Arrest of Ambazonian leaders: Nigerian media takes on Buhari says arresting the IG is a case of malignant ingratitude and amnesia 0

Quite easily, the law can be made to negate its very spirit. That is what we are experiencing in Nigeria with the arrest of some Cameroonian nationals residing in Nigeria. The citizens of Cameroon did not commit murder, rape a Nigerian or disrupt life in their country of residence. They are not arrested because they subverted our politics or are plotting to overthrow our democracy.

They are under arrest because they seek secession in their country and are perceived by the state of Cameroon as criminals. The victims include Julius Ayuk Tabe, Prof. Che Awasom, Nalowa Bih, a lawyer; Ojong Okongo, Dr. Fidelis Che, Dr. Nfor Nfor, Dr. Henry Kumeng, Elias Eyambe, a lawyer; and Dr. Cornelius Kwanga.

The persons were whisked away peremptorily as though this were a military government. For instance, Tabe was arrested at about 19:00 hours in an unnamed hotel by about 15 armed men in military gear.

The arrest of the men is against the background of the declaration of autonomy in the English-speaking parts of the republic of Cameroon. They call the new secessionist area The Republic of Ambazonia. Since its declaration in October last year, the streets of Cameroon have erupted with protests and dozens of its citizens have been killed, including police officers. Out of fear of arrests and persecution, some activists have left the country. About 40 are believed to be in Nigeria at the moment.

The English-speaking people want to assert themselves by separating from Cameroon, which is predominantly French-speaking. Its leader, Paul Biya, has been at odds with the movement and wants to treat the secessionists as treasonous.

Civil rights lawyer Femi Falana (SAN) raised the alarm and called for the release of the Cameroonians. Hear Falana: “Since the Cameroonians entered Nigeria legitimately, the arrest and detention by the Federal Government cannot be justified under the law. As Africans, the detainees are entitled to human rights, to personal liberty, freedom of association and freedom of expression guaranteed by the Nigerian constitution.”

The barrister, who is standing for them as their lawyer, is right. The arrests were another chapter in official impunity under attorney general Abubakar Malami. The families of the victims have not been able to reach their loved ones, and this is a charge that Falana lodged in the heart of this government. Malami and the Federal Government have not been able to offer an explanation for this in a democracy.

“You will agree with us that by not disclosing information on the abduction to the relatives of our clients, the State Security Service (SSS) has violated section 6 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act,” noted Falana. He explained that the act imposed on any authority “having custody of a suspect to notify the next of kin or relative of the suspect of the arrest at no cost to the suspect.”

If the relatives cannot see them, even the lawyer is also denied access. This is a sort of de facto double jeopardy for the arrested. To arrest them is wrong, and to hide them only equates with the activities of banana republics.

The Cameroonians have been meeting in Nigeria under a body known as the Governing Council of Ambazonia. As Falana explained, they are entitled to the protection of the fundamental rights provision according to Article 20 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights that Nigeria and Cameroon ratified.

The charter says, “1. All peoples shall have the right to existence. They shall have the unquestionable and inalienable right to self-determination. They shall freely determine their status and shall pursue their economic and social development according to the policy they have freely chosen. 2. Colonised or oppressed peoples shall have the right to free themselves from the bonds of domination by resorting to any means recognised by the international community. 3. All peoples shall have the right to the assistance of the State Parties to the present Charter in their liberation struggle against foreign domination, be it political, economic or cultural.”

This should be clear to the attorney general and the SSS. But what is going on is the escalation of impunity that we have seen visited on the leader of the Shiite group, Ibrahim El-ZakZaky and the former national security adviser Sambo Dasuki. Both men have been arrested for many months without trial.

Some analysts have advanced the view that Nigeria should not be seen to counter the leadership of Cameroon because they are cooperating with Nigeria in the war against Islamic insurgency. But that has nothing to do with the rule of law. Both countries are signatories.

Again, we should not forget that Nigeria is not the only country that hosts secessionists around the world or persons regarded as treasonous. Recently the Catalonia leader Carles Puigdemont left Spain and was not harassed in Brussels where he fled.

We should not forget that our democracy is a beneficiary of so-called subverts who rallied Nigerians and the international community against military dictatorship under Sani Abacha. Our fellow citizens were accommodated and even encouraged in Europe and the United States.

Arresting the Cameroonians is a case of malignant ingratitude and amnesia.