaration purported to delimit The maritime boundary between Nigeria and Cameroon from the point where the relevant; colonial treaty ended, down the Calabar and Cross River estuaries and out to sea to a point south of Bakassi. This is not acceptable to Nigeria.

Whilst the effect of the Courts decision is to grant sovereignty over Bakassi to Cameroon, it does not affect the right of innocent passage enjoyed under international law by all vessels, including Nigerian vessel, travelling to and from the sea to the west of Bakassi, whether on the Nigerian or the Cameroonian side of the Maroua line.


The Court, in its ruling, has indicated to Nigeria and Cameroon the direction of their international boundary south of the Maroua line. The line to be drawn between them will rapidly reach the outer limits of Equatorial Guinea's maritime Space. The effect of this line is to cut Cameroon off completely from access to Nigeria's offshore fields.


Cameroon of her own Volition, put in issue 1800 kilometres of land boundary between Lake Chad and Bakassi; Nigeria made detailed submissions which identified areas of uncertainty and dispute, Nigeria did this in order to settle once and for all the outstanding boundary issues between the two States. In the event, the Court examined some 17 areas along the boundary, In each case ruling exactly where the boundary should run. The net result of this exercise has been that some 1,7,000 hectares of land have been affirmed as being Nigerian territory, including some significant Nigerian settlements, such as Sapeo, Tipsan, Lip and Mberogo. By contrast, some 4,000 hectares of disputed territory were held to be within Cameroon. In Some areas, such as at Turu in Adamawa State, the Court found that there has been substantial encroachment by Cameroon into Nigerian territory. The Court directs Cameroon to withdraw her administration and military or police forces from all the areas along tf1e land boundary which are now confirmed as being under the sovereignty of Nigeria, including Turu, Bourha Ouango and Nyaminyami.


The main problem with Lake Chad has been the gradual drying out of  the lake, which has taken place over the last 30 years. The lake, exceeding 25,000 sq. kilometres in area (previously the fourth largest fresh water lake in Africa), has been reduced to less than 2,000 sq. kilometres. The drying out of the Lake has had a huge impact on the local population. Many people depend on the lake for their livelihood, both for the fish it provides and on the farmlands of the region.

The Nigerian Local Government Areas in the North-East have traditionally provided administrative services and infrastructure for the 60,000 or so Nigerians living in this area. Nevertheless, the Court has ruled that the colonial boundaries are to be respected. In the Lake Chad area, an international body, the Lake Chad Basin; Commission (LCBC), comprising Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and the Central African Republic has long been established. Representatives of the five States meet on a regular basis in order to coordinate efforts to preserve and protect the environment and people of this ecologically fragile area, The people are well used to cooperation under the leadership of the LCBC. Nigeria provides over 50% of  the budget of the LCBC and looks forward to continued cooperation between the member States, including Cameroon in managing this area.


In addition to her territorial claims, Cameroon made substantial claims: against Nigeria for reparations to be paid on the basis that Nigeria has encroached on sovereign Cameroonian territory. Nigeria made corresponding claims against Cameroon. Both claims were rejected by the Court. The Court ruled that it was sufficient for both Nigeria and Cameroon peacefully to return territories and did not require the parties to pay any compensation to one another.


Having studied the judgement as entered by the Court, it is apparent that a lot of fundamental facts were not taken into consideration in arriving at their declaration, Most disturbing of these being the difficulties arising from the Orders contained in the judgement, particularly, the Order relating to Nigerian communities in which their ancestral homes were adjudged to be in Cameroonian Territory but which are expected to maintain cultural, trade and religious affiliations with their kith and kin in Nigeria. Nigeria takes cognizance of these serious implications and therefore appeals to all her citizens at home and abroad to remain calm, positive and constructive until we can find a peaceful solution to the boundary issue between Nigeria and Cameroon.

We appreciate and thank the Secretary-General of the United Nations for brokering meeting at the highest political level between Nigeria and Cameroon before the judgement was delivered and for offering his good offices to broker a similar meeting now that the judgement has been delivered with a view to effecting reconciliation, normalization of relations and good neighborliness

Nigeria thanks all leaders of the international community who have expressed concern over the issue and re-assures them that she will spare no efforts to maintain peace between Nigeria and Cameroon and indeed in the entire region. However, Government wishes to assure Nigerians of its constitutional commitment to protect its citizenry. On no account will Nigeria abandon her people and their interests. For Nigeria, it is not a matter of oil or natural resources on land or in coastal waters; it is a matter of the welfare and well-being of her people on their land.

We assure the people of Bakassi and all other Nigerian communities similarly affected by the judgement of the International Court of Justice on the support and solidarity of all other Nigerians. Nigeria will do everything possible to maintain peace in Bakassi or any other part of I the border with Cameroon and will continue to avail itself of the good office of the Secretary-General of the United Nations and other well meaning leaders of  the International community to achieve peace and to maintain harmony and  good neighborliness.