International lawyer and expert on the Law of Treaties, Professor Akin Oyebode has carpeted the role Nigeria played in ceding the contentious Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon. Oyebode says the country demonstrated “incompetence” in putting together a team of lawyers with no experts in international treaties who went ahead to “throw away $300 million in legal fees”.
Speaking on the topic, “The Bakassi Debacle: A Postscript”, delivered at the 2nd Year Anniversary Lecture of the online news platform, www.crossriverwatch.com, the Professor disclosed that “the only notable Nigerian lawyer of International Treaties who was in that legal team was Tony Onyechukwura and unfortunately, he was a consultant, not a full-fledged member of the legal team”. He went on to say that Nigeria sat back and was “outsmarted, outwitted and outmanoeuvred” by Cameroon. Specifically, Oyebode drew attention to the implication of the ceding which in effect “altered the status of Calabar as a Nigerian port with a naval base such that thereafter, Nigeria would be compelled to seek the consent of Cameroon for passage of its vessels through the estuary of the outlet to the Atlantic ocean”.
At the well attended ceremony which took place at the Transcorp Hotel, Calabar, Oyebode again informed that “what is more galling to some observers was the invitation by President Jacques Chirac to (then) President Obasanjo to come over to Paris for a parley with President Paul Biya of Cameroon with a view to soliciting the agreement of both parties to abide by whatever decision the Court handed down. If there was any time to be suspicious of the French connection, it was at that point but our President Obasanjo naively agreed to play ball. By casting its fate to the wind, as it were, Nigeria became precluded from rejecting the Court’s decision at the end of the matter”.
On what options are available to Nigeria, Oyebode pointed three; forgo Bakassi, make a monetary offer to buy back Bakassi or go to war. He was quick to end by saying that whatever option(s) is chosen must be one that is in the best interest of the fatherland.
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