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Protect Nigerians against Cameroonian rebels

Communities along the entire stretch of Nigeria’s border with the Republic of Cameroon now live in fear as a result of frequent infiltration and violent attacks from both the Cameroonian gendarmes and secessionists from the English speaking area fighting to breakaway and set up the Ambazonian republic.

A dangerous escalation to this development occurred last week when Ambazonia rebel fighters invaded the Manga community in Takum Local Government Area of Taraba State, killing 11 persons, including a traditional ruler.

Since the declaration of the Ambazonia republic on October 1, 2017, by the group and the beginning of hostilities between them and the armed forces of Cameroon there has been noticeable tension in the communities bordering the area with Cameroon. Refugees fleeing the conflict have flooded into Nigerian states of Cross River, Taraba and Adamawa. In a reported incident about two years ago Cameroonian gendarmes numbering about 80 invaded a refugee camp in Banare in Boki Local Government Area of Cross River State, claiming to search for rebels among the refugees.

On the latest incident in Taraba State, Governor Darius Ishaku called for the immediate intervention of the federal government to secure the area against the threats coming from across the border with Cameroon. He said, “Taraba has one of the longest borders with Cameroon. There is an absolute need for our boundary to be manned by security agencies. The military, precisely must man it’’.

The same alarm and request directed at the federal government was earlier sounded by Senator Emmanuel Bwacha, representing the area at the National Assembly.

On the conflict in Cameroon which has been raging on for some time now, Nigeria has maintained a strict role of non-interference. Nigeria has also offered assistance to the refugees of the conflict in keeping with its policy of humanitarian posture and disposition towards its neighbours. This is also in consonance with the principles of International law which requests countries to assist persons fleeing from areas of war, hunger and other forms of natural and humanitarian disasters.

Indeed as an indication of the policy of non-interference in the Cameroonian conflict, Nigeria had arrested and handed over some leaders of the Ambazonian group who sought to use their refuge in Nigeria to further their cause, a gesture which was even acknowledged and applauded by the Cameroonian government.

Nigeria’s posture on the Cameroon conflict is informed by the fact that it sees the group as Cameroonians who should be guided by the laws of their country, as well as its own unpleasant experiences in the past and present with such   movements. Because of the attendant security challenges such conflicts bring about and the potential for spiralling out of control coupled with the trauma they pose to the populace it is best to pro-actively prevent than encourage it through interference.

However, while maintaining the course of non-interference in the Cameroonian conflict, the message must be made clear to the group that Nigeria will not brook the violation of its territory.   The invasion of Nigeria’s territory and killing of its citizens is a clear affront which must not be tolerated. Our humanitarian gestures and good neighbourliness should not be taken for granted and regarded as license to breach our territory, kill our citizens and occupy our communities.

That is why we wholeheartedly and unequivocally support the call by Governor Ishaku and Senator Bwacha of Taraba State for the federal government to as a matter of urgency deploy the military to those areas, especially those vulnerable to infiltration and attacks. As there is already an army battalion stationed in the area, they should be immediately put on alert for onward deployment to the main area of vulnerability in readiness to deter and confront all further threats to the communities in the area.

Going forward the federal government and the states bordering on Cameroon must be encouraged to heighten security cooperation and coordination amongst them in conjunction with the relevant security agencies for vigilance and pro-active security measures.

The Taraba attack by the rebel group in Cameroon is one too many. Nigeria must not allow its territory to be an extension of the conflict in Cameroon under whatever guise. It is time to halt these frequent violations of our territorial integrity.

Daily Trust Editorial, November 21, 2021

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