Jonathan in Cameroun, explains why Nigeria didn’t appeal on Bakassi

By The Citizen

President Goodluck Jonathan has  thrown more light on why Nigeria did not appeal the ruling of the International Court of Justice, awarding the oil-rich territory of Bakassi to Cameroon in a 2002, which he said was to protect Nigerians living in that country.

President Jonathan disclosed this during interactive session with Nigerian community in Yaounde, Cameroon, Sunday night.

He is in the country for the summit of Heads of States and Governments of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Gulf of Guinea Commission (GGC), which kicked off yesterday, with a focus on maritime safety and security in the Gulf of Guinea.

Bakassi was legally ceded by Nigeria to Cameroon in 2002 and Nigerians there had until August 2012  to decide to become Cameroonian or leave the territory.

The area had been heavily guarded by Cameroonian soldiers since their country took control of the territory from Nigeria on August 14, 2008.

The International Court of Justice had awarded Bakassi to Cameroon in a 2002 ruling.  Nigeria eventually decided not to fight the ruling and ceded control, over the protests of many Bakassi residents.

President Jonathan, while responding to the questions raised by some Nigerians present, noted that at a time there was tension between Nigeria and the Cameroon and people reacted. When two countries are friends, the people also tend to friends but when they disagree their citizens tend to disagree also.

“You all know what happened in Bakassi, there is no need to go back on why we couldn’t appeal. We had no new evidence within the period of time that was given that will make a difference in the judgement.

“Our people should live a good and decent life in Cameroon. The forces of animosity are gradually dying down and the relationship is improving”.

The President assured the citizens that his government was totally committed to their welfare, adding that their concerns bothering on high cost of residence permits, high cost of tuition fees for students among others would be tabled before his host, President Paul Biya to find amicable solution to them.

He particularly commended the good reports on Nigerians in the French-speaking country, and assured that concerns raised bothering on security, power, infrastructural deficits back home in Nigeria are all being addressed, noting that in two years though short, his administration has made significant impacts in key sectors.

President Jonathan urged Nigerians in diaspora to ignore negative reports that tend to exaggerate the problems back home, but should take time out to look at the  parameters, GDP growth, foreign direct investments, all which indicates that “the economy is strong”. He noted that investors do not take money to countries where nothing is happening, revealing that out of every $10 that comes to the continent, $4 comes into Nigeria.

On power, the President said his administration was almost done with privatisation and once its completed the sector “will take a life of its own”, adding there has been significant improvement.

On road infrastructure, he said work has been on going after the flood last year, adding “we are not where want to be but we are not where we use to be”.

On the agriculture, he said the none importation of rice has impacted on the country’s revenue but added “we cannot be a giant of Africa when we keep importing rice, we must put a stop to that. The way we are going we will soon be exporting rice in few years. We are now exporting cement about 20 million tones”.

President Jonathan admitted that the country has health challenges, but said “I can assure you we are on course, I will make you happy. We will exploit the opportunity”.

He said he was particularly uncomfortable that Nigeria was among the four countries in the world with cases of polio before 2015.

“I’m uncomfortable with the figure, why should Nigeria be among the four countries in the world with polio? We are committed to eradicating polio and we will eradicate it”.

On Nigerians in diaspora voting, the President it was a course he personally advocated but he cannot use executive fiat to veto it, urging them to be patient until the constitution is amended.

While noting that Nigeria has a very vibrant diaspora whose voice should be heard, Jonathan advised those passionate about the issue to write a petition to the National Assembly to push for the amendment.

“On diaspora votes, I advocated for it but before we can have it the constitution will have to be amended. I cannot use executive fiat to do it I would have but we have to follow the constitution. We have a very vibrant diaspora and should be heard. You should send your petition to National Assembly so that they will know is not only Mr. President that is interested in it”.

On insecurity in the country, he admitted that it was challenging but praised the Nigerian security operatives for living up to expectations. Speaking more on the state of emergency declared in the three northern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, Jonathan said going by the successes of the Joint Task Force (JTF)  it may not take the six months constitutionally backed to bring the insurgents under control and lift the state of emergency.

Other concerns raised by the Nigerian community included continuous attack on Nigerian territorial waters by pirates, the frustrations in getting the e-passport, all of which the government promised to respond quickly and address them.

Nigeria High Commissioner to Cameroon, Hadiza Mustapha, in her opening remarks said the Nigerian community “is the best community any ambassador could ask for. They are hardworking, patrotic, law-abiding and have good working relations with the Mission”.

She said the good working relationship existing between Nigeria and Cameroon has brought about reduction in harassment of citizens living in the host country.

She said the complains of Nigerian citizens have been tabled before the Cameroonian authorities and “so far we have no reason to doubt the commitment of our host government to address the issues”.

The President of the Nigerian Union, Center Region, Ebere Valentine, assured the President that Nigerians in Cameroon will continue to become good ambassadors and “project the image of our country well”.

He appealled for more government involvement in the welfare of Nigerians in Cameroon as regards the cost of residence permit, saying 50 per cent reduction will be a welcome development”.

The Representative of Nigerians in the Corporate Sector in Camerron, Olukorede Adenowo, Managing Director, Standard Chartered Bank, West and Central Africa,  said there were opportunities that exist in the Cameroons and advised Nigerian businessmen to take advantage of the geographical proximity and the comparatively high prices.

He noted that Nigerian businesses were active in aviation, general commerce, downstream oil and gas and banking in the Cameroon.

He said other areas Nigerians can assist in terms of foreign direct investment and simultaneously make decent returns in Cameroon are in oil and gas exploration and production, commercial and residential real estates, entertainments, shopping malls.

“We have been instrumental in working with our High Commission in bringing in several Nigerian businesses and helping them find their feet in Cameroon. We Nigerian professionals are ready and available to do more”, he said.

Representative from the Bakassi Peninsular, Chief Etim Effiong, commended President Jonathan for not abandoning those of them that choose to remain in the Cameroon as Nigerians.