The whereabouts of ten Cameroonian citizens allegedly arrested by operatives of the State Security Service last Saturday in Abuja is unknown as the agency has refused to disclose information on the incident, Femi Falana, a human rights lawyer, has said.
In a petition to the Inspector-General of Police dated January 11, Mr. Falana said his efforts as well as that of the family members of the arrested persons to visit them in custody had been unsuccessful.
“You will agree with us that by not disclosing information on the abduction to the relatives of our clients the State Security Service has violated section 6 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act which has imposed a duty 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,” said Mr. Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, and a solicitor for the arrested persons.
“Similarly, by denying them access to their lawyers the fundamental right of our clients to fair-hearing has been breached by the State Security Service without any legal justification.”
The SSS could not be reached for comments as they are yet to appoint a spokesperson.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how the Cameroonians had reportedly assembled for a meeting at Nera Hotel in Abuja when a team of armed SSS operatives invaded the venue, abducted the men and took them away to an undisclosed place.
Those arrested include Julius Ayuk Tabe; Wilfred Tassang; Nfor Ngala Nfor; Augustine Awasom, a professor; Cornelius Kwanga; Henry Kimeng; Elias Eyambe, a lawyer; Nalova Bih, a lawyer; Ojong Okongo; and Fidelis Nde Che.
“Our clients are the leaders of the movement agitating for the creation of the Republic of Ambazonia in Cameroon,” Mr. Falana said.
“Our clients are not illegal immigrants in Nigeria as some of them have been granted political asylum by the federal government while others have valid permanent resident status in Nigeria apart from Professor Augustine Awasom who is a United States citizen.”
The group is leading a movement for an independent Ambazonia State, which seeks to break away from the domination of the French-speaking Cameroon.
Most leaders of the movement have since fled to neighbouring countries including Nigeria amidst a clampdown by the central government led by President Paul Biya.
Mr. Biya, 84, has been in office since 1982.
Mr. Falana urged the police chief to investigate the circumstances of the alleged abduction of the Cameroonians leaders by the SSS and any other security agency involved in the “embarrassing episode.”
He further urged the Nigerian government to charge the arrested persons to court if they have any evidence of criminal offence against them.
“Although we have confirmed that the Government of Cameroon has requested the federal government to repatriate our clients to Cameroon we are confident that the federal government will not accede to such request since there is no extradition treaty between the two countries. In the circumstance, the federal government ought to release our clients unconditionally.
“Take notice therefore that if our clients are not released from illegal custody or arraigned in court within 48 hours of the receipt of this letter we shall not hesitate to apply to the Federal High Court to secure the enforcement of their fundamental rights to personal liberty guaranteed by Section 35 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended and article 6 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act Cap A9 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.”