The department of Maritime Boundary is charged with the responsibility of negotiating and delimiting our maritime boundary with proximate neighbours. It is also charged with the determination and management of our Extended Continental Shelf.
NIGERIA’S EXTENDED CONTINENTAL SHELF PROJECT
The National Boundary Commission embarked on the Project to extend Nigeria’s continental shelf in May, 2000, in accordance with Article 76 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The Article provides that a littoral State is entitled to make a claim of an extension of its maritime territory from the traditional 200M provided it can prove that the subsoil and seabed of the submarine areas at that distance are natural prolongations of its land territory, up to a distance of 350M (350 nautical miles). This proof involves very methodical and scientific analysis of huge geophysical/geological, hydrographic and geodetic data, in accordance with the guidelines of the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (UNCLCS) after carrying out extensive analysis of all collected data in the area to be claimed. When this claim is approved by the UN, Nigeria shall then exercise similar rights within the area in question as it does within its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). These include the sovereign rights for the purposes of exploring and exploiting the natural resources of the large area of up to 104,000km2 that Nigeria stands to gain, which is rich in hydrocarbons as well as fishery and other marine resources, in accordance with Article 76 of UNCLOS II of 1982. Nigeria will also be able to exercise right of jurisdiction with respect to artificial island, structures and installations.
National Boundary Commission entered into contractual agreement with the Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC) on behalf of Seaforth Engineering Group Inc., who have been commissioned to be the turn-key consultants to the Project. CCC is a Canadian Government owned outfit formed to mediate between Canadian contractors and foreign governments, to see to the smooth execution of any existing contractual obligations. Messrs. Seaforth phased the Project into three. Phase I involved the collection of available data and performing a Desktop Study of the data. Phase II was mainly the collection, processing and analysis of the additional data recommended in Phase I, while Phase III work involves the performance of the final analysis of all the available data which has been collected from Desktop Study to date, collation of documents associated with the submission and assimilating all of that into the format recommended in the Technical Guidelines of the CLCS for presentation to the UN.
When the Consultants finalize the submission, it will be presented to the Government of Nigeria, before presentation is made to the United Nations. The Consultants will also train the Nigerian Team on how the submission is to be made to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. Following the rules of procedure set by the CLCS, the submission is first made to the United Nations Division of Ocean Affairs and Law of the Sea (DOALOS), then to the CLCS after three months. Thereafter, there will be several question-and-answer sessions spanning the duration of the examination of the session (up to one and a half years) between the members of the Sub-Commission and the Nigerian team, made up of consultants, experts and officials. During the examination, the Sub-Commission will pose questions which will be deliberated upon by the Nigerian Team overnight and the answers read by a Nigerian official the next day. These questions are wholly technical in nature, and involve the manipulation of the huge dataset in Nigeria’s possession. In accordance with earlier submissions made, Nigeria will set up a fully equipped office in New York, throughout the examination sessions, where the team will work. In this regard, it is desirous to locate the offices in the Nigerian Permanent Mission for security reasons, otherwise, space must be sought close to the United Nations. Nigeria will also endeavour to inform all its maritime neighbours of Equatorial Guinea, Sao Tome and Principe, Cameroon, Benin and Ghana that it will make a submission for an extension of its continental shelf. It is also necessary to get the reviewed maritime legislation which was completed by Seaforth since 2006 and forwarded to the Ministry of Justice to be signed into law before the submission is made. This is because it includes the adoption of straight baselines which will give Nigeria a lot of advantages in the submission, against normal baselines in the present laws of Nigeria According to the time table drawn by the Consultants, Nigeria’s submission will be ready for submission by May 2009.
The Nigeria – Cameroon maritime boundary came into limelight with the ICJ ruling of 10thOctober, 2002. Following the judgment, the two countries set up a Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed Commission (CNMC) to implement the judgment peacefully. The Mixed Commission, as a way towards finding a technically sound solution for the implementation of the judgment, formed a Working Group to accomplish that task during its 8th Meeting in Abuja on 11th February 2004.
The Nigerian members of the Working Group put up a lot of arguments during the first few meetings held by the Working Group, which include that the Chart 3433 used by the ICJ does not have a datum. This was agreed to by the UN expert and he recommended taking field measurements to achieve the conversion. After the field work a number of options were put forward by the two countries and the UN experts, and after a lot of negotiation, Cameroon gave in to the Nigerian option. A maritime boundary was signed off by Prince Bola Ajibola and Ahmadu Ali, the Heads of the Nigerian and Cameroonian delegations to the Mixed Commission respectively on 10thMay 2007.
Nigeria shares a maritime boundary with the Republic of Benin both in the Sea and on Land. The maritime boundary negotiations between Nigeria and Benin Republic started as far back as 1968. The Joint Team of Technical Experts agreed at a boundary which was ratified by Benin but not Nigeria. At the 7th – 8th April, 2004 meeting in Lagos, a new boundary line was agreed to at the technical level, after which Benin asked a favour from Nigeria to waver the line, to allow it reach 200M. Nigeria refused this at the meeting held in Cotonou, Benin Republic from 23rd – 26th February 2004. Mr. President (Chief Olusegun Obasanjo) thereafter approved that negotiations with Benin Republic should continue on the technical and ministerial levels to surmount the impasse.
At the Joint Technical Meeting of 16th to 18th February 2005, a maritime boundary was agreed to, which allowed Benin to reach its 200M (EEZ), with a compensatory area for Nigeria. A Draft Treaty was signed off during the JTC and Joint Ministerial Council meetings held at Abuja from 8th to 10th June, 2005.
The two Heads of State, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR of Nigeria and his Beninese counterpart, Mr. Boni Yayi signed the Treaty on 4th August 2006 in Abuja and awaits the ratification by the two countries.
Nigeria shares a boundary of about eight nautical miles with Ghana far out into the sea. This phenomenon arose due to the pushing out of the baselines of both countries by the existence of a small protrusion along the coast of Ghana (Cape Three Points), and the Niger Delta along the coast of Nigeria.
After writing Ghana twice and sending a delegation to Accra over a period of two years, Ghana finally agreed to commence negotiations with Nigeria on our common maritime boundary last year. There have been two meetings held so far, one in Accra and one in Ghana. Negotiations are going on well, and are expected to be finalized before May 2009, since it is a prerequisite that all maritime boundary negotiations must be finalized before a submission is made to the UN.