Members of the Cross River Assembly on Tuesday protested the refusal of the Federal Government to appeal the ICJ ruling that handed the oil-rich Bakassi Peninsula to the Republic of Cameroon.
The peaceful protest on Tuesday was led by the Speaker of the Assembly, Larry Odey, from the State House of Assembly to Government House, Calabar.
But Gov. Liyel Imoke of Cross River assured them that the state was still hopeful on the resolution of the “intractable” Bakassi issue in which it has no locus standing to file an action at the ICJ.
“For us, what is important is the authorities at the Federal Government understanding the passion and the pain that the people of the state feel.
“The consequence of the judgement to the people is significant and I don’t know whether we have done enough to address that.
“There are lots of grievances and lot of pains and emotions that had been expressed.”
The legislators chanted songs like “Bakassi is our birth right and we will never let it go.”
Mr. Odey, who spoke on their behalf during the audience with Imoke, said the preponderance of the opinion with respect to whether the judgement of the ICJ should be reviewed or not was in favour of review.
“I recalled that Mr President said that he requested Speakers of Houses of Assembly of Akwa Ibom and Cross River should be in attendance of meeting last week in Abuja.
“Mr President wanted us to convey back to our people what transpired in the meeting.
“That meeting had the leadership of the Senate and House of Representatives and our sons and daughters from Cross River at both houses of National Assembly in attendance.
“I had reported to the 24 members of the Cross River House of Assembly and the members of the assembly have been waiting.
“My report was that Mr President saw clearly the opinions of those at the meeting and of course the opinions of majority of Nigerians that are in favour of the review.’’
Odey said the protest was to find out from Imoke the position of the review of the ICJ Judgement.
“As I speak to you, we have not heard anything in that respect and so we feel we should come to you to find out whether you have in your position any privileged information on the thinking of the Federal Government on this matter.
“Your Excellency, we will be happy because if we go back with good report and we will convey same to our constituency and will be able to arrest the trend of our anxieties and that of our people.’’
Reacting to the development, Mr. Imoke expressed appreciation for unprecedented action taken by the State House of Assembly.
“It is a spontaneous reaction borne out of concern and out of passion for the 3.2 million Cross Riverians that you represent.
“You have their mandates to come before your authorities and query on issues that affect their well being. Your comments regarding the recent meeting in Abuja are exactly as you stated.
“I was in attendance, there were clear directives from the president and if you recall I even spoke to the press and commended the president’s leadership.
“Our expectation was that as of today, which seems to be the last day for us to put application for the review of the judgement, I have no confirmation that such application is in place.
“I have been informed that a statement had been issued by the office of the Attorney-General on the Federal Government’s seeming position.
“Whether that is the position of the Committee that was set up by Mr President or whether it is the position of the Office of the Attorney-General, I am not clear yet and I am still trying to get clarifications.
“What we know is that about 12 mid night today it will be the last chance that we have to retain or to even have a fitting chance of the review of the very intractable problem of Bakassi.’’
Mr. Imoke also cautioned that the Bakassi issue should not be politicised because of “a number of humanitarian consideration, security issues and for being a part of a country’’.
“We can only appeal to everyone at this time to remain calm and to understand that they are processes and procedures that are followed in cases of this nature and all hope should never be lost and it won’t be lost.
“We may have reached the end of one stage to this struggle and I believe that there is still an opportunity to address the challenges that the ceding of Bakassi has brought upon the people,’’ he said.