On Monday 08 January 2018, Democracy Chronicles reported the arrest of the leader of the separatist movement in Cameroon, Sisiku Ayuk Tabe, and some of his collaborators by Nigerian authorities on 05 January 2018 in Abuja. Several sources have stated that the arrests were made by the State Security Service (SSS), which is Nigeria’s primary domestic intelligence agency that styles itself as the Department of State Services (DSS). A BBC report on 08 January 2018 stated that the DSS denies any involvement. However, the African Bar Association (AfBA) addressed a letter to the Attorney General of Nigeria on 08 January 2018 on the matter.
The letter (posted in its entirety below this article) shows that the AfBA is not only concerned about its members who are among the abductees but is worried about the non-respect of the rights of all those who were taken away from Nera Hotel in Abuja last Friday and practically disappeared. The AfBA has expressed its fears that the Nigerian authorities might have the intention of handing over the separatist leaders to the Biya Government in Yaounde-Cameroon whereas they were in Nigeria seeking asylum. Such a move which will be tantamount to breaking international law related to protecting (the rights of) persons fleeing (political) persecution from their country of origin.
Moreover, the AfBA has reminded the Nigerian authorities that there is no extradition treaty between Nigeria and the Cameroun Republic. The AfBA also drew the attention of the authorities to the fact that the arrests did not follow due process and detaining these persons incommunicado any further would be breaking Nigerian law.
The AfBA called on Nigeria to release the abductees within 48 hours of receiving its letter or face legal action in international and local courts. It is the opinion of the AfBA that where Nigeria no longer wants the asylees on its territory it should take appropriate measures to facilitate their transit to another country (not Cameroon) where their rights will be protected.
This situation is drawing a lot of local and international attention. The UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed is currently in Nigeria. Though her presence there is reportedly a coincidence, the UN has said it is following the situation very closely.
Local actors such as the renowned Nigerian lawyer and human rights activist Femi Falana has also warned the Nigerian authorities of the implications of the arrests for Nigeria. He has highlighted that the Nigerian authorities must understand that self-determination is a basic human right.
While the Cameroonian authorities are denying any connection to the arrest, Anglophone Cameroonians in most towns in the North West and South West Regions have respected a call by the Interim Government of Ambazonia headed by Sisiku Ayuk Tabe to observe three days Ghost Town to protest these arrests. Democracy Chronicles is following this situation.
- BBC. “Nigeria’s DSS arrests Cameroon separatist leader“. 08 January 2018.
African Bar Association (AfBA) letter addressed to the Attorney General of Nigeria: