"It is true that the project is huge and a welcome relief to the people of the area and government of Cameroon in its policy drive to make Cameroon an emerging Nation as it will bring jobs, and development to the locality. All that notwithstanding, the aboriginal rights of the indigenous people cannot be disregarded." Ndian High Court.
Excerpt of Ruling issued in open court.
The originating summons filed by the Plaintiff sought the courts determination of the following legal questions.
(1) “Whether or not the defendants can legally enter upon land in Mundemba and Toko Sub Divisions, indiscriminately plant survey beacons purporting to demarcate the area of land purportedly ceded to them and fell down timber and bulldoze large areas of land without due authorization and without regards to existing farms and village settlements.
(2) “Whether or not defendants can legally commence their operations of establishing an oil Palm Plantation in Mundemba and Toko Sub Divisions of Ndian Division without having satisfactorily carried out an environmental impact assessment in accordance with the provisions of law no.96/12 of 5th August 1996 relating to environmental management and its decree of application no.2005/0577/PM of 23rd February 2005 laying down modalities for carrying out environmental impact assessment.”
The above questions for determination clearly show that the plaintiffs in the substantive action are neither laying any claims to land nor are they contesting the ownership of same. The contention in the substantive action raises purely questions of illegality or the non respect of laid down rules. It is trite law that issues relating to non-compliance with due process of the law can only be construed by the courts.
It is also trite principle that the non respect of laid down procedures raises issued of Human Rights Violation which can only be litigated or construed by ordinary law courts. Those issues are clearly outside the scope of the Land Consultative Boards.
The temptation albeit erroneously is the tendency to hold that any thing about unregistered land must automatically go to the Land Consultative Boards. That view is erroneous because the right to land in Cameroon is not to be judged only as a function of registration or land certificate.
The state are arguably the technical owners of land by virtue of legislation, but the indigenous people who have inhabited these lands for ages, with farms, village settlements and even shrines on these lands enjoy possessory rights which are predicated on ancestral ownership.
Hence for the ordinary courts not to have jurisdiction it must be shown unequivocally that ownership is squarely and patently in issue. That not being the case in the instant case, the courts must come in.
It is true that the project is huge and a welcome relief to the people of the area and government of Cameroon in its policy drive to make Cameroon an emerging Nation as it will bring jobs, and development to the locality. All that notwithstanding the aboriginal rights of the indigenous people cannot be disregarded.
Based on the foregoing this court reiterate the former order of this court and proceed to rule and order thus :
1) That the applicants herein who are defendants in the substantive action are temporarily prohibited from proceeding with their acts on the lands found in Mundemba and Toko Sub Divisions until the mandatory environmental impact assessment is carried out with a view to evaluate the impact of their acts on the natural and human environment of these areas, establish all measures envisages to avert them;
2) Compensate those directly affected by their farms and village settlements, on the basis of the relevant law which is the Prime Ministerial text on the subject;
3) Compensate those affected by taking of their ancestral prossessory rights.
4) Reach a clear understanding with the indigenous people by way of a memorandum of understanding for the project, to avert any future conflicts;
5) That above orders be complied with. No cost.
“ IN WITNESS WHEREOF, the present Ruling is signed by the President and the Registrar-in-Chief of the Court”.