Lawyer to Cameroonian separatists claimed on Tuesday that Nigeria could have made some errors in deporting two naturalised Nigerians and an American to Cameroon last weekend.
The trio was among the 47 Cameroonian separatists deported to Cameroon on Friday, said Abdul Oroh, a human rights activist and former member of the House of Representatives.
The Nigerians are citizens by naturalisation, he said. They are Dr. Ojong Okongho, a businessman and Mrs. Nalowa Bih, a lawyer, according to a letter by Oroh on Tuesday to United States Embassy, the British High Commission, United Nations Human Rights Council and others.
The American repatriated is Professor Awasum Augustine, a lecturer at Ahmadu Bello University Zaria.
The leader of the separatists in Nigeria, Sisuku Ayuk Tabe, who was also deported along with 46 others on Friday, teaches at the American University of Nigeria in Yola.
Three others Dr. Nfor Ngala Nfor, chairman of Southern Cameroon Council, Mr. Tussang Wolfred, a teacher and Barrister Shufai Blaise Berinyu, have already applied for political asylum in Nigeria.
Dr. Fidelis Nde Che, who was also bundled to Yaounde with them teaches at American University, while Dr. Henry Kimeng teaches at Ahmadu Bello University. Dr. Cornelius Kwanga iand Dr. Ogork Ntui are lecturers at Umar Musa Yar’adua University in Katsina, while Barrister Eyambe Elias is a refugee in Nigeria.
Abdul Oroh, who was also commissioner in Edo State, under former governor Adams Oshiomhole, said 39 other refugees were arrested in Jalingo, Taraba state, by the Police and all were deported, along with the leaders, who were arrested in Abuja by the Brigade of Guards on 5 January.
The latter were detained for several weeks by the Defence Intelligence Agency, DIA, he said.
Oroh described the deported Cameroonians as political activists and members of the Southern Cameroon National Council, “a body committed to preventing genocide and the oppression of the people of Southern Cameroon.”
“Our clients entered Nigeria legally through approved points of entry and have not committed any crime to warrant their arrest and deportation to Cameroon in breach of International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law subscribed to by the Nigerian Government,” Oroh said in the letter.
Oroh said the refugees were fleeing from “oppression and possible genocide from the Cameroonian military and paramilitary forces as directed by the Government of President Paul Biya.”
He said the purpose of their meeting in Abuja was to brief the Nigerian authorities about the situation in Southern Cameroon, solicit the support of the Nigerian Government in peacefully resolving the problem and to sensitise the Nigerian people who have gracefully hosted the refugees in the spirit of African brotherhood and as good neighbours.
Oroh appealed for urgent diplomatic intervention “to prevent the imminent prosecution and execution of the political prisoners as they cannot be guaranteed free and fair trial by the Cameroonian authorities.
“We also appeal that the prisoners be released forthwith to the UN High Commission for the Refugees in compliance with International Humanitarian Law. Assuming without conceding, that they were involved in armed conflict, they should be treated as hors de combat, guaranteed humane treatment and afforded all the judicial guarantees including presumption of innocence, which are considered indispensable by civilised peoples.”
In justifying the deportation of the Cameroonian rebels, the Nigerian authorities appeared to be relying on an International warrant issued for the arrest of Ayuk Tabe and others in November 2017, as the crisis in Anglophone Cameroon worsened.
So far, there has been no official word from the Nigerian authorities, either on the arrest or the deportation of the 47 Cameroonians. The only official confirmation came from Cameroon itself, where Minister of Communications, Issa Tchiroma Bakary said the “47 terrorists among them Mr. Ayuk Tabe has for some hours being in the hands of Cameroonian justice before which they will answer for their crimes.”
The deportation of the Cameroonians had precedence in 2006, when the Obasanjo administration, allowed former Liberian leader, Charles Taylor, who was on asylum in Nigeria, to be kidnapped and then shipped to Monrovia and later the International Court of Justice to face trial for war crimes.