AN ANALYSIS OF NIGERIA – CAMEROON RELATIONS (1990 – 2007)

AN ANALYSIS OF NIGERIA – CAMEROON RELATIONS (1990 – 2007)

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ABSTRACT

The major significance of this study is that it will examine and highlight Nigeria – Cameroon Relations from 1990 to 2007. The political relations between Nigeria and Cameroon since independence have been in a state of flux. The initial peace enjoyed by the two countries has been marred by constant and severe border conflicts. Nigeria – Cameroon relations have been marred by border disputes which were a colonial creation. In this work we analysed the Nigeria – Cameroon relations (1990 – 2007). It is observable from the discussion in this project that Nigeria’s foreign policy in the Fourth Republic experienced its zenith under President Obasanjo. The Bakassi peninsula, ruling was a great lesson to the world that peace could still be attained through diplomatic negotiation and a sign that the UN could still be looked upon as a world unifier and promoter of peace among nations.

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1      BACKGROUND TO THE NIGERIA-CAMEROON CRISIS

The boundary dispute between Nigeria and the Cameroon Republic arising from their long, but ill-defined border (1680 kilometres or 1050 miles) is of colonial origin. However, it has remained a source of conflict in the direct bilateral relations of the two countries since their independence. In one form or the other, the dispute has engaged the attention of almost all Nigerian governments since 1960. Many informed Nigerians believe that the Balewa government in the First Republic lost an opportunity to resolve the dispute to Nigeria’s maximum satisfaction in 1960-1961. That opportunity, they claim, was lost because of a myopic and fratricidal conception of national interest in Nigeria’s domestic politics. That loss continues to haunt to date particularly with respect to the maritime section where its acclaimed vital security and strategic interest stand threatened, and also where Nigeria continues to suffer the humiliation of seeing the Cameroonian authorities administer a territory in the disputed area whose population is 90 percent Nigerian nationals.

Ironically, what was considered a national blunder in the immediate independence period was almost re-enacted in 1975, this time more consciously, when the Gowon administration signed the Maroua agreement with president Ahidjo’s government in Cameroon, an agreement which, effectively would have ceded the channel of the Calabar River and a portion of the Cross River estuary to the Cameroon. As it turned out, the Maroua agreement is null and void in law as it was never ratified by the Nigeria, leaving open the prospect of new form of arrangement with the Cameroonians for solving the dispute in a mutually beneficial manner to both sides.

In terms of geography the Bakassi Peninsula, is a network of islands and creeks situated between latitudes 4,050 and 4,025 north. It is bounded to the North by the river Akpa Yafe. Its western limit lies at approximately 8043 East of Greenwich. To the west lies the estuary of the Cross River, into which flows the Akpa Yefe. To the East of Bakassi lies the Riodel Rey estuary. To the South of Bakassi lies the South Atlantic ocean, known in this region as the Gulf of Guinea, consisting of the Bight of Benin and the Bight of Bonny. The Bakassi Peninsula itself is transverse by numerous channels and creeks of varying sizes and navigability.

Transportation around the peninsular is mainly by water. At its widest point the Bakassi is approximately 28 kilometres across. The total concluded by or under the authority of the British Consul, Edward Hewett. The European imperial powers used the concept of “protectorate” as the legal basis for much of their activity in Africa, acquiring protectorates on the basis of treaties of protection between themselves and the kings and chiefs of the protected lands. This system effectively met the European power’s needs for a degree of control in their protectorates, which excluded that of their rivals, while at the same time leaving in place the local authority of the kings and chiefs within their territories. The traditional ruling class was a recognized feature of the pre-colonial Nigerian reality. The exact number of these pre-colonial empires, kingdoms, caliphates and autonomous communities cannot easily be determined, and varied from period to period. Furthermore, the size, character and form of these traditional political units were not uniform.

Some were as large and populous as some African states today, while the influence and activities of others were limited. The kings and chiefs of old Calabar however, constituted a very powerful polity wielding considerable influence and authority extending even to Victoria in Cameroon. During the pre-colonial period, these traditional authorities exercised complete sovereign power over their people and territory. In some pre-colonial societies, political power was centralized in the office of the traditional ruler while in others it was dispersed to a variety of smaller units. However, the dispute over the Bakassi peninsular is product of a number of contradictions. First, there is a clash between tradition and modernity. The pre-colonial history of the ancient kingdom of Calabar is haunting the post-colonial reality of contemporary Nigeria and Cameroon. Secondly, there is the tension between cartographical fact and cultural reality: the map is in conflict with the people. Third, there is conflict between the dictates of abstruse international law and the existential imperatives of struggling humanity. Fourth, there is a gap between the concept of citizens.

In pre-colonial time Bakassi was under the ancient kingdom of Calabar which in 1914 became part Nigeria, under British rule. The people of the main settlement in the Bakassi peninsula owned allegiance to the Obong of Calabar. It was therefore, the Obong of Calabar that placed not only the kingdom of Calabar itself, but also Efiat and Idombi (in the peninsular) under British protectorate via a treaty of September 10, 1884. The chiefs of Efiat and Idombi were co-signatories to the treaty. However, subsequently, through a series of bilateral treaties and other legal instruments, the British ceded the territory first to Germany and then placed it under the mandate of the League of Nations and the trusteeship of the United Nations. Meanwhile, the British protectorates in Nigeria including the Kingdom of Calabar were merged with its colonies in the area, as one integrated British colony. Later, largely due to the political errors and indifference of Nigerian politicians, the Republic of Cameroon obtained the Bakassi peninsula in the process of a plebiscite conducted by the United Nations in 1959 and 1961.7 By the same process, Nigeria also obtained some territories which formerly belonged to Cameroon. In particular, the critical legal instruments that changed the status of the peninsula and its inhabitants were the following:

·        The agreement between the United Kingdom and Germany signed in London on March 11, 1913; 2)

·        The Anglo-German protocol signed in Obokun, on April 12, 1913;

·        The exchange of letters between the British and German government on July 6, 1914; and 4)

The endorsement in 1961, by both the United Nations General Assembly and the International Court of Justice, of the result of the plebiscites conducted in Northern and Southern Cameroon and February 11 and 12, 1961 and the diplomatic note accompanied by Nigeria, in 1962 accepting the result of the plebiscite. Cameroon was a German territory ceded after the First World War to the League of Nations at the 1919 Versailles peace treaty that ended the First World War and later ceded to the United Nations in 1945 and the British. The Eastern part of Cameroon was administered by the French while the western part by the British.8 For administrative convenience the British government placed the western part under Nigerian colonial government before Nigerian independence. It started soon after Nigeria’s independence in 1960, over the exact location of the Northern borders, after the British Northern part of Western Cameroon (parts of the present Adamawa and Taraba States) had voted to join Nigeria and the Southern parts of the Western Cameroon voted to join French Cameroon.

STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM

The dispute between Cameroon and Nigeria over the Bakassi Peninsula has assumed great prominence because of its richness in oil. It is important to note, however, that the case of Bakassi is only one element in the dispute that extends to the land boundary between Nigeria and Cameroon from the Lake Chad region to the Coast. This long standing dispute over the ownership of the Bakassi Peninsula which was apparently laid to rest by the ruling of the International Court of Justice provides an example of judicial arbitration at the international level. The ownership of the Bakassi Peninsula was a protracted dispute that involved several attempts by leaders and representatives of both countries to resolve although without success.

Nigeria – Cameroon relations have been marred by border disputes which is a colonial creation. This does not mean that there was no frontier existing before the coming of the colonial powers, however, the border as we know it today evolved from the arbitrary manner in which African borders were created. The problems that bedevilled the creation of this border were neatly handed over to both countries at independence. What ensued aer independence and the post-plebiscite era was constant border clashes. Consequently and in realization of the dangerous dimension the border clashes may lead to, the International Court of Justice judgement in 2003 has put settlement machinery into motion by both governments.

It is in light of this that we carry out an analysis of the Nigeria-Cameroon relations under the rule of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in the years 1990 to 2007.

AIMS AND OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY

The aims and objectives of this project work are listed as follows:

1.   To analyze Nigeria – Cameroon relations under President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration;

2.   To examine the International Court of Justice judgement and its impact on Nigeria – Cameroon relations;

3.   To make appropriate recommendations in which Nigeria – Cameroon relations could be improved.

RESEARCH QUESTIONS

1.   What was the Nigeria – Cameroon relations under President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration;

2.   What was the International Court of Justice judgement and its impact on Nigeria – Cameroon relations;

SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY

This project research also hopes to contribute to the academic literature on Nigeria’s foreign policy through coverage of a turbulent period in Nigeria – Cameroon history. Following the judgement by the International Court of Justice that ceded 33 Nigerian villages around Lake Chad and some in the South-Eastern border with Cameroon which included Bakassi Peninsula, which is known to be very rich in oil, Nigeria – Cameroon relations have been affected by the judgement made by the International Court of Justice in 2003.

SCOPE OF THE STUDY

This research work will be limited to the issue of the Nigerian foreign policy towards Cameroon. For a time frame, I will be locating my research on from 1999 to 2007. In other to achieve an objective, unbiased and an elaborate analysis, this research limits it indepth analysis of the Nigerian foreign policy towards Cameroon.

METHODOLOGY

By the nature of this study, the historical and descriptive analytical approach will be used. Emphasis would be placed on the use of secondary source, not for the fact that primary source is not important in this study. The use of historical approach is predicated on the grounds that the very nature of this study makes it indispensible for a historical investigation into the evolution of the Nigeria – Cameroon relations while recognizing the importance of historicity every modest attempt will be made to be descriptive. Such secondary sources will however include the following: The Internet Articles Journals Documents Reports Books etc.

ORGANIZATION OF THE STUDY

This research work is organized in five chapters, for easy understanding, as follows; Chapter one is concern with the introduction, which consist of the (overview, of the study), historical background, statement of problem, objectives of the study, research hypotheses, significance of the study, scope and limitation of the study, definition of terms and historical background of the study. Chapter two highlights the theoretical framework on which the study is based, thus the review of related literature. Chapter three deals on the, Geopolitics of the Bakassi Dispute, the colonial legacy and the Historical Context of Bakassi Crisis and the Handling of the Case at the ICJ. Chapter four concentrates on the data analysis and presentation of findings relevant to our research questions.  Chapter five gives summary, conclusion, and recommendations made of the study.


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