Nigeria: Six Nigeria Professors Illegally Detained in Cameroon - Lawyer

14 May 2024

...ask Reps to intervene, help secure their release

The lawyer to six Cameroonian professors teaching in Nigerian universities and four others, Barr Joseph Fru, on Tuesday said his clients were illegally imprisoned by the Cameroonian authorities.

The family members of the detained professors had petitioned the House of Representatives to help secure their release after being allegedly abducted from Nigeria and imprisoned in Cameroon since January 2018.

The petitioners, all of Cameroonian nationality, of which the others include refugees and asylum seekers, said they were all legally resident in Nigeria.

They stated that they were illegally abducted and deported from Nigeria on January 5th 2018 to Cameroon, on "frivolous allegations of plotting to destabilize the government of La Republique du Cameroon (LRC) President Mr. Paul Biya."

They petitioned that they were unfairly tried and incarcerated.

In their petition submitted to the House Committee on Public Petitions by their lawyers, they said two separate judgments in Nigeria had been ruled in their favour connection with the matter.

They stated that despite the judgement by Nigerian courts that their arrest and deportation were illegal hence they should be released and compensated financially, they were still being held at the Kondengui Security Detention facility in Cameroon.

They also added that in October 2022, the UN Human Rights Council Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UN-HRC-WGAD) in Communication 59/2022 of 14th October 2022, found their arrest and detention by Nigeria and Cameroun arbitrary and illegal and it had asked both countries to unconditionally free the victims and pay them appropriate compensation.

At the penultimate hearing of the matter before the House Committee on Public Petitions a representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mohammed Manu, had said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had no record if this petition.

He had said their findings revealed the matter was handled by the government as a security and legal matter.

Briefing reporters after another hearing on the matter on Tuesday, Fru said said they were optimistic by the intervention of the legislature in resolving the matter.

Fru, who was in the company of family members of those affected, said however rued that the representative of the United Nations and relevant agencies of the Nigerian government were missing at the hearing.

He said those who failed to turn up included the Attorney General of the Federation, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, UN High Commission Country Representative, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Intelligence Agency and the Department of State Services (DSS)

He said, "There is a clarification that we need to make that is fundamental and cardinal. They were abducted. They were not arrested. When you say someone is arrested, there is a legal course for them to be picked up by the forces of law and order. And in a normal arrest situation, you have probable cause that you are being suspected of committing a crime and before you get to that point, there has to be a procedure you follow to get either an arrest warrant or search warrant that may lead to their apprehension.

"But when someone arbitrarily without any legal course is picked up and then held for as long as they were held in Nigeria before being sent to Cameron that is called an abduction.

"An abduction does not end when we know where they are. That illegal act continues and abides with them until that illegality is cured. And to this point that illegality has not been cured and that is why we are still in prison.

"The second thing is that they were not repatriated. You repatriate someone when you go through a legal channel and you exhaust all the legal processes and the court decides that they go back to where they came from to answer in that jurisdiction. Before you repatriate someone there has to be bilateral treaty that is observed. None of that in this case.

"We adjourned for 11 June 2024 because the committee is not happy with the fact that the last time they were elements of the government of the executive arm that were required to be at the hearing but none of them showed up.

"So motions were moved and it was adopted that these entities should necessarily appear in the next hearing so that resolution to this can be taken. In the event they do not show up, the committee is ready to move forward. How they move forward depends on their deliberation and that is above my pay grade.

"The Chairman said they were going to give these entities a last chance to appear so they can have enough information to go by and come up with a resolution."

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