Wednesday, September 17, 2014

This Week in Nigeria: Time Running out for Bakassi

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The International Court of Justice in the Hague. Photograph by Zoe 52.

This Week: News

Time running out for Bakassi

Nigeria has less than 48 hours to launch its appeal for a revision of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) verdict, which ruled the Bakassi Peninsula was part of Cameroon. President Goodluck Jonathan last Thursday said Nigeria should file for a revision based on new evidence, which called into question the green tree agreement signed in 2007. But Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, has been accused of stalling the directive, claiming there is not enough time to assemble the correct documentation. Nigeria has until October 9 to file its appeal or lose the Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon for good.

Four suspected thieves killed in vigilante justice

Four suspected thieves were murdered last Friday by a vigilante group in Umuokiri community, Rivers State. The victims, believed to be students from the University of Port Harcourt, were accused of stealing blackberry phones and laptops in the off-campus hostel where they were staying. A group armed with axes and knives descended on the four around 5am and placed car tyres around the suspects before setting them alight. Rivers State Police confirmed the incident had occurred and promised that an investigation would be carried out.

Fuel subsidy suspects in court

8 oil marketers and 5 companies were arraigned on charges of fuel subsidy fraud last Friday. The defendants appeared at an Ikeja High Court accused of illegally obtaining N3.7 billion ($24 million) from the Petroleum Support Fund (PSF). The fraudulent practices ranged from forging documents, including bills of lading, certificates of quantity, certificates of origin and cargo manifests, which they used to gain funds in subsidy payments. The case is adjourned until Tuesday.

46 students murdered in Mubi

46 students were killed last Monday in Mubi, Adamawa State, by unknown gunmen in what has been described as a “commando style attack”. Some suspect the Islamist militant group Boko Haram but some have pointed to ethnicised student politics. Security was immediately bolstered by Nigeria’s joint security task force and agents combed the area and nearby town in search of the suspected insurgents.

Jonathan conducts army shake-up

Nigeria’s armed forces were reshuffled last week with the appointment of a new Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Naval Staff and Chief of Air Staff. Vice Admiral Ola Ibrahim, former Chief of Naval Staff, is the new Chief of Defence Staff. Rear Admiral Dele Ezeoba is the new Chief of Naval Staff. And Air Vice Marshall Alex Badeh is the new Chief of Air Staff.

This Week: Politics

The Bakassi Peninsula has historically borne a close affinity to the Efik Kingdom in southern Nigeria, but was transferred to Cameroon in 2007 after a judgment by the International Court of Justice. Cameroon cited the Anglo-German Agreement of April 18, 1893, which ceded Bakassi to German Cameroun as the basis of their case. Up against Nigeria’s half-hearted and unprepared defence, Cameroon won the judgement to hold sovereignty over the potentially hydrocarbon-rich peninsula.

The recent agitation by Bakassi citizens, Calabar traditional rulers and political leaders from the region seemed to have fallen on deaf ears until last Wednesday when President Jonathan, after a lengthy cabinet meeting, raised an eight-man team to advise the federal government on reviewing the case based on new evidence. But why were such actions taken so close to the Tuesday appeal deadline? The same lackadaisical and last-minute approach to the original case seems to have been mirrored in this latest directive. The appropriate level of seriousness should have been deployed long before now with the wellbeing of the Bakassi people being paramount in the negotiations between the ICJ, Nigeria and Cameroon. It might now be too late to save Bakassi from being forever part of Cameroon, yet it seems the will to fight for the peninsula by the government was never apparent from the start.

Released last week, Chinua Achebe’s memoirs There was a Country has gained numerous plaudits, with his personal account of the Nigerian civil war drawing particular attention. Nigeria’s civil war has often been somewhat of a closed door issue, with Nigerians not wanting to increase friction between the country’s various ethnic groupings. The mistrust between Yoruba and Igbo groups has bubbled under the surface since the former joined forces with the Nigerian army led by the Hausa-Fulani ethnic group and other minority communities against the Igbo and their Republic of Biafra.

While the war-time head of state, General Yakubu Gowon, was the figurehead of the Nigerian government, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, former premier of the western region and de facto leader of the Yoruba people, acted as vice-chairman of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), equivalent to being Gowon’s deputy. The government policies conducted by Awolowo and Gowon included a blockade of air, land and sea routes into Biafra which led to the mass starvation in Igbo territories. In his memoirs, Achebe points an accusatory finger at Awolowo and describes his thirst for power and quest for the presidency. ”It is my impression that Awolowo was driven by an overriding ambition for power, for himself and for his Yoruba people”, he writes. That comment alone has reopened old wounds and set social and print media alight with accusations and counter-accusations.

With Nigeria struggling to remain one entity, the book comes at an awkward time. Ethnic slanging matches and unsupported arguments threaten to drive a wedge further between two of the largest ethnic groups in not only Nigeria, but Africa. But should we hide from our past? We would do better to learn from the mistakes of the past to ensure a brighter and more harmonious future.

Writers of the week:

Ambitious youth on a sinking ship’ by Victor Olojo, a member of the youth wing of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), extols the virtues and strengths of Nigeria’s youth while picking holes in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its policies toward this demographic. The piece delves into personal experiences and aims to be a wake-up call for the decision-makers of tomorrow.

Obafemi Awolowo and Chinua Achebe's Tale of Fantasy’ by Femi Fani-Kayode, former presidential spokesman and minister of aviation under Olusegun Obasanjo, seeks to defend the memory of the former Obfemi Awolowo. Fani-Kayode, in his usual combative style, details his opinion of the true role of the Yoruba during the Nigerian civil war while arguing against allegations made about Awolowo and the Yoruba in Chinua Achebe’s memoirs.

Organisation of the week:

The FATE Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation based in Lagos which aims to tackle unemployment and poverty in Nigeria. Created in 2000, the mission of FATE includes promoting business and entrepreneurial development among Nigerian youth. The foundations hopes to help establish 5,000 businesses by 2015, which it is hoped will employ 50,000 Nigerians. FATE works with a wide range of institutions and organisations both local and international in order to reach their objectives.

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