02 August 2012, Sweetcrude, ABUJA – Legislators representing Cross River State in the National Assembly have raised the alarm over the possible loss of Nigeria’s internal waters to international territorial sea due to the current proposal by the National Boundary Commission.
The Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, RMAFC, had at a retreat in August 2008, redefined the maritime boundary between Cross River and Akwa Ibom states. The Commission also decided on the declassification of Cross River state as a littoral state and the transfer of 76 oil wells from Cross River in favour of Akwa Ibom state.
The implication of this is that Cross River is no longer an oil producing state.
According to the legislators, these far-reaching decisions were taken without the participation or any recourse whatsoever to Cross River state. They also lamented the plight of the people of Bakassi Peninsula in the hands of Camerounian gendarmes, since the peninsula was ceded to Cameroun by the International Court of Justice, ICJ.
The legislators, who spoke at a Roundtable on Oil, Politics and Security organized by the Oil Justice Movement (OJM) in Abuja, regretted that the International Court of Justice’s decision to hand the peninsula to Camouroun in 2006 had opened a can of troubles for the neighbouring states of Cross River and Akwa Ibom.
Speaking in a paper, Oil and Conflict in Communities and States: A Historical Perspective, Senator Bassey Ewa Henshaw, observed that much of the “maneuvering that has gone on in Bakassi can be traced to the resources in the peninsula, namely the seafood, but more especially the oil.”
He added, “The Camerounians and their masters the French, and indeed the Germans long before them, have always had their eyes on the territory and nothing was going to stop them from taking it.
“Having now taken Bakassi ‘legally’ in the eyes of the world, Cameroun is determined and unrelenting in imposing their will and authority on the Efik people who live in Bakassi in complete violation of Article 3 of the Green Tree Agreement. There is constant harassment, seizure of fishing gear and catch, imposition of tax, and rape by the gendarmes.”
Noting that the Bakassi people are ready to take their fate into their own hands, Bassey said, “You know that at some point when they can’t take any more, they will be prepared to fight back.”
On her own part, the member representing Calabar/Odupkani constituency in the House of Representatives, Hon. Nkoyo Toyo pointed out that the delineation of the border between Cross River and Akwa Ibom states by the National Boundary Commission, may lead to loss of territorial sea by the country.
Toyo noted that the ICJ judgment that ceded Bakassi to Cameroun clearly established the baseline for the demarcation of internal waters from the territorial sea at the mouth of the Calabar estuary using the outermost southern tips of the land mass on both sides of the estuary as co-ordinates.
She said, however, that the National Boundaries Commission (NBC), in a bid to show that Cross River is not a littoral state, has moved the baseline inwards to the mouth of the Calabar river.
“Surprisingly, the NBC has proposed a shift of this baseline from the north of the estuary inward and behind the Moni Pulo and Addax oil installations. These areas which the Supreme Court had in the 2005 judgment held to be the internal waters of Nigeria and part of Cross River state, in the current and controversial delineation by NBC no longer internal waters of Nigeria but part of the territorial sea.
“The implication is that if this baseline is accepted, the present locations of these oil installations cease to be in internal waters of Nigeria and become part of the territorial sea.”
She added that the legal implications of this inward shift “are too grave for the economic and security interest of Nigeria. First, the control the nation has over the territorial sea is not as firm as the control over internal waters.”
According to Toyo, even more alarming is the impact of the inward shift of the baseline on the negotiations over the convergence point on the maritime boundaries of Cameroun, Equitorial Guinea and Sao Tome and Principe.
“This convergence point is currently a subject of negotiations among the four countries and the convergence point is going to be determined taking the baselines of the various countries into consideration. Nigeria’s position on this is being compromised and weakened by the inward shift of the baseline as the NBC has proposed,” she stated.
On his part, the Coordinator, Oil Justice Movement, Mr. Eddy Aghanenu has slammed Federal government’s handling of the conflict between the states, noting that the “politics of oil is leading to the redrawing of the boundaries between the communities and states.”
He added that, “Having looked at the issue critically, OJM has come to the conclusion that injustice is behind the whole conflict in the oil producing communities and states. It is clear that the processes associated with oil can promote development or underdevelopment, peace or insecurity.”