Indications have emerged that the federal government has deported the 12 Cameroonian separatist leaders who were arrested earlier this month, their lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), told Premium Times yesterday.
They were reportedly deported last Friday.
Julius Ayuk Tabe and 11 others were arrested at Nera Hotels Abuja on January 6 and were detained at the Defence Intelligence Agency (NIA), said Falana who has been providing legal support for them.
The detainees were largely held incommunicado, which included denial of access to their lawyers, doctors and family members.
However, the Deputy Representative of the office of United Nations Commissioner for Refugees to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Brigitte Mukanga-Eno, was allowed to visit them in detention last week, Falana said.
The treatment prompted the lawyer to file a fundamental rights suit to enforce the rights of their clients.
The Muhammadu Buhari administration was criticised for arresting the leaders in a defiant departure from Nigeria’s longstanding policy of being sympathetic towards freedom fighters.
Nigeria was widely praised for its support for the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.
Falana said the Nigerian government was ashamed to announce the deportation, which is being celebrated by Cameroonian authorities as a major victory in their clampdown on Tabe and other leaders of the self-proclaimed Ambasonia state in English-speaking parts of Cameroon.
About 39 other Ambasonian separatist leaders who were detained in Taraba were also reported to have been sent back to Cameroon on Friday by the Nigerian government.
Cameroonian authorities said they have the men and vowed to put them through a thorough trial for their alleged offences.
“The group of 47 terrorists, among them Mr. Ayuk Tabe, has for some hours been in the hands of Cameroonian justice, before which they will answer for their crimes,” Cameroonian Communications Minister Issa Tchiroma Bakary said in a statement reported by Reuters yesterday.
Falana condemned the deportation as “contemptuous of the proceedings pending before the Federal High Court.”