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Lawyers seek FG’s intervention for Ambazonian activists jailed in Cameroon

Lawyers representing the 10 detained professors, refugees, and activists have expressed their frustration over the repeated non-appearance of key representatives from Nigeria and Cameroon in a matter pending before the house of representatives’ committee on public petitions.

At the hearing on Wednesday, representatives of the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), the Cameroonian High Commissioner, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees coordinator (UNHCR), the attorney-general of the federation (AGF), and the ministry of foreign affairs were absent.

Abdul Oroh, a lawyer and former member of the house of representatives, said the university professors and other professionals were apprehended while in the custody of the DIA and subsequently transferred to Cameroon.

He urged the federal government to employ diplomatic and political measures to ensure the release of the detainees.

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Another lawyer, Joseph Awah Fru, said the detainees have been in detention for over five years, noting that they are law-abiding citizens, not criminals.

The lawyers stressed that it is important for all critical officials to be present at the hearing to provide their side of the story and allow for transparency.

They also called for Nigeria to use its regional influence to mediate and resolve the Southern Cameroon conflict, aiming to restore peace and stability to the Gulf of Guinea region.

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Speaking on the delays, Michael Irom, the committee chairman, promised to seek further legal implications by contacting the solicitor-general.

BACKGROUND

Known as Nera 10, the leaders of Southern Cameroon were arrested at the Nera Hotel in Abuja on January 5, 2018, by security agents and later repatriated to Yaounde, Cameroon.

They were arrested for allegedly engaging in what authorities claimed was a clandestine meeting against Cameroonian authorities.

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In Cameroon, the activists were brought before a military tribunal and sentenced to life imprisonment at the Kondengui maximum security detention facility with a fine of $525 million.

The federal high court in Abuja, in its judgment on March 1, 2019, called for the release and compensation of the detainees.

The decision was echoed by the UN human rights committee’s working group on arbitrary detention (WGAD) in its communication 59/2022 on October 14, 2022.

However, the federal high court in Abuja on March 1 and November 28, 2019, recognised the violations of their rights.

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The judge ruled that the state must pay N5 million (US$13,800) to each detainee for violating their fundamental rights, including the right to life, dignity, fair hearing, health, freedom of movement, and association.

Additionally, N200,000 in damages were awarded for their repatriation.

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The court issued a perpetual injunction against further violations and ordered the deportees’ return to Nigeria.

The detainees then petitioned the house of representatives to intervene on their behalf and free them from detention.

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The petition was presented to the committee on public petitions by a legal firm, FRULAW Chambers.

The names of the detainees are Julius AyukTabe, an information technology expert and vice president of the American University of Nigeria; Augustine ChehAwasum, a professor of veterinary surgery and diagnostic imaging at Ahmadu Bello University; Blaise BerinyuySevidzem, a lawyer, human rights advocate, solicitor, and notary public; Cornelius NjikimbiKwanga, a PhD holder in Economics and senior lecturer at Umaru Musa Yar’Adua University; and Egbe OgorkNtui, a PhD holder in Engineering and associate professor of structural engineering at Bayero University.

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Others are Elias EbaiEyambe, a Barrister-at-Law, advocate, solicitor, and notary public; Fidelis Ndeh-Che, a PhD holder in engineering and senior lecturer in engineering at the American University of Nigeria; Henry Tata Kimeng, a PhD holder in engineering and architecture and associate professor of engineering and architecture at Ahmadu Bello University; Nfor Ngala Nfor, a political scientist and author; and Wilfred FombangTassang, a secondary school teacher and trade union leader.

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