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THE CASE:

In an application dated 29 March 1994, amended on 6 June 1994, Cameroon asked the Court
to determine the question of sovereignty over the Bakassi Peninsula and over islands in Lake
Chad, and to specify the course of the land and maritime boundary between Cameroon and
Nigeria. As a basis of jurisdiction the former referred to the declaration made by both States
under Article 36, paragraph 2, of the Statute of the Court. Nigeria raised eight preliminary
objections to the jurisdiction of the Court and the admissibility of Cameroon's claims. The
proceedings on the merits were accordingly suspended and time-limits fixed within which
Cameroon had to present its observations on the preliminary objections. While the procedure
on the preliminary objections was pending, Cameroon, requested the Court to indicate
provisional measures after serious armed incidents had taken place between the forces of
both Parties in the Bakassi Peninsula.
CAMEROON’s REQUEST
In its request for provisional measures Cameroon had asked the Court to indicate that the
armed forces of the Parties should withdraw to the position they were occupying before the
Nigerian armed attack and that the Parties should abstain from all military activity along the
entire boundary as well as from any act which might hamper the gathering of evidence. In its
order the Court found that both Parties should ensure that no action of any kind, and
particularly no action by their armed forces, is taken which might prejudice the rights of the
other in respect of whatever judgment the Court may render in the case, or which might
aggravate or extend the dispute before it. The Court underlined that the indication of
provisional measures did not affect the pending question of jurisdiction and admissibility or
the decision to be taken on the merits.
The ICJ delivered its decision on the preliminary objections in the case. It rejected seven of
the eight objections and stated that the eighth objection had not an exclusively preliminary
character and thus joined it to the merits.
NIGERIA’s ARGUMENTS:

With its first objection Nigeria contended that the Court had no jurisdiction in the case
due to the fact that the declaration of Cameroon under Article 36, paragraph 2, of the Statute
and dating 3 March 1994 had been transmitted to the parties of the Statute only nearly one
year later. The effect of the belated transmission was that Nigeria did not know of the
acceptance of the jurisdiction by Cameroon on the date of the filing of the application. The
ICJ rejected the objection concluding that the general rule reflected in Articles 16 and 24 of
the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, which, as the Court observed, may only be
applied to declarations accepting the Court's jurisdiction as obligatory by analogy, was that
the deposit of the instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession establishes
the consent of a State to be bound by a treaty. The treaty enters into force as regards that
State on the day of the deposit. By these findings the ICJ confirmed its decision concerning
the Right of Passage over Indian Territory-Case. The ICJ rejected the argument of Nigeria that
the omission of information concerning the acceptance of the Court's jurisdiction infringed
upon the principle of good faith. Good faith does neither contain an obligation to inform other
States parties to the Statute of the intention to accept the Court's jurisdiction nor to bring
proceedings before the Court. Finally the ICJ did not accept the objection of Nigeria claiming
that there was no reciprocity because of the lack of information. As in other cases already the
Court observed in this regard that the notion of reciprocity is concerned with the scope and
substance of commitments entered into and not with the formal conditions of their creation,
duration or extinction. The delay in the receipt of the copies of the declaration of acceptance
did therefore not affect the principle of reciprocity.

In its second objection Nigeria stated that for a period of 24 years the Parties had tried to
settle the dispute and that this meant that they accepted a duty to settle all boundary
questions by bilateral negotiation, Cameroon being, according to the argument of Nigeria,
thus estopped from turning to the Court. With regard to the first argument the Court found
that the negotiations could not imply an exclusion of the possibility to bring the dispute before
the Court since in Article 33 of the UN Charter negotiation and judicial settlement are
enumerated together. As to the argument of estoppel the Court observed that this would
only exist if by its acts or declarations Cameroon had consistently made it fully clear that it
agreed to settle the dispute by negotiation alone, which condition was not fulfilled in the
present case.

The third objection related to the boundary delimitation in the Lake Chad which, according
to Nigeria, was entrusted to the exclusive competence of the "Lake Chad Basin Commission".
The Statute of this Commission, which was established as an international organization, did,
however, not contain any provisions for the settlement of disputes through the Commission
and did furthermore not allow to consider it as a "regional arrangement or agency" within the
meaning of Article 52 of the UN Charter. But even if it were otherwise the existence of
procedures for regional negotiation could not prevent the Court from exercising its functions.
Even the fact that the Commission was engaged in finding a demarcation in the Lake Chad
Basin could not lead to judicial self-restraint of the Court on grounds of judicial propriety.
Therefore, the Court rejected also the third objection.

The fourth objection related to the fact that the boundary between Cameroon and Nigeria
in Lake Chad affected at its final point a third State, the Republic of Chad, and that therefore
the Court could not determine this tripoint without the participation of the third State in the
proceedings. This question had already been dealt with by the Court in prior cases and the
Court found that in this case the legal interests of Chad as a third State not party to the case
did not constitute the very subject matter of the case so that the Court could proceed without
the participation of Chad.

With its fifth objection Nigeria alleged that there was no dispute concerning "boundary
delimitation as such" throughout the whole length of the boundary from the tripoint in Lake
Chad to the sea. With regard to its prior statements concerning the question of the existence
of a dispute the Court found that not the whole boundary was in dispute but that Nigeria had
not clearly presented its own position of that matter in order to see as to which sectors of the
boundary there was agreement between the parties and where not. Thus it was impossible
to define at this stage of the proceedings the exact scope of the claim; however, it was evident
that a dispute existed between the two parties, at least as to the legal bases of the boundary.

The sixth objection was to the effect that there was no basis for a judicial determination
that Nigeria was responsible under international law for the alleged frontier incursions.
Nigeria contended that the submissions of Cameroon in this respect were not precise enough
as to dates, circumstances and locations and that therefore Nigeria did not have the necessary
knowledge in order to prepare its reply. The Court stated that this objection concerned mainly
the requirements which an application must meet under Article 38, paragraph 2, of the Rules
and that this provision did not preclude later additions to the statement of the facts and the
grounds on which a claim is based because it does not provide that the applicant State is
strictly limited to what it had said in its application.
In its seventh objection Nigeria contended that for two reasons there was no legal dispute
concerning the delimitation of the maritime boundary between the two Parties which was at
the present time appropriate for resolution by the Court. In the first place, no determination
of the maritime boundary was possible prior to the determination of title in respect of the
Bakassi Peninsula, and secondly, after having determined the title over the Bakassi
Pensinsula, the issues of maritime delimitation had first to be addressed by the Parties on
order to effect a delimitation by agreement according to the Convention on the Law of the
Sea. The Court rejected both arguments. It found that, indeed, it had first to determine the
title over Bakassi Peninsaula, but since it was seized with both questions it was free to arrange
the order in which it would address the issues before it. As to the question of the necessity of
first trying to delimit the boundary by agreement, the Court noted that it had not been seized
on the basis of Article 36, paragraph 1, of the Statute and , in pursuance of it, in accordance
with Part XV of the Convention on the Law of the Sea, but on the basis of Article 36, paragraph
2, of the Statute which does not require prior negotiations before addressing the Court.
Therefore the Court rejected this objection also.

With its eighth objection Nigeria argued that the question of maritime delimitation
necessarily involved rights and interests of third States and was to that extent inadmissible
without the participation of those third States in the proceedings. The Court found that this
question was relevant only with respect to the maritime boundary beyond a particular point
G within the Gulf of Guinea and that, the rights and interests of Equatorial Guinea and Sao
Tome and Principe could possibly become involved if the Court acceded to Cameroon's
request. Whether this would be the case could, however, not be decided as a preliminary
matter but only in the context with the merits of Cameroon's request. Therefore, the Court
stated that the eighth preliminary objection did not possess an exclusively preliminary
character.