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World Court Digest

I. Substantive International Law - First Part
1.3. Estoppel and Acquiescence

¤ Land and Maritime Boundary
between Cameroon and Nigeria
Preliminary Objections, Judgment,
I.C.J. Reports 1998, p. 275

[pp. 303-304] 57. Turning to the second branch of the objection, the Court will examine whether the conditions laid down in its jurisprudence for an estoppel to exist are present in the instant case.
An estoppel would only arise if by its acts or declarations Cameroon had consistently made it fully clear that it had agreed to settle the boundary dispute submitted to the Court by bilateral avenues alone. It would further be necessary that, by relying an such an attitude, Nigeria had changed position to its own detriment or had suffered some prejudice (North Sea Continental Shelf Judgment, I.C.J. Reports 1969, p. 26, para. 30; Land, Island and Maritime Frontier Dispute (El Salvador/Honduras), Application to Intervene, Judgment, I.C.J. Reports 1990, p. 118, para. 63).

These conditions are not fulfilled in this case. Indeed, as pointed out in paragraph 56 above, Cameroon did not attribute an exclusive character to the negotiations conducted with Nigeria, nor, as far as it appears, did Nigeria. Furthermore, Nigeria does not show that it has changed its position to its detriment or that it has sustained prejudice in that it could otherwise have sought a solution to the border problems existing between the two States by having recourse to other procedures, but was precluded from doing so by reliance on the positions allegedly taken by Cameroon.
58. Finally, the Court has not been persuaded that Nigeria has been prejudiced as a result of Cameroon's having instituted proceedings before the Court instead of pursuing negotiations which, moreover, were dead-locked when the Application was filed.
59. This being so, in bringing proceedings before the Court, Cameroon did not disregard the legal rules relied on by Nigeria in support of its second objection. Consequently, Nigeria is not justified in relying on the principle of good faith and the rule pacta sunt servanda, both of which relate only to the fulfilment of existing obligations. The second branch of Nigeria's objection is not accepted.