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Thursday, 24 October, 2002, 13:27 GMT 14:27 UK
Nigeria opens legal can of worms
The International Court of Justice in The Hague
Nigeria's rejection of the ruling is unprecedented

Nigeria's decision to reject the ruling by the International Court of Justice that gave sovereignty of the Bakassi peninsula to Cameroon poses something of a legal dilemma.

Countries very rarely reject a Court ruling, and both Nigeria and Cameroon agreed in advance to abide by its decision.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ), which sits in the Dutch administrative capital, The Hague, is more than just another court.

It is the highest judicial body of the United Nations itself, its status is enshrined in the founding charter of the UN.

Article 94 of the UN Charter reads as follows: "If any party to a case fails to perform the obligations incumbent upon it under a judgment rendered by the Court, the other party may have recourse to the Security Council, which may, if it deems necessary, make recommendations or decide upon measures to be taken to give effect to the judgment."

So the position of the Court is clear, but the Nigerian statement, issued after Wednesday's cabinet meeting chaired by President Olusegun Obasanjo, accused French, English and German court officials of manipulating the court in favour of their respective countries.

Colonial past

Bakassi fell variously under German, French and British rule after Europe carved up Africa for colonial administration in 1884-85 until Cameroon and Nigeria became independent in 1960.

The Nigerian statement declared: "These judges, as citizens of the colonial powers whose action had come under scrutiny, have acted as judges in their own cause and thereby rendered their judgment virtually null and void."

President Olusegun Obasanjo
Obasanjo had agreed to respect the court's ruling

The statement said that the ruling was based on "a legal position which is contrary to all known laws and conventions".

This appears to contradict decisions taken by African leaders going back over 40 years.

The founding charter of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) had this to say about sovereignty:

OAU Charter, Article III, paragraph 3: "Respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of each state and for its inalienable right to independent existence."

When the members of the OAU met in Cairo in 1964 this was strengthened, by the following resolution: AHG/RES 16(1): "Solemnly declares that all Member States pledge themselves to respect the borders existing on their achievement of national independence."

This resolution was adopted to prevent Africa becoming bogged down in an endless series of border disputes, at a time when the continent had to struggle with poverty and apartheid.

The Nigerian decision to reject the ruling of the ICJ therefore appears to challenge both the United Nations and its African partners.


Key stories

YOUR VIEWS
 VOTE RESULTS
Cameroon / Nigeria border ruling: Was it the right decision?

Yes
 44.91% 

No
 55.09% 

11050 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

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