Saturday, 7 April 2018


Mr Eyo Ekpo, was Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Cross river State during Mr Donald Duke's second tenure between  2003 to 2007. He drafted the law 7  that created new Bakassi out the three Ikang wards of Akpabuyo. He spoke to Emmanuel Unah on the Supreme Court ruling of 26th February on the delineation  of boundary by INEC in the area
The judgement of 26th  of February  on Bakassi /Akpabuyo  vs INEC  has seen both side claiming victory, what do you thinl about the judgement.

To get a clear perspective on that judgement by the Supreme Court requires a bit of background history. The subject of that  decision by the Supreme Court was based on  law  No 7 of 2007 that was passed by the Duke administration in the dying  days of that administration. 

That law essentially resets the boundary of Akpabuyo Local Government Area to accommodate the people of of Bakassi that  left Cameroon as a result of  the ruling of the International Court of Justice, ICJ,  at the Hague. The  ICJ cases started in 1994. It was Cameroon that took Nigeria  to the  Court and we submitted to the jurisdiction of the  ICj and one thing with the ICJ   you don't have to submit yourself to its jurisdiction  but once you do, you are bound to accept is  ruling  because it is  a United Nations Court. If you are a member of the  United Nations. The case was about recreating  the boundary between Nigeria and Cameroon, what people do not know is that we got a good chunk of   that judgment  in our favour but what we did not get was the  part that affects us here in Cross River State.

 The  area  called Bakasssi Peninsular that was excised and given to Cameroon.. The boundary delineation started from Borno through  Adamawa to  Taraba down to the Bakassi and part of that area was cut off and given to Cameroon and that was the Bakassi Local Government Area.  The  people that lived there were given  the choice of remaining in Cameroon or coming back to Nigeria, ofcourse  most of them opted to come home to Nigeria and  they came back to Nigeria essentially lacking and to ameliorate their suffering, Cross River State Government that had the Constitutional power to readjust boundaries of  local government  passed a law  7 0f 2007 that readjusted  the Akpabuyo Local Government Area  to excise three wards of Ikang in Akpabuyo and named them  Bakassi.

So what is the crux of the matter now between INEC and the people who  took the agency to court
Now,  the law being passed and the area becoming Bakassi, we have to  remember that there exist the federal constituency called Akpabuyo/Calabar South/ Bakassi with a member in the National Assembly representing those three  local government areas.  Because of the Bakassi decision,  the boundary of that constituency was affected but the state government does not have the power  to adjust federal constituency, that is an Independent Electoral Commission responsibility and they had not done that.  So three clan heads  who are indigenes of Bakassi  took INEC  to court insisting that the  delineation of boundary  automatically was also delineation of federal constituency.  

The case  went from the High Court to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court in its ruling said the delineation of boundary  by the Cross River State House of Assembly was right and proper under section 4 and 7 of the Constitution  . it said also , however, that does not automatically mean that the federal constituency boundary lines have  also been redrawn for  the purpose of election for which INEC should depend in conducting elections. it was half and half. The ruling said by section 112, 113, and  114 of the Constitution that power is resident in INEC.  However, what is important is that the  court also counsels  INEC  as a matter of urgency  to  activate  its power  under section  112, 113, 114  of the 1999  Constitution to  do the needful  by delineating the Bakassi and Akpabuyo boundary based on the 2007 law  bearing  in mind that the people of Bakassi have lost their land   and are now refugees in their own country .having lost their source of livelihood, should not at the same time  lose their right o political representation.  

This could be their consolation There should be no grandstanding. This clarion call on INEC  could not have been more timely than when the country is gearing for the 2019 elections.

The  Court's ruling  did not compel INEC  to delineate  the boundary but advisory. What if INEC fails to do it
The courts call on INEC "to as a matter of urgency " delineate the boundary between Akpabuyo and Bakassi is though an  advisory note, INEC should obey. Supreme Court judgment is on  issues.  The ruling  is based on whether or not the people of Bakassi need political representation but when you read the judgement, you  see  that the people of Bakassi do not have representation because INEC has not delineated their boundary which they should. 
Technically the Bakassi  area that was in  Akpabuyo / Bakassi/Calabar South  federal constituency is now in Cameroon and inec cannot go to that area to conduct election for the people of Bakassi. Like the Court said if you conduct the 2019 election without dilating the boundary, the people of Bakasssi will not be part of the election
The point being made by the passionate and conscionable judgment here is that if the 2019 election is conducetd without INEC dileating the bounadary between Bkassi ands Akapbuyo, the Bakassi peipole will all be disnefracncised because INEV cannot go to Cameroon to conduct election for the Bakassi local government area which has been excised into Cameroon. And announce to the whole world that this is the polling unit for the bakassi local government area.
When you look at all the federal constituencies in Nigeria, not one federal constituency is outside the boundary of a state so it is ideal for the INEC to redraw the lines of the boundary to recognise  Bakassi.

What role is the state government expected to play at this point?
It is regrettable that the state government allowed this case to go that far. The state government with the redrawing of the boundary should have made a representation to the INEC at Abuja and say 'look we have redrawn the boundary of this federal constituency because of  at what  has happened'.  Now the Supreme Court says do the needful. Redraw the boundary of this federal constituency so that you can conduct elections for this people who have been displaced from their  ancestral home by the ICJ judgement  He who knows where the shoe pinches should be one to take measures to redress it. 
I urge the Attorney General, of the state,  Political Adviser to the governor to advise him properly so that the people can vote.   With this Supreme Court's ruling, the member in the House of Assembly for representing Bakassi is in jeopardy unless  INEC  acts. The court has given advise where advise is necessary. Let political leaders including the Speaker of the House act on it and convince  INEC  to do the needful. It will show the focus and passion by those who advise the governor.

Can  INEC do this within the short time for them to conduct credible 2019 election
The word there is credible election, will an election be credible if an entire local government is disenfranchised. Let all the agencies, Boundary Commission,  INEC  deputy governor all  can act on the issue now.
Chief  M T   Mbu said  former President Obasanjo  gave out Bakassi to win Nobel  Peace Prize
The case stated in 1994 but the judgement came during Obasanjo's  time. What personal interest did Obasanjor have by obeying the Court's  ruling. . Nigeria did not have to submit to the jurisdiction of the  ICJ but they did and when the judgement came,Oobsanjo had o obey.  If he had not the  UN would have excluded the country  from every of  her organ . So there was a cost. See China had never submitted to the jurisdiction of the  ICJ but Nigeria did and if it had to obey the judgment.

Obsanjo and Paul Biya  went to one small park in New Yotk called Green Tree to discuss on the protocol  to implement the ICj judgment , he did not hand over the Bakassi to Cameroon .He did not cause the problem so blaming him is not necessary