Asiwaju advocates better relationships among African nations

Asiwaju advocates better relationships among African nations

Monday, May 2, 2016 11:36 am

Emeritus Professor Anthony Ijaola Asiwaju delivering the  lecture

Emeritus Professor Anthony Ijaola Asiwaju delivering the lecture

By Gbenro Adesina

Recently, scholars, surveyors, clergymen and other eminent Nigerians, gathered at Survey Plaza, off Federal Secretariat Road, Ibadan, for the third series of annual lectures that Binuyo Foundation put together to mark the 80th Birthday of the pioneer Director, Nigeria’s National Boundary Commission, NBC, Chief Benjamin Adebimpe Lala. The Foundation was created in 2013 to assist the needy in the areas of education and healthcare delivery. The beneficiaries are, however, restricted to Olivet Baptist High School, Oyo alumni in the university, OND students of Federal School of Survey, Oyo, Pastor School, Oyo/Seminary Ogbomosho and families with financial difficulties by paying their medical bills including provision of medical facilities.

In attendance at the occasion were: the celebrant’s family and friends, students, Professor Abioye John of University of Lagos, UNILAG, Professor Oladele Olayiwola, Professor Olajide Kufoniyi, Abiodun Gbadamosi, Mr. Femi Adelugba of Stanbic IBTC Bank, immediate past Surveyor General of Oyo State, Surveyor O. I. Akintola, Chief A. Ojelabu, Reverend Dr. Emiola Nihinlola of Nigeria Baptist Seminary, Ogbomosho, Dr. A. Akinteye, Surveyor O. E. Fagbamigbe, and other well-wishers.

At the event, people took turns to shower encomiums on the celebrant stressing his contributions to Nigeria as well as his commitment to putting smiles on the face of the poor with his resources. He was described as a very reliable elder, a distinguished academic and professional in his chosen career of surveying, and a seasoned administrator.

In his brief remark, Chief Lala who thanked God for spearing his life to celebrate 80 years of existence urged the nation to maintain a good relationship with the countries that Nigeria shared its border with. “This is very important for proper harnessing of the resources we are endowed with as well as forming a good synergy to tackle the security challenges, especially terrorism facing us”.

Earlier, delivering a lecture titled, “Converting African Boundaries from Barriers to Bridges: Reflections on Nigeria-Cameroon ‘Troublesome Border’, the 77-year old pioneer commissioner in the International Boundaries wing of the Commission, Emeritus Professor Anthony Ijaola Asiwaju of UNILAG revealed that he first came across the label of ‘Troublesome Border’ in a book of that title, published in 1988 on the U.S.-Mexico border, arguably the most spectacular and typically problematic in the world, ‘Where North Meets South’. The author, renowned Mexican-American historian of the boundary, Oscar J. Martinez, used conflict as the over-riding theme to focus on it as the most significant defining factor in the generally conflictual relations between the two neighbouring states.”

Chief Benjamin Adebimpe Lala being assisted by his wife, Deaconess  Patience Mogbadunola to cut his birthday cake

Chief Benjamin Adebimpe Lala being assisted by his wife, Deaconess Patience Mogbadunola to cut his birthday cake

As may be imagined, he posited, the several issues in discussion in the book include, a narrative on the bloody war of conquest by the US from 1846 to 1848, leading to the annexation of such Northern Mexican territories that have since become the southwestern U.S. States of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, and the demarcation of the highly disputed land and river border as defined in the bilateral Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that ended the war. According to him, the other issues of conflict discussed were the wars of resistance, waged especially by the characteristically arbitrarily partitioned ‘native Indian’ and Chicano or Mexican-American groups; then the perennial problem of smuggling and illegal immigrations and organized crimes, including the notorious transactions in narcotics, gambling, prostitution and wide-spread banditry and armed violence adding, “Yet, the reader is not left in doubt about the inherent interdependence and geopolitical symbiosis that have continued to compel closeness of relationship between the two contrastive North American economies”.

He asserted that though, no two things are identical, they could be sufficiently similar to compel a comparison hence, the decision to borrow the label of ‘troublesome border’ as a caption for the lecture on account of manifestly similar features of troublesomeness on the U.S.-Mexico border as on the boundary between Nigeria and Cameroon, a typically meddlesome African boundary: one of the longest between any two modern African States and certainly the longest and most problematic shared by either country with any other neighbouring states. He said that undoubtedly, the border between Nigeria and Cameroon is the most stiffly contested between the two, and possibly in the entire continent of Africa noting that apart from the exceptionally high incidents of armed conflicts between the two states, the border has been diplomatically the most nagging for both countries.

“In the record of the International Court of Justice, ICJ, at The Hague, it is the subject of the most protracted adjudication, lasting almost ten years from March1994 to October 2002; the most complex case, that ever came before the court, involving both land and maritime segments of the entire border of over 2, 200 kilometres, with a third country, Equatorial Guinea, Intervening; above all, the case of the Land and Maritime Boundary between Cameroon and Nigeria has proved the most expensive to both State parties in the prosecution as well as in the still on-going implementation of the resultant judgment. It is in consideration of these exceptional challenges, long and still posed by the border as the most significant single factor in the relationship between Nigeria and Cameroon, that we have selected it for the purpose of our reflection in this lecture on how far the continent has gone in the collective resolve to convert African borders from colonially inherited postures as barriers and precipitants of conflict between most of the post-colonial States and transform them into new roles and functions as bridges and facilitators of cooperation between the States, consistent with their common commitment to continental integration and, especially, the deepening of the regional integration process”, Asiwaju stated.

Pointing out that though, the African Union Border Programme, AUBP, a truly innovative continental instrument designed to achieve the paradigmatic policy shift is a recent development of less than ten years, his reflection would take the audience back by almost thirty years.

He further pointed out that AUBP and NBC are both saddled with the same responsibilities which are: moving policy away from a hitherto prevalent negativism of ultra-nationalism and understandably rigidly military and para-military approach to border management, adoption of a new positive approach of peaceful and pro-active engagement with limitrophe or territorially adjacent neighbours in systematic cross-border cooperation to promote integration of proximities, as a new strategy to achieving the deepening of the wider regional integration process, and specifically ensuring mutual collaboration in confronting border and cross-border security challenges.

Members of the high table from right, Professor Anthony Ijaola  Asiwaju, Mr. Femi Adelugba and Surveyor O. E. Fagbamigbe singing

Members of the high table from right, Professor Anthony Ijaola Asiwaju, Mr. Femi Adelugba and Surveyor O. E. Fagbamigbe singing

Others are: special development focus on border and cross-border areas, with particular reference to the planning and development of generally neglected infrastructure and, often, wasted strategic resources, the acceleration of the border demarcation where this has not been done; and ensuring of greater visibility on the ground, where demarcation has been achieved, all these taking advantage of the new atmosphere of mutual confidence building, created by the new regime of cross-border cooperation, thus eliminating a lack of clarity as commonly recognized cause of bilateral conflicts and frictions and the development of appropriate capacity building (research, training, and special education), in support of the new policy direction, requiring ability to think nationally and act regionally.

The erudite scholar noted that the main aim of the lecture is to respond to the strongly felt need for public enlightenment and updating on the ever vibrant events and developments on the ‘troublesome border’ of Nigeria and Cameroon paying attention to the dispute on sovereignty over Bakassi Penisula and Boko Haram insurgency by reason of its location and cross-border operations in the over-lapping border regions in the Lake Chad Basin, especially, the now notorious Sambisa ‘border wilderness’, which has compelled the multilateral, regional and international collaboration, including the more specifically Nigeria-Cameroon cross-border cooperation that has continued to stretch the security machinery of both countries to elasticity limits.

The lecturer disclosed that it was the work by the IGN of France, as approved at a special conference of the ministers of the Lake Chad Basin Commission held in Maiduguri in late 1991, that the ICJ relied on to pronounce in 2002 on the Cameroon-Nigeria case as it related to the northern terminus of the ‘troublesome border’.

Recalling the collaboration NBC had with Legal Task Force, LTF set up by the Federal Government to advise it on the best course of action on the nation’s most troublesome border which recommended against Nigeria military action and litigation against Cameroon on the Nigeria-Cameroon border and the government did otherwise said, “The failure to act on the LTF recommendations led to the subsequent events including the litigation process which Cameroon initiated against Nigeria in March 1994, to the effect of the predictable judgment at The Hague in 2002”.

Delving into the current Policy Posture, elaborating on contemporary border policy practice in the African continent and Policy Evolution on the Troublesome Border, Asiwaju said that the African border policy history has been detailed in a publication titled, “Borders in Africa: An Anthology of the Policy History”, having two broad phases: retaining the boundaries of member state territories, as defined at the dates of the formal independences to avoid wide-spread territorial and boundary contestations and wars that would have endangered the fragile independences. “However, the delay to take the next logical step, that of another collective resolve for a systematic conversion of the borders from inherited postures as barriers, has made the Organisation of African Union, OAU, phase of the history one of high border incidents that strained relations between many a territorially adjacent member State”, he added.

The number of such incidents, according to him, are legion and occurred in virtually every state of the constituent, Regional Economic Communities, RECs, such as the Algeria-Morocco and Morocco-POLISARIO wars in the Maghreb; the Mali-Burkina Faso, Senegal-Mauritania and Nigeria-Cameroon cross-border armed conflicts in ECOWAS; the Somalia-Ethiopia and Ethiopia-Eritrea border conflicts in The Horn; the dramatically prolonged border closure between Kenya and Tanzania, thus deepening the crisis that dealt a final death knell to the historic East African Community, and so on.

He said, all these excluded frequency of border closures, such as the notorious example by Nigeria against all her neighbours in ECOWAS and Economic Community of Central Africa States, ECCAS, from 24 April 1984 to 1 March 1986, and the unedifying frequency of litigation by African States at the ICJ in The Hague, such as by Libya against Chad, Mali versus Burkina Faso, Senegal versus Guinea Bissau, Benin versus Niger and, perhaps, the most celebrated, Cameroon versus Nigeria.

According to him, the negative implications and adverse impacts of the border conflicts in Africa on regional integration endeavour, with particular reference to peace and sustainable development, led to the dramatic policy turn-around in the wake of the replacement of the OAU with the African Union, AU, in 2002 adding, “although the Constitutive Act of the AU retained the provision of the OAU Charter, regarding the maintenance of colonially inherited territories and borders of Member States, the union launched the long-delayed policy initiative for the systematic conversion of the retained borders from their inherited postures as barriers and precipitants of conflict into the new operational modes as bridges and facilitators of cooperation and integration of proximity

The celebrant, his wife and well wishers

The celebrant, his wife and well wishers

He informed that in 2008, the German’s Government allocated a substantial funding to support the AUBP encouraging the establishment of AUBP Unit in the AU Commission’s Peace and Security Development in Addis Ababa which coordinates at the AU level, the implementation strategy at the other lower levels of the RECs and the discreet member-States in strict adherence to the principle of subsidiarity, affirming that there have been measurably significant achievements, notably, the fast-tracking of border demarcation works in ECOWAS (e.g. the completion of the Mali-Burkina Faso border on the delimitation in the ICJ Judgment) and SADC (Southern African Development Community) with special reference to the borders of Mozambique and its neighbours.

Other achievements of AUBP he highlighted including construction of health centre as model of the cross-border cooperation in providing shared infrastructural facilities, capacity building especially in the general area of providing public enlightenment through a wide range of publications and workshops, institutional consolidation and enhancement, as evidenced in the production of Users Guide official publication series, including titles focusing on key areas of concern such as border demarcation, cross-border cooperation and border dispute management and, in collaboration with the academia, text books for use by scholars and graduate students in relevant fields of research specializations. He stressed that one outstanding achievement in the area of institutional enhancement is the African Union Convention on Cross-Border Cooperation, adopted at the third Conference of African Ministers in Charge of Border Issues in Niamey, Niger, May 17, 20102, an innovation of the new era of border conversion.

“Having been approved by AU Executive Council, the Convention is now in the process of ratification by Member States; and when ratified and has entered into force, the Convention is expected to achieve for African regional integration what the historic European Outline Convention on Transfrontier Cooperation Between Territorial Authorities and Communities of 1984 is known to have contributed to the European integration process. As at this point in time, nine of required fifteen signatories for the Convention to enter into force have been secured, including Benin and Cameroon, but Nigeria is still to respond; and I hereby call on Buhari to ensure that Nigeria is counted as one of the first fifteen ratification signatories”, he noted.

As regards policy evolution on the Nigeria-Cameroon ‘Troublesome Border’, Asiwaju was bothered on how far the two State parties on both sides have shown a common commitment to abandoning hostility posture and embrace cooperation as preferred strategy for tackling the border and cross-border challenges and the progress so far recorded on border delimitation and demarcation, which constitute the main issues both parties submitted to the ICJ for adjudication which the court based its pronouncement.

Asiwaju, who considered the ICJ judgment of Thursday 10 October 2002 as a watershed to Nigeria, opined that the events before the judgment and those thereafter exhibit predominantly remarkable features of conflict in the one era and of cooperation in another.

He pointed out that the ICJ judgment has not completely prevented the ember of conflicts that characterized the period before it from flaring up from time to time, as the nation witnessed in 2012, when a belated and abortive effort was made to return the judgment of 2002 to the court for a review.

“In the period prior to the eight-year litigation at The Hague, the seeds for a policy turn-around from barrier to bridges were sowed in such significant initiatives as the multilateral Lake Chad Basin Commission, created in 1970, with Nigeria and Cameroon recognized as, perhaps, the most significant Member-States. This must be added to the Nigeria-Cameroon Joint Commission. But of these and other policy initiatives, aimed at steering the Nigeria-Cameroon border relations from the path of worrisome conflicts, that have witnessed brutal killing in 1982 of five Nigerian soldiers by Cameroonian gendarmes in the creeks in and around the then hotly disputed Bakassi Peninsula, none is more celebrated than the Nigeria-Cameroon Transborder Cooperation Workshop of Yola, Adamawa State, in early July 1992, organized by the Nigerian National Boundary Commission in active collaboration with and participation by Cameroon”, he disclosed.

Continuing, “One important outcome of the Workshop, among others, was the creation of the Gulf of Guinea Commission, a multilateral institution on the model of the already existing Lake Chad Basin Commission in the North. The workshop with Cameroon had been preceded by those with Benin in Badagry in May 1988 and Niger in Kano in July 1989 and it was followed by the programme with Equatorial Guinea in Calabar in November 1992”.

“However, the enormous gains from the exceptionally strategic workshop with Cameroon in Yola, including the reopening of the bilateral dialogue on the border, after a seventeen-year diplomatic impasse, and resultant mutual confidence-building, all of these were painfully whittled away, once Nigeria militarized the fragile border relations on 1 January 1994 when our troops moved to occupy the disputed Bakassi Peninsula on the orders of the then Head of State and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces, General Sani Abacha. Cameroon’s response was to file a case against Nigeria at The Hague in March 1994. The current phase of bilateral collaboration is in context, mainly, of the execution of the ICJ judgment of October 2002, subsequently reinforced by the on-going implementation of the African Union Border Programme, formally adopted in June 2007 and launched into operation in early 2008”, he added

Asiwaju, however, noted that the ICJ judgment would afford Nigeria-Cameroon the opportunity to cooperate in the interests of the populations concerned, in order notably to enable them to continue to have access to educational and health services comparable to those they currently enjoy and contribute friendly relations between the two countries as expressed by the court.

He concluded, “It is not yet quiet on our border with Cameroon; certainly, not with the on-going challenge with the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria’s northeast border area and its deadly cross-border spill-over into Cameroon’s Far North. However, the period since 2002 has witnessed less bilateral conflict and relatively greater commitment to cooperation on border demarcation and, as is now being seen on the issue of the insurgency in proximate border regions in the Lake Chad Basin, also on dealing with common security threats. The two state parties are also known to have actively collaborated with other member States of the African Union to define, launch and support the AUBP. The Nigerian State deserves a special kudos in view of the leadership it has provided the rest of the continent through its National Boundary Commission as exemplary institution for innovative border governance in the African continent.”

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