Yoruba Nation is grounded in International Law

Yoruba Nation is grounded in International Law

By Dr. Olusola Oni

Oni, a Consultant Orthopaedic is a 1973 medical graduate of University of Ibadan and author of books on Yoruba medicine

Leicester, United Kingdom

18 FEB 2023 —

In 2002, the International Court of Justice used a 1913 agreement between Britain and Germany to determine the dispute between Cameroon and Nigeria over the Bakassi Peninsula. Other cases, such as, that between Libya and Chad and between Burkina Faso and Mali, have been similarly decided.

According to these cases, territorial borders agreed by colonial treaties were sacrosanct and binding on their successor countries. In other words, colonial and pre-colonial boundary treaties were a sort of conveyance of the limits of territory stipulated in the treaty. Hitherto, International Law has recognised only the treaties signed between the Europeans amongst themselves.

When the Europeans first came to Africa, however, they met peoples living within demarcated self-governing, usually monoethnic, territories. They signed treaties with these ethnographic entities. Britain, for example, accepted that a Yoruba country existed within its own borders, and on 3 July 1888, signed a treaty with that country, known then as Yorubaland. On 8 July 1888, notice of the treaty was published in the London Gazette. On 23 July 1888, the fact of the treaty’s ratification by Britain was communicated to the Alaafin, as the Head of Yorubaland. The treaty was underpinned with consideration, and to this end, Alfred Moloney, the Governor of the Colony of Lagos, sent the sum of £35.5s to the Alaafin.

Vienna Convention of the Law of Treaties Article 62.2 says: ‘A fundamental change of circumstances may not be invoked as a ground for terminating or withdrawing from a treaty:(a) if the treaty establishes a boundary.’

First, the 1888 Britain-Yoruba treaty established a boundary for the Yorubaland. Second, there was ‘a fundamental change of circumstance’, that is the Amalgamation of Yorubaland into Nigeria on I January 1914. According to the Article 62.2(a), that change of circumstance could not, and did not, terminate the territorial integrity of the Yorubaland. The continuing legal existence of the territorial integrity of the Yorubaland is irrefutable. Even the doctrine of uti possidetis (‘as you possess’) that the International Court of Justice frequently employed in African cases, applied to the Yorubaland. The Yoruba claim for a Homeland thus is grounded in International Law.

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