Alex Enumah in Abuja
A group of Southern Cameroonians on Monday called on the Nigerian government to release 12 ‘secessionist’ leaders arrested on January 5, 2018 by Nigerian security operatives in Abuja.

The group, which is mainly from the English speaking side of Cameroon, leads a movement for an independent Ambazonia State, which is currently pushing to break away from the dominant French-speaking side.

Most leaders of the movement have since fled to neighbouring countries including Nigeria amidst a clampdown by the central government led by President Paul Biya.

Speaking at a news conference yesterday in Abuja, Communication Secretary of the Southern Cameroonians, Mr. Chris Anu, described the arrest as a reckless violation of international human rights, since the group he noted has not been accused of committing any crime in Nigeria.

Anu said the movement leaders have been held incommunicado and were denied access to their lawyers and families since their arrest 18 days ago.

He said they were arrested while holding a planning meeting on the situation of about 40,000 Southern Cameroonians refugees in Nigeria, who he said were still trooping into the country.

“We are appealing to the government of Muhammadu to let our leaders go. They did not commit a crime and have not been accuse of any. What is being done is a disservice to their wives and children to keep them under lock and key as if they are criminals,” he said.

The spokesperson further said majority of those arrested are not just ordinary citizens of Southern Cameroons, but intellectuals, professors and lawyers, some of whom, according to him, have dual citizenship of Nigeria and Cameroon.

Anu also denied the claims that the arrested leaders are secessionists. “Our leaders arrested on January 5, are not Cameroonians. They are Southern Cameroonians.

According to him, Southern Cameroons have never been part of French-speaking Cameroon. “That is why we say we are not separatists. You can only separate from something you have been part of, and not something you have not been part of,” he added.