1960, Nigeria became a sovereign, independent state and a
member of the United Nations Organization. It legally
acquired the status of a subject of international law.
Long before 1960, Nigeria had existed as a
group of nation-state entities. The Kingdom of Benin, the
Oyo Kingdom, Kanem Bornu, the Sokoto Caliphate, Songhai,
were sovereign entities, which existed on the same footing
of equality like some German Princedoms, Arab Emirates,
Liechtenstein, Andorra etc.
I disagree with some Western International
lawyers, who argue that international law was unknown to
Africans until their independence in the late 1950’s and
Let me remind such scholars that the Kingdom
of Benin established diplomatic relations with Portugal in
1492. The Kanem-Bornu Empire exchange gifts with the Ottoman
Sultan of Istanbul in the 12th century. Borno
established diplomatic relations with Libya and trained
diplomatists in foreign affairs.
As a result our lazy attitude to learning, we
readily accept Euro-America definitions, theories and
assertions and internalize these as eternal truths.
The UN seems to have lost its grip as the
regulator of international relations. African states play
marginal roles in the UN business as a result of diminished
sovereign status, weak economic strength and poor
Anyone knowledgeable in the field of
International Law should be wondering whether the United
Nations today is an international community governed by
international Law or by geo-politics.
The community of Nations has long established
and has been guided by international legal rules from which
no derogation is permissible.
From the Secretary-Generalships of Dag
Hammarskjold to Dr Kurt Waldheim, International Law put
states under the effective regime of International Law.
In the last fourteen years, however, it would
seem that the Secretaries-Generals from Africa and Asia have
been put under tremendous pressures to succumb to the
geo-politics of powerful states and their adversaries. As a
result, the progressive development of international law and
relations has suffered inexorably.
In the last three years, the podium of the UN
Assembly is mounted by Presidents, whose utterances do not
assist in maintaining international peace and security but
their speeches extend the horizon for of antiquated
rivalries in the pursuit of geo-political interests.
The just convened UN General Assembly on
Poverty did not resolve the international division of labour,
whereby African states supply raw materials at controlled
prices, while Euro-American states sell their manufacture
goods at the prices they dictate. Under this unequal
division of international economic relations, poverty cannot
be eradicated. Is that clear?
THE purpose of the United Nations:
The Charter of the United Nations
Organization and various Declarations, Conventions,
Covenants, Treaties and Protocols, explicitly define the
purpose of the United Nations Organization
The UN is to maintain international peace and
security, apply universally accepted principles of
international law to regulate the political, diplomatic,
economic and cultural affairs of member-states and in some
cases, corporate bodies that have international legal
status. The UN operates through many of its agencies to
smoothen relations between member-states.
It has an International Court of Justice and
a weak International Criminal Court. When this Court
acquires the objectivity and fearlessness required of every
court, it will try some leaders, who have committed crimes
against humanity in various parts of the world.
The United Nations evolved principles of jus
cogens, which all states must obey, but are being flouted by
powerful states. This weakens the authority of the United
The peoples of the United Nations need
friendly relations and cooperation among states and so
should put pressure on their governments to forge amicable
relations among peoples, rather than let hate-mongering
diatribes, which lead to war and wastage of resources and
human lives, prevail.
The principle that States shall refrain in
their international relations from the threat of use of
force against the territorial integrity or political
independence of any state, or in any other manner
inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations had
been violated ,in the past forty years with impunity. Any
further violation of this principle of jus cogens could be
UN members’ states must enjoy equal rights,
especially the inalienable right to self determination.
International law promotes the judicial
equality of all states and the rights inherent in full
sovereignty. The above principles are “inter-related and
each principle should be construed in context of other
International Law insists that every state
has the right to choose its political, economic and social
order provided that a democratic system will be put in
place. The legal system condemns aggression, the forcible
occupation of states and its people, the destruction of
cities, temples, churches, mosques and hospitals.
The United Nations Security Council must
prevent acts of aggression and other acts, which may lead to
the commission by states of internationally wrongful acts.
State officials are now prone to prosecution for committing
crimes against humanity and corrupt practices.
Every State has duties to promote the good
health, security and well-being of their citizens as well as
adopt peaceful measures to foster international peace and
The most contentious issue in contemporary
international law is the Aid to Gaza dispute. The United
Nations Conventions on the Law of the Sea was concluded in
Geneva in 1958 and in 1960. It laid strong foundations for
effective regulation of maritime movements of ships.
In May 2010, nine activists were killed in
the process of delivering aid to the people of Gaza. This
incident yields itself to scrupulous international legal
analysis by an objective observer. There were lapses on both
Ocean space is divided into the open sea,
territorial waters, contiguous zone and the continental
shelf. Very often, international economic interests play an
important role in maritime disputes.
In the Aid Dispute, geo-political issues were
The international legal issues in dispute
are: What is the legal status of Israeli blockade? For a
blockade to be legal, it must be aimed at self-defence. It
must have been approved by the UN Security Council. It must
be effective. It must not be prolonged. It must not hinder
humanitarian efforts to alleviate the suffering of those
people under blockade.
A major issue is whether the use of force
against those, who tried to affront the blockade, was
minimal or excessive. Where the incident took place is
important. Was it in the open sea or in territorial waters?
It is also necessary to investigate whether the flotilla was
acting in utmost good faith or was voluntarism at work? Was
In international maritime law, passage along
the open sea or territorial sea of any state must be
innocent. Innocent passage means that the passage must not
be prejudicial to the peace, good order or security of the
coastal state. Such a passage must con form with the
Conventions on the Law of the Sea and other rules of
According to Article 25 of the Law of the
Sea, a call at port must not jeopardize the security of the
coastal state. It is difficult to apply this principle if
the flotilla was in the open sea.
This episode in issue is complicated because
both the flotilla organizers and the Israelis have their
explanations, which suit their viewpoints. No-one can offer
opinion that can be accepted by both sides.
In international law, a state has the right
of self-defence. This right must be exercised with
restraint. In this case, the United Nations should have
quickly intervened by ascertaining that the flotilla did not
carry any arms.
This information should have been conveyed to
the Government of Israel. This action would have caused the
Government of Israel to use very minimum force, if this
After HAMAS won the last elections, they
should have been allowed to exercise their right to govern.
It would have become obvious whether they would have behaved
like a government or like a liberation movement.
Throwing missiles in Israel may never resolve
the conflict but will serve to win sympathy for Israel and
push Israel to adopt stratagems of self help.
The UN-IRAN relations are a cause for
concern. The UN speech by the President of Iran, Mahmud
Ahmadinajab dwelt on historical facts about US foreign
policies, he does not agree with. He also insisted that Iran
will continue with its nuclear programme.
The US insists that Iran must stop its
nuclear programme and has put in place far-reaching
sanctions to prevent Iran from going ahead with its nuclear
research, as it is feared that Iran could develop nuclear
weapons. Iran continues to insist that its programme is for
This creates a problem for those states,
which fear that Iran could attack them. With the benefit of
hindsight no leader can pretend that he does not know about
the fate of victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the insanity
in the destruction of human beings through the use of
weapons of mass destruction.
Any leader, who wants to commit suicide, has
my permission, but to succumb to the devil’s machinations
to exterminate man on earth using contentious leaders to
achieve this diabolical plan, is undesirable.
Yonatan Shapira and other Jews are leading
another flotilla to Gaza and Israel is threatening physical
intervention and this may open another conflict situation in
the Middle East.
The performance of Mr. Banki Moon has not
been very efficient and informed. A top UN diplomat resigned
in protest recently. Banki Moon’s handicap has been traced
to powerful influences and non-application of international
Professor Dr. Emmanuel Omoh Esiemokhai is the
President of the proposed Afemai University in Fugar, Edo
state; Nigeria He is a Writer and Academic.