Former President Olusegun Obasanjo and ex-President of the Senate, Chief Ken Nnamani, on Wednesday disagreed over how Bakassi Peninsula was ceded to Cameroun.
While Obasanjo claimed that he wrote to the National Assembly to seek a ratification of the agreement on the Peninsula, Nnamani said his request was not granted.
The Senate had on November 23, 2007 rejected the transfer of Bakassi on the ground that due process was not followed by the Obasanjo administration.
It said Obasanjo acted unilaterally and contrary to Section 12 of the 1999 constitution.
The section reads, “No treaty between the Federation and other country shall have the force of law except to the extent to which any such treaty has been enacted into law by the National Assembly.”
The Senate action received the backing of many prominent Nigerians, including a former Attorney-General of the Federation, and Minister of Justice, Chief Richard Akinjide (SAN).
But Obasanjo, in a statement by his Media Assistant, Mr. Adeoba Ojekunle, defended the transfer of Bakassi.
He said that contrary to the belief that Obasanjo’s action was unilateral, he duly served the National Assembly with relevant documents on Bakassi.
The statement, titled “On the Ratification of the Bakassi Green Tree Agreement,” was made available to THE PUNCH in Abuja.
It reads, “The last Senate and House of Representatives under the leadership of Nnamani and Alhaji Aminu Masari were duly served the GAT between Nigeria and Cameroun (on ceding of the Bakassi territory) for ratification by the National Assembly.
“The former President, in two separate letters to the Senate and the House dated 13th June 2006, officially conveyed to both chambers the said agreement, including the modalities of implementation of the October 10, 2002 International Court of Justice judgment.
“The letters which were officially copied to the then Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, the then Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, and the former Governor of Cross River State specifically in paragraph three requested the assembly’s ‘expeditious ratification of the agreement.’
“This is contrary to the widely held view that the last assembly was kept in the dark concerning the agreement.
“The personal records of the former President indicate that the letters were duly received on 15th June 2006 and acknowledged by the two chambers.”
In his response, Nnamani said Obasanjo should have made public what the response of the Senate was, if indeed such a thing happened.
Nnamani, who spoke with one of our correspondents on the telephone, said the former President did not follow due process.
He said, “If he sent it (letter) to us like he said, what action did we take? What was our response? If he gave you the letter he said he wrote to the Senate, did he also attach our response, if any?
“What action did we take to make it conclusive? The question remains: Was the treaty ever ratified by the National Assembly?
“It is a major thing if it was not ratified. It is not binding on us. Let me tell you how he (Obasanjo) did things in office. Normally, what he does is, he calls the leadership of the National Assembly and tell us what he has done or a decision he had taken verbally.
“If he came to us with a letter on the agreement, we would have first read it on the floor of the Senate and the next day, refer it to the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs.
“The committee will meet and submit a report with recommendations to the Senate before action is taken.
“It wasn’t a love letter. It would not have been a secret. You can check with the Clerk of the Senate to see if this was done.
“Although I cannot make a categorical statement on it, I don’t remember it ever being ratified. That is the issue.”
Nnamani also said the House of Representatives ought to ratify the document since the Senate alone cannot do such because the process of ratification is like passing a bill.
He said, “The truth is, this thing did not go through due process. The process is a long one. It goes through first, second and third reading and then clause by clause like every other bill.
“Senator Jibril Aminu was the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs committee; Ask him, ‘did his committee work on it? If it did, was the report submitted to the Senate?”.
But despite the knocks on Obasanjo, the Ogun State Governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, has said the people of the state are proud of him.
Daniel, who spoke at the conferement of a Service Award on the former President on Tuesday night, urged him (Obasanjo) not to be discouraged by the criticisms against him.
The governor said Obasanjo was honoured at the 3rd Ogun Economic and Investment Summit for his conscientious service to the nation and support to the development of the state.
Tuesday’s award is the second given to Obasanjo by the state in three months.
Obasanjo got the state’s Leadership Award two months ago at the state Award Night in Abeokuta.
Daniel described Obasanjo as a great patriot, who served his fatherland conscientiously.
He said in spite of the criticisms, Obasanjo would be remembered as a man who made his mark in office.
The governor said, “In the last few months, we have seen the level of criticisms of Baba. That is not uncommon in this country and it is only people who stand for something meaningful that are criticised.
“Here in Ogun State, we are happy, exalted and feel proud of you and your achievements.”
Responding, Obasanjo thanked the state government for what he called ‘the various honours you are showering on me.’
He said, “Ogun State in terms of history, geographical location, philosophy and location has the potential to foster economic development in the country.”
He commended Daniel for his foresight in “transforming the state into an investment destination of choice.”
– The Punch