A Southern Cameroon group pushing for an independent state has asked the Nigerian government to release its leaders being detained by Nigeria’s Defence Intelligence Agency.
Julius Ayuk Tabe and 11 other leaders of the group were picked up by the DIA after they arrived Abuja for a meeting over two weeks ago.
The group has been outlawed by the government of Cameroon for seeking the break up of the Central African country.
In a statement on Tuesday signed by Chris Anu, as Secretary of Communications and IT, Federal Republic of Ambazonia, the group demanded the release of the detainees.
The statement said that “the Federal Government of Nigeria abducted the President of the Southern Cameroons Interim Gov’t, Sisikou Julius Ayuk Tabe, with 11 leaders of the Interim Government.”
The Anglophone Cameroonians led by Mr. Tabe declared the secession of south-west Cameroon as “Federal Republic of Ambazonia” in October 2017.
The group accused the Nigerian government of violating the fundamental human rights of their leaders,having allegedly kept them incommunicado and denied them access to lawyers and family members.
It condemned, “The clandestine abduction of the President of the Southern Cameroons Interim Gov’t, Sisikou Julius Ayuk Tabe, plus 11 other leaders of the Interim Government who were abducted along with them
“The reckless and utter violation of their fundamental human rights by virtue of their being kept incommunicado and denied access to Lawyers and family members by the Gov’t of Nigeria.
“Worse still, for the over two weeks of abduction, the Nigerian Government hasn’t as much as made a single statement on their whereabouts and the reason(s) for the abduction,” the group said.
The statement insisted that reports and narratives in the media referring to them as separatists fighting to secede from Cameroon were erroneous.
“The erroneous narrative in the media to the effect that Southern Cameroonians are fighting to secede or that we are separatists. Nothing could be father from the truth.”
Mr. Anu said the people are not southern Cameroonian but Amazonians, saying these issues needed to be addressed as they were giving the Government of Nigeria “negative international media”.
“First, let me make one point very clear, I am not a Cameroonian, I am Ambazonian. And if you like, call it the former British Southern Cameroons.”
According to him, “they (the detainees) were abducted at gunpoint by heavily armed men of the Nigerian National Intelligence Agency (NIA) on January 5th and taken to unknown destinations which up-til today still remain a secret.”
“They were picked up precisely from Nera Hotel here in Abuja where they were holding a planning meeting on accommodation and feeding for the increasing number of Southern Cameroons refugees who are here in Nigeria.”
“Statistics show that there are close to 40,000 Southern Cameroons Refugees in Nigeria, spread across Cross River State, Akwa Ibom State and Tariba state, out of which we know that the UNHCR has only been able to officially register about 10000. This was the reason for the meeting they were holding when they were picked up.”
Mr. Anu also said of the 12 persons “being illegally held by the Nigerian gov’t, about 90% of them are refugees.
“They are officially registered with the Nigerian Refugee Commission and
the UNHCR. The few among them who are not refugees all have duly accredited papers to live and work in Nigeria.
He gave their names of the detainees as: Sisikou AyukTabe Julius, Nfor Ngala Nfor, Fidelis Nde Che, Henry Kimeng, Augustine Awasum, Cornelius Kwanga, Barrister Nalowa Bih, Barrister Eyambe Elias, Tassang Wilfred, Ojong Okongho, Ogork Ntui and Shufai Blaise Berinyuy.
“Can the Nigerian Gov’t explain to Southern Cameroonians why their President and their leaders are under lock and key? Can the Nigerian Gov’t step out and tell the world, once and for all what crime or crimes they committed?
“Will the Nigerian Gov’t let our leaders see their families and have access to their lawyers? Above all, if the Nigerian Gov’t will neither press any charges against them, nor say anything about their incarceration, then they ought to be freed and allowed home to be with their families.”
“Today, on the behalf of the Interim Gov’t of Ambazonia, (in my capacity as Communication Secretary), I’m making a very strong appeal to the Gov’t of President Buhari to Let our people go, please set them free, they did not commit any crime and have not been accused of any.”
“It’s a disservice to their wives and children to keep them under lock and key as if they are some terrible criminals.
“And let me make it very clear. In the last few days we have heard some allegations to the effect that the Nigerian Gov’t joined by some international bodies are holding them to some kind of talks before they are released.
“We of the Southern Cameroons Interim Gov’t hope that this allegation is not true because any form of agreement forced upon them while they remain incommunicado will never ever be binding on the people and nation of Ambazonia.”