A human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), has called on the Federal Government to immediately release the seven Cameroonian separatists arrested by the Department of State Services in Abuja on Saturday.
Falana said in a statement that the arrested freedom fighters — Mr. Sikiku Tabe, Prof. Che Awasum, Mr. Nalowa Bih, Dr. Fidelis Che, Dr. Nfor Nfor, Dr. Henri Kumeng and Dr. Cornelius Kwanga — who are calling for the secession of the Southern region of Cameroon, entered Nigeria legally and thus should not be treated as criminals.
Mr. Falana said the agitators, who are calling for the creation of the independent state of Ambazonia, had been held incommunicado and denied access to their lawyers, doctors and relatives contrary to the provisions of the United Nations Minimum Standards for the Treatment of Prisoners.
Falana said, “Since the Cameroonians entered Nigeria legitimately their 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.
“Furthermore, their unquestionable and inalienable right to self-determination is protected by article 20 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights which has been ratified by both Nigeria and Cameroon.”
Mr. Falana advised the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), not to extradite the agitators as Nigeria had no extradition treaty with Cameroon, but the Federal Government of Nigeria should consider the safety of Nigerians in Bakassi who might suffer attacks from supporters of the arrested freedom fighters.
Falana said, “Having failed to crush the ideas which recently led to the demand for the state of Biafra by the members of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, the Federal Government should not attempt to provoke the marginalized people of Southern Cameroon by frustrating their legitimate demand for an independent state of Ambazonia.
“Since the Federal Government has not succeeded in completely defeating the dreaded Boko Haram sect it should not declare war on the people of Southern Cameroon and thereby further expose the displaced people of Bakassi to reprisal.
“We are therefore compelled to call on President Muhammadu Buhari to order the immediate release of the detained Cameroonian freedom fighters without any further delay. Since Nigeria has no extradition treaty with Cameroon, the Attorney General of the Federation lacks the vires to initiate extradition proceedings under the Extradition Act (E25) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 for the extradition of the detained Cameroonian freedom fighters.”
Falana added that although the Federal Government was under pressure from President Paul Biya of Cameroon to hand over the detainees to the security forces in Cameroon, it must be realized that the detainees were entitled to reside or visit Nigeria without any molestation.