Five alleged members of the Ambazonia separatist movement, a Cameroonian group seeking independence from the Francophone country, are currently being detained at an Abuja Police station.
A PREMIUM TIMES reporter was on Wednesday not allowed to speak with the detainees when he visited the Asokoro Police station where they are being held.
According to Abdul Oroh, who has been providing legal support for the detainees, ”two out of the five in custody are among the 12 leaders of the group the Nigerian government arrested last month.”
Leader of the separatists, Julius Ayuk Tabe and 11 others who reportedly gathered at Nera Hotels Abuja on January 6 to discuss the influx of thousands of Cameroonian asylum seekers to Nigeria following protests in October were arrested and detained by Nigerian security for about a month. About 39 other Ambasonian separatist leaders were detained in Taraba. Dozens of those arrested were handed over to Cameroon authorities by the Nigerian government.
Cameroonian authorities confirmed they received some of the activists and vowed to prosecute them.
According to Mr. Abdul, there was uncertainty over the number of the separatists deported and the ones still in custody because the Nigerian government failed to announce the deportation which is being celebrated by Cameroonian authorities as a major victory in a clampdown on Mr. Tabe and other leaders of the self-proclaimed Ambasonia state in English-speaking parts of Cameroon.
“Only 10 out of the 12 arrested on January 6 were deported. The remaining two resisted the deportation insisting that they are of Nigerian nationality. They are John Ojong Okongho and Nsoh Nabowah Bih and they are among the five people currently being detained,” Mr. Oroh said.
He said the other three, Winifred Augustine, ThankGod Genesis and Nasiru Bah, ”were picked up randomly.”
“The five of them were brought to the police headquarters yesterday in a military vehicle with handcuffs and leg chains before they were later taken to the Asokoro Police station.
“They granted us access to them, we interrogated them. The interesting thing they said is that they are convinced that they were arrested by Cameroonian soldiers”, Mr. Abdul said.
“There is need to know whether Cameroonians can come to Nigeria, arrest people and keep them at the DIA (Defence Intelligence Agency) custody only to later pick them in a Cameroonian military air craft and take them to Cameroon.
“I don’t know the agreement we had with them (Cameroon) but I don’t think this is reasonable. This issue should be investigated thoroughly. The SSS are not involved, (for) the police, this is the first time they are hearing about the case.
“If this people have a problem with their government and they came to Nigeria to take refuge, we should protect them or hand them over to the UN high commission on refugee”, he added.
Jimoh Moshood, police spokesperson, did not answer or return text messages sent to his phone on Wednesday.
The unrest in Cameroon began in November 2016, when English-speaking teachers and lawyers in the North-west and South-west regions took to the streets, calling for reforms and greater autonomy.
They said they were ‘frustrated’ with the dominance of the French language in official matters and ‘marginalisation’ of Cameroon’s Anglophone population.
The protests were followed by a harsh government crackdown, as well as internet shut-downs and arrests.
In October 2017, the secessionist group declared the independence of the so-called Anglophone “state” of Ambazonia. International rights groups say that between 20 and 40 people were killed in clashes since late September.
According to Amnesty International, at least 500 people were detained in the aftermath of the announcement.
The UNHCR, the UN refugee agency reported that it has registered over 7,000 Cameroonians from the Anglophone regions, who have fled the unrest in the country to Nigeria.
Nigerian activists and lawyers such as Femi Falana and Jiti Ogunye have condemned the treatment by Nigerian government of the Cameroonian separatists.