The invasion of Danare community in Boki Local Government Area of Cross River State by Cameroonian gendarmes last week in search of leaders of Ambazonia separatists is a violation of the Nigeria’s territorial integrity. The security forces, numbering about 80, were reported to have invaded the community where over 5,000 English-speaking Cameroonians had sought refuge at midnight, molesting and arresting many of the refugees.
It was not the first time that the Cameroonian security operatives would illegally sneak into Nigeria to capture suspected members of the separatists. In December 2017, they reportedly acted in the same manner, taking advantage of the fluid and porous borders between Cameroon and Cross River to raid the refugee camps in search of Ambazonians. The face-off between the Cameroonian and Ambazonians escalated on October 1, 2017 when the English-speaking people in Southern Cameroon declared their independence from the Central African country, citing discrimination and enslavement by the government.
In the wake of the crisis over 40,000 persons of Southern Cameroon have crossed their country’s borders into Nigeria, especially into communities in which they share language and cultural affinity. On a daily basis since the crisis began these refugees have been pouring into not only Cross River State but also Taraba, Benue, and Akwa Ibom States. The emergency management agencies in these Nigerian states have been bearing the burden of providing shelter and food for thousands of these displaced Cameroonians. It is condemnable for Nigeria’s security agencies to remain akimbo and permit Cameroonian gendarmes to violate our borders and take captive those who have sought refuge in the country’s territory.
Section 2(1) of the 1999 Constitutional of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) affirms the integrity of the territory when it says, “Nigeria is one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign state to be known by the name of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.” The armed forces of Nigeria are empowered to protect the territory. The United Nations Charter 2625 signed by all member-nations in October 1970, states in part that, “The territory of a State shall not be the object of military occupation resulting from the use of force in contravention of the provisions of the Charter. The territory of a State shall not be the object of acquisition by another State resulting from the threat or use of force. No territorial acquisition resulting from the threat or use of force shall be recognized as legal…”
From this provision, there is no room for the Cameroonian security agencies to make incursion into Nigeria to arrest its citizens who are perceived to be dissidents. It is noteworthy that the Nigerian security agencies have affirmed that the country cannot support the activities of the Ambazonians of Cameroon and have deported some of their leaders to Cameroon. However, such gesture should not be extended to an unquestionable incursion of their security forces into Nigeria to make arrests. It is the duty of the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) to serve as an intermediary in any country’s question to arrest criminals who have taken refuge in other countries.
The United Nations’ mandate to Interpol says, “The mandate and the primary task of INTERPOL is to support police and law enforcement agencies in its 186 member countries in their efforts to prevent crime and conduct criminal investigations as efficiently and effectively as possible. Specifically, INTERPOL facilitates cross border police cooperation and, as appropriate, supports governmental and intergovernmental organizations, authorities and services whose mission is to prevent or combat crime.”
We call on the Federal Government to, in strong terms, protest to the Cameroonian government and condemn the violation of our territorial integrity by its security forces. We call on Ambazonians and the government of Cameroon to engage in dialogue and find a political settlement to the issues that have led to the current crisis. Though we cannot encourage secessionist bids in any brotherly African country, we should not condone the violation of our territorial integrity.