The Governor of Ogun State, Dapo Abiodun, has insisted that Tongeji Island belongs to Nigeria as he dispelled fears that Republic of Benin is claiming ownership of the oil-rich enclave. According to him, the island and its people have been part and parcel of Ogun State and have no connection with any other country.
Prime Business Africa reports that this is coming 11 years after then President Goodluck Jonathan formally handed over the oil-bearing Bakassi peninsula to Cameroon in 2012 in compliance with the judgment of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague.
Historically, Bakassi peninsular was said to have been ceded to Cameroon as far back as 1975 when General Yakubu Gowon, was the military head of state. Bakassi is a 1,600-kilometre land boundary between Nigeria, near the city of Calabar in Cross River State, and the Rio del Ray estuary in Cameroon.
While Nigeria had argued that it had been in possession of the area in dispute and that its citizens were predominant in the area, Cameroon maintained that regardless of who had been in occupation, the land had belonged to it since the colonial era. It added that the British ceded Bakassi to Germany through the Anglo-German agreement of 1913 and that Germany ceded it to France and then France ceded same to it (Cameroon).
Cameroon took contest actions for the peninsula to the World Court in 1994. After eight years, the ICJ ruled on October 10, 2002, that Bakassi belonged to Cameroon, relying on the evidence available, especially the Anglo-German agreement.
After Nigeria rejected the judgment, the United Nations set up the Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed Commission, so as to avoid further confrontations or even war between both countries. After a series of dialogue, President Olusegun Obasanjo on the eve of his departure from office officially ceded Bakassi to Cameroon by signing the Green Tree Agreement produced by the mixed commission.
Against the backcloth of this loss of territory by the Nigerian government to a neighbouring country, Governor Abiodun says he had on two occasions told the President of Benin Republic that Tongeji Island belonged to Nigeria and he never disputed, contrary to the speculations around.
The Governor spoke up on Wednesday while playing host to the Flag Officer Commanding, Western Naval Command of the Nigerian Navy, Rear Admiral Mustapha Bala Hassan, who paid him a courtesy call in his office at Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta.
His words: “Tongeji Island is an area that has been under our radar. Sadly, I have not been able to visit there. I have planned to visit several times. The former Chief of Naval Staff at a point in time wanted us to go with the former Flag Officer Commanding, but something happened that day, and we could not go.
“I agree that we mark that area with our presence by providing services for the people. Regarding the jetty that you mentioned, I will tell our Ministry of Works to go there and take a look so we can put a cost implication to that. You mentioned the issues of power, water supply, and Primary Healthcare Centre. Those ones, we can immediately swing into action when we go there.
“If we are claiming that it is our territory, they must see us providing some services for our people and this has been brought to the fore a few times that our people there are complaining that we are not looking after them. We will immediately begin to provide them with those services.”
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Governor Abiodun pointed out that Ogun Waterside, due to its proximity to Delta, had security issues in the past when people from the Niger Delta made incursions into the area and carried out criminal activities, noting that it was imperative to have naval presence in the area.
He said his administration’s efforts at providing security to the people living in the area led to the procurement of gunboats for the police, maintaining that the presence of men of the Nigeria Navy would be highly welcome as towns in the area could only be accessible by water.
Speaking earlier, Rear Admiral Mustapha Hassan, who is the 44th Flag Officer Commanding, Western Naval Command, emphasised the need for the state to work towards becoming an oil-producing State through the Tongeji Island.
He said the Nigerian Navy had spread its operations to Tongeji to safeguard not only the lives of Nigerians living on the Island, but to protect the territorial integrity of Nigeria and all its assets, appealing to the governor to provide jetties for seamless operations there.
Hassan also pleaded with the state government to provide the inhabitants of the Island with a health facility, water supply, and electricity to give them a sense of belonging, suggesting also that the government could turn the Island into a tourism centre because of its potential.