By Christiana Ekpa and Ikechukwu Okaforadi
Senate, yesterday summoned the Minister of Defence, Brigadier –General Mansur Dan Ali to brief it on why the Cameroonian soldiers trespassed to Nigeria and arrested some nationals.
The Upper Legislative chamber equally urged the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyema to “urgently liaise with his Cameroonian counterpart to secure the release of innocent Nigerians even as it called for increased military presence in the Nigeria-Cameroon border and also intensifies patrol within the area to prevent further acts of trespass by the Cameroon soldiers into Nigeria.
It also called on Nigeria and Cameroon to “strengthen the capacity of Nigeria-Cameroon trans-border security committee aimed at addressing emerging trans-border security issues confronting the two countries”.
Similarly, the Senate urged the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, UNHCR to intensify ongoing efforts aimed at protecting the Cameroonian refugees and assist in their voluntary repatriation, local integration or resettlement.
The resolutions followed a motion, “Influx of refugees from the Republic of Cameroon to some border communities in Cross River State and its attendant security fallout” by Senator John Owan Enoh (APC, Cross River Central) and co-sponsored by Senators Rose Oko (PDP, Cross River North) and Gershom Bassey (PDP, Cross River South), respectively.
It also enjoined all relevant government agencies saddled with the responsibility of managing emergencies like the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, and the State Emergency Management Agency, SEMA to intensify their remedial efforts of providing relief materials to the refugees.
Senator Enoh, while leading debate on the motion, alleged that over 80 Cameroonian soldiers with various weapons crossed the international border of the Danare-Daddi/Danre-Bodom axis and abducted five natives.
He lamented that “this is a calculated assault/offence from the Cameroonian military on Nigeria and on outright defiance of Nigeria territorial sovereignty, not minding the consequences of crossing the international boundary to carry out intimidations and harassment on the already alarmed citizens of Danare, with warnings of further assault”.
The lawmaker also expressed worry that “the current situation being faced by both the refugees and host border communities if not tackled urgently may result in both an outbreak of epidemic and a serious humanitarian crisis and further escalate the already troubling security situation along these borders”.
He noted that “the current agitation for the independence of Southern Cameroon has caused influx of refugees to some border communities in Cross River State and over six thousand of the refugees are currently squatting at Obanliku, Boki, Etung and Ikom local government areas of the state”.
Senator Enoh informed that the UNHCR had on December 17, 2017 biometrically registered 10, 000 arrivals in remote areas of Nigeria’s Cross River State and indicated that thousands more are awaiting registration.
He also expressed concern that “most of the refugees are ill and lack basic needs while some are expectant mothers without medical care”.
In his contribution, Senator Shehu Sani (APC Kaduna Central) noted that invasion by Cameroonian gendarmes to Nigeria was caused by the tension, violence and conflict in the Southern Cameroon.
He, however, stressed the need for the federal government to act fast with a view to protecting the lives and property of Nigerians within the border towns, saying “Nigeria cannot pretend that there is no problem within our borders”.
Senator Sani, who expressed surprise at the audacity of the Cameroonian soldiers in trespassing to the Nigerian territory, called on the African Union, Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS and other relevant continental bodies to wade into the crisis in Southern Cameroon before it gets worsened.
Also, Senator Barau Jibrin (APC Kano North) said though invasion by the foreigners was bad, he however, cautioned that the National Assembly cannot intervene on the matter “because Cameroon is a sovereign nation”.
Senator Sam Egwu (PDP Ebonyi North) said Nigerian territorial integrity has been violated by the action of gendarmes, and therefore urged the senate to summon the Minister of Defence to interrogation about the activities of the gendarmes in Nigeria.