On Tuesday, July 10, 2012, the Nigerian Supreme Court struck out the case that was instituted by the Cross River State Government against the unilateral ceding of 76 oil wells to Akwa Ibom State by the National Boundary Commission (NBC) and Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC).
The ceding of the oil wells indeed, came barely a year after the Federal Government of Nigeria, ceded the Bakassi territory, which was within the geo-political jurisdiction of Cross River State to the Republic of Cameroun, via the implementation of the judgement of the International Court of Justice at the Hague.
While not joining issues with those favouring the recent position of the apex court that the case instituted by Cross River State lacked merit, and as such was thrown out, I urge all Cross Riverians to once more, remain calm, as directed by the Governor, while the Government and Elders of the State are exploring other options to redressing the wrongs and perceived injustice meted to Cross River State by the National Boundary Commission( NBC) and Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) in their bid to settling international issues, as well as promoting domestic favouritism of some States.
However, we wish to reiterate that the Government of Cross River State in approaching the Supreme Court for the legal interpretation of the actions of the NBC and RMAFC as it affects the State was beyond parochial interest. Indeed, the interest of the State in seeking judicial intercession in this matter was, and is solely on national concerns, the future of the country, its citizens and territorial boundaries, and not self-seeking as many may have believed. This is the reason we have up to this moment, avoided all shades of persuasions to either engage in lobbying or marching on the streets to ventilate our position on the entanglement, also in recognition that Akwa Ibom State is widely tagged as ‘our sister State.’
On approaching the Supreme Court however, it became necessary for us as a State to demand the reinstitution of our fundamental human rights and source of wealth, particularly with the action of denying us of our 13 per cent derivation from November 2009. In just five months, we were disallowed N15.5 billion- an amount that would have greatly aided the Governor Liyel Imoke’s ongoing Transformation Agenda through the provision of basic infrastructure such as access roads, electricity, water, health care and educational facilities, that transverse the nooks and crannies of the eighteen Local Government areas of the State
Our action was also critical in the face of seeming mystification by the National Boundary Commission ( NBC), which was alleged to have tendered before the apex court, a map that was doctored, and short of representing in factuality the true position of the Nigerian-Cameroun boundary. We observed that the map which was relied upon by the apex court in resolving the protracted dispute between the two States was fraudulent, and not representative, even as we had applied that the map be expunged from the list of evidences before the Court.
All said; the Supreme Court has only thrown out our case. It has not been rested as we have another opportunity to contest it. Our resolve to do this is hinged on safeguarding the future of Nigeria without getting tangled in a web of perfidious actions against the judiciary. The future of Nigeria and how we take off from here should be the overriding matter.
The National Boundary Commission (NBC) has no choice than adhere to Section 8 (2) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which requires an Act of the National Assembly to legalize any adjustment of boundaries within the Federation. Any other action taken on the contrary will be illegal, making it possible for the internal waters of the country to be compromised as well as Nigerian sovereignty, security and economic interest, as it is the case in the prevailing circumstance.
Therefore, the implications of the Supreme Court judgement to the Federal Government and by extension Cross River State as a federating unit of the Nigerian nation are many and sensitive. The first is that we have ceded both our national and international territorial waters, which naturally serve as commerce grounds for the country.
If the ceding is allowed to prevail, we will lose control of naval ships coming into the country through the bodies of the waters which the International Court of Justice (ICJ) called territorial waters. This is the implication, and as a State with vested interest, we will not fold our arms to watch this happen to our dear country.
Again, as a State, we have therefore chosen to return to the judiciary to reclaim what rightly belongs to us so as to let history absolve us all of sloppiness, especially at the time the country is practicing democracy that allows for struggle for fundamental human rights and choice. This we have done by swiftly rising up to the occasion and advocating in loud voices for the protection of our territories against all forms of incursions through constitutional means.
I therefore, urge all Cross Riverians to show restraint even in the face of provocation. While not resting on our oars to redress this injustice and extricate Cross River State from being perceived as a perpetual pawn that can be used and dumped, I commend our elder statesmen and leaders for rising to the occasion.
Finally, I urge the good people of Cross River State not to allow the action of the Supreme Court to deter us from reposing confidence in the Administration, as all our programmes are on course.
Chief Akin A. Ricketts
Commissioner for Information