Use Diplomacy to Free 30 Nigerians Abducted by Cameroonians, NASS Begs Tinubu

Use Diplomacy to Free 30 Nigerians Abducted by Cameroonians, NASS Begs Tinubu

Sunday Aborisade in Abuja

The National Assembly has pleaded with President Bola Tinubu to use diplomatic means to ensure the release of 30 Nigerians recently abducted by some Cameroonian militants.

The Belegete community, a border town between Nigeria and Cameroon was, on December 5, 2023, subjected to a horrific attack by suspected Ambazonian militants from the Republic of Cameroon. 

These separatists held the people in the community hostage for over 24 hours, inflicting pain and suffering through gun violence, physical assault, and the destruction of properties worth millions of Naira.

Addressing journalists yesterday on behalf of Cross River State’s lawmakers in the National Assembly, the Member representing Obanliku/Bekwarra/Obudu Federal Constituency, Hon. Peter Akpanke, pleaded with Tinubu to wade into the matter to seek the release of the Nigerian hostages.

He said, “As some of you may be aware, my parents, siblings and children of the Belegete extraction witnessed the saddest day of our existence recently when armed separatists from the Republic of The Cameroons, whom have been named Ambazonians, attacked the sleepy and peaceful community of Belegete on the 5th day of December 2023.

“Belegete community is a Nigerian border village between Nigeria and Cameroon within the edges of the Obanliku plateau in the hinterland of the Obudu Mountain Resort. 

“It is located about 400 kilometres north of the Nigerian port city of Calabar. The community has been under siege by Ambazonian bandits since Tuesday 5th December 2023. 

“The bandits have continued to shoot sporadically, beating and carting away people and valuable property to their camp across the border River between Nigeria and Cameron. 

“Among the over 30 people abducted is Chief Ogweshi Francis, the Clan Head of Belegete Clan. Apart from those taken captive, several other men, women and children have been abused, injured and emotionally traumatised.  

“The area where this barbaric and dastard attack is being unleashed is the ancestral home of the Belegete people. They have inhabited the place for several centuries as law-abiding citizens of Nigeria. 

“They have lived peacefully and harmoniously with their far and near neighbours. There is therefore no justification whatsoever for this external invasion on Nigeria’s territory and the disruption of the life of her citizens.

“Beyond the plight brought upon the Belegete people, this unprovoked aggression is a frontal attack on the territorial integrity of Nigeria. 

“The Nigerian government needs to take urgent and drastic action to forestall a repeat of what happened in the southern border where Nigeria lost part of its rich territory to Cameroon. 

“Furthermore, I urge the Nigerian government to engage in urgent diplomatic dialogue with the Cameroonian government to address the root causes of this conflict. We must work together to ensure that such acts of aggression never occur again.

“The international community must also take notice of this incident and extend their support to Nigeria in its efforts to maintain peace and security on its borders. We call for strict intervention from international organisations to prevent further violence and displacement.”

The federal lawmakers assured the people of the state that the National Assembly would not rest until justice is served and the safety of their people is guaranteed. I will continue to raise my voice in condemnation of this attack and demand accountability from those responsible.

Akpanke said, “We, the people of Obanliku/Bekwarra/Obudu Federal Constituency, are resilient and will not be broken by this tragedy. 

“We stand united in our resolve for peace and justice. Together, we will overcome this challenge and rebuild our dear community stronger than ever before.

“It should be treated as a case of once bitten, twice shy. The relevant security operatives have to rise to the occasion to ensure that the sovereignty of Nigeria is not tempered with. 

“Security operatives must take drastic actions to secure the security of life and property in the area.

“These barbaric acts have continued since then until date with our brothers and sisters subjected to pain and suffering, as well as destruction of properties. 

“These, alongside the abduction of our people and the life threatening injuries inflicted on them with no support yet from the federal government leaves one wondering whether George Orwell’s Animal Farm is at play – all animals are equal but some are more equal than others. Is that the case with Nigeria right now?

“As I speak, the Clan Head of that Community, Chief Ogweshi Francis is held hostage by armed separatists of another country and we as a nation are not angered?

“It must be noted that the Belegete community is very rich in natural resources like Uranium and Lithium and this is one of the major reasons that the Amazonian separatists from Cameroon attacked the community.

“This act of aggression is not only a blatant disregard for human life and safety of fellow Nigerians but also a direct assault on the sovereignty of Nigeria. 

“We, as a nation, cannot tolerate such acts of impunity and must respond with the utmost seriousness and resolve to forestall it from ever happening again.

“It is not the first time such has happened, as we have seen from years past in some North Central and North Eastern States like Taraba and Adamawa (which is why I am with my colleagues today to address you all).

“The response to the crisis in Belegete, as it was in those areas, has unfortunately been hampered by the lack of readily available access roads and communication infrastructure in this community. 

“This has undoubtedly left the community unfortunately feeling vulnerable and exposed.

“While the government works to improve these crucial infrastructures and resources necessary for human existence and security of lives and properties, it’s important to remember the human cost of this delay and the fundamental rights of all citizens to feel safe and protected in our dear country Nigeria.

“Therefore, we demand immediate deployment of adequate security personnel to Belegete and surrounding areas to ensure the safety and security of our citizens.

“Provision of immediate medical assistance to the injured and displaced and initiation of a thorough investigation to bring the perpetrators of this heinous crimes to justice  

“We also demand the construction of access roads and communication infrastructure to improve the security and well-being of our border communities, especially in Cross River State.

“The recent tragedy in Belegete has highlighted the urgent need to bolster security along our borders. We call upon the Nigerian Border Patrol to take immediate action by establishing permanent security outposts across strategic locations. 

“The outposts, equipped with necessary resources and staffed with trained and fully armed personnel, will play a crucial role in deterring future incursions into Nigeria and ensuring the safety of our citizens in their various communities. 

“This proactive approach is essential to protecting our citizens and preventing further suffering among the people and wanton destruction of property.”

The federal lawmakers urged the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to swiftly provide vital assistance to those affected by this tragedy. 

The assistance, he said, “Includes the immediate provision of emergency medical care, food, shelter, and other essential supplies to alleviate their suffering. NEMA must act quickly and decisively to ensure that the people of Belegete are not left to face this hardship alone.

“We also call on the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation to include areas affected by these acts that threaten our nation, as well as places where Cameroonian Persons of Concern reside as high priority areas.”

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