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Opinions of Friday, 28 December 2018

Columnist: Silas Atefor

Refugees and foreigners legally residing in Nigeria need justice too

Muhammadu Buhari, President of Nigeria Muhammadu Buhari, President of Nigeria

You have always presented yourself as incorruptible and a man of intergrity and honour. However the circumstances surrounding the abduction of 12 Southern Cameroonians legally resident in Nigeria from NERA Hotel Abuja on January 5th 2018 and their subsequent 'transfer' to Cameroon, puts your incorruptible nature and integrity into question. Above all, facts related to the issue seems to suggest that greed in your administration overrides international law, national laws, the rule of law and national honours.

Before I proceed to the crux of the matter, let me extend my end of year pleasantries believing that your presence in church with your vice president Prof Yemi Osibanjo to grace the 2018 Christmas activities was a call from the heart. I pray that God will give you the good health and strength you need to pursue your endeavours and to ensure that justice is delivered to the abducted Ambazonians (Former Southern Cameroonians) in question.

It is not in my character to spill words intended for your excellency in the market place. However, considering the seriousness of this issue to our nation and also considering the difficulties that will be involved in trying to get this letter directly to your person, I have opted to make this letter public. This have I done so that should you fail to read it yourself owing to your busy schedule, one of the many public readers will at least convey my message to you. On this ground I pray you overlook the medium and attend to my concern.

I read quite much and with enthusiasm about the War Against Indiscipline (WAI) which you instituted during your rule as the military Head of State of Nigeria (1983-1984). Your Zeal to fight corruption in Nigeria as exhibited during your Presidential campaign in 2014/15 was loud sounding. With these in mind, never did it cross my mind that law abiding persons like the abducted Ambazonians in question could be victims of immeasurable injustice under your administration. These persons since their abduction in January 5th 2018 are detained incommunicado in Cameroun, suffering the unspeakable, for no crime commited against any one. If I am wrong correct me.

Your Excellency, permit me to situate my letter for your better appreciation and action. On January 5th 2018, 12 persons - University Lecturers and Lawyers, who have contributed significantly to Nigeria's economy (Sisiku AyukTabe Julius, Deacon Tassang Wilfred, Barrister Eyambe Elias, Barrister Shufai Blaise Berinyuy, Mr Nfor Ngalla Nfor, Prof Cheh Augustine Awasum, Dr. Fidelis Ndeh-Che, Dr. Cornelius Njikimbi Kwanga, Dr. Egbe Ogork Ntui, Dr. Henry Tata Kimeng, Dr. Okongho Ojong and Barrister Nalowa Bih - all Ambazonians, except the last two) met in NERA Hotel Abuja Nigeria. They met to share end of year compliments and to ponder on their situation as refugee and asylum seekers and the exercebating refugee situation of their parents, brothers, sisters and children who are pouring into Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Benue and Taraba States of Nigeria on account of Cameroon military brutality on them in their territory- the Southern Cameroons. As they were settling down to share a drink in the garden of Nera Hotel Abuja at about 8pm of that Friday, they were accusted and abducted by uniform and non-uniformed men armed to the teeth and battle ready, in the plain view of over 600 other person who were also relaxing in the garden that night. From January 5th 2018 to January 25th 2018 they were detained in the defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) in Nigeria incommunicado and without a charge.

On January 25th 2018, 10 of the 12 persons (excluding the last two) were bundled and smuggled into a Cameroun military cargo plane in the Nnamdi Azikiwe International airport Abuja and air bound for Cameroun under conditions that violated air transport laws. While in Cameroun they were detained in Secretariat D’Etat de Defence (SED) till November 22nd 2018, when they were moved to Kondengui maximum security prison where they are still being incarcerated incommunicado.

Surprisingly these group of person had extensive interactions with the police authorities in Abuja High Command and the IGP's Office, exposing their plight ; the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) in the person of H.E Abubakar Malami Abubakar drawing his attention to the need for the Federal government of Nigeria to implement the 2002 Abuja High court ruling which was to their favour in the case of Gumne et al on behalf of the people of the Southern Cameroons vs Federal Governement of Nigeria (FGN). The ruling required that the FGN takes up the course of the self determination of the Southern Cameroons and to persue it to its logical conclusion. In addition to these, a good number of awareness creation and letters were written to the agencies/offices of the Federal Government on this issue. Nigeria as the giant of Africa has supported other African countries against colonialism and pursuit of peace. Considering our historic and geographical ties with the Southern Cameroons, Nigeria is expected to play a even bigger role in resolving their problems.

With the above mentioned few aspects and many more in mind, I really find it difficult coming to terms with the reality that your administration reduced the dignity of our great nation which is viewed as the “giant of Africa” and stooped low in trading in humans across international boarders with Cameroun. In the light of the above facts, I am compelled to ask you the following questions: 1. Have you abandoned the noble fight against corruption and indiscipline? 2. Have you no concern for their refugees numbering over 100,000 and counting, streaming into Nigeria? 3. Do you think that with such an act on foreigners, other foreign investors and foreign professional will consider Nigeria a favourable FDI destination?

4. What crimes did these gentlemen as legal residents and refugee in Nigeria Commit? Worthy of note is the fact that upon unbundling from the plane in Yaounde, Cameroun, they were labelled terrorist in line with the adage “give a good dog a bad name in order to hang it”.

Almost a year after their abduction, they have not been charged to court for any crime demonstrating their innocence. These 10 abductees says they have waited patiently but in pains for you to realise the grievious injustice you perpetuated by trading them to Cameroun and to redress your steps and action. They say their waiting has been long but they hope its not in vain.

I wish you could use your good Office to rescue these foreigners, (who were lawfully residing in Nigeria) from their current plight in Cameroun and redeem Nigeria's reputation internationally. An honest man is one who realizes his mistakes and takes up the task and timely too to redress them.

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