The arrest of 39 suspected members of a militia group in Nguroje town of Sardauna local government area of Taraba State about three weeks ago has continued to heighten tension in the Mambilla Plateau. The area was yet to recover from a recent crisis, which claimed several lives and destruction of property. So, the arrival of the strange men was a serious cause for concern, leading speculation on the mission of the people, alleged to be from Cameroon.
A resident of the area, Malam Garba Haruna, said “We became suspicious because all the 39 men were accommodated in one house belonging to a lady called Madam Panso.” He said the suspects always play football at the Government Day Secondary School field in the mornings and evenings. “What made us more suspicious was the kind of training they receive mostly in the night, and in the forest close to the secondary school.”
Haruna said Madam Panso was confronted, and she claimed they were refugees from Southern Cameroon. “However, when the men spent up to two weeks in that house and we did not see any security man around we decided to report them to the army,” he said. He added that they discovered that 34 of the suspects were Cameroonians, while 5 were from the Niger Delta and were the ones offering military training to the rest.
Another resident, Malam Tanimu said their suspicion rose from the fact that “The first batch of refugees that came to Gembu from Southern Cameroon were made up of men, women and children but in this case all of them were able-bodied men. Even the desk officer of the State Emergency Management Agency is not aware of their stay in Nguroje.”
“Our fear was that the group might be a militia group receiving training, which was why every member of the community was at alert,” he said.
Another source told Daily Trust that the group may likely be members of the separatist groups fighting for secession in Cameroon since there were indications that most of them were from Southern Cameroon. Findings revealed that the porous nature of the Nigerian border in the Mambilla Plateau has enabled many people from Cameroon to cross into Nigeria with ease.
Police spokesman of the Taraba Police Command, ASP David Misal, confirmed the arrest of 39 foreigners at Nguroje. He said on interrogation, the suspects claimed to be refugees from Southern Cameroon, who fled the crisis going on there. According to him, no incriminating item was found on the suspects.
ASP Misal said that the woman who kept them in her house was also arrested and is being questioned on the mission of the men in Nigeria.
Meanwhile, the Acting Chairman of Sardauna Local Government, Rev. Godwin Sol, said the suspects, who claimed to be from Bamenda in Cameroun, did not notify the council of their coming. He expressed surprise on why the strange men decided to go Nguroje instead of stopping in Gembu where there was an existing camp for refugees, adding that their action raised doubts. He said it was not only suspicious, but illegal too.