Nigeria on Monday assured Cameroon that it is determined to deal with secessionist forces attempting to use its territory to destabilise its West African neighbour.
Last week, Nigeria extradited Sisiku Ayuk Tabe, leader of a Cameroonian anglophone separatist movement, and 46 of his supporters at Yaounde’s request, sparking condemnation from the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR.
But Nigeria’s National Security Adviser Mohammed Monguno said at a trans-border security meeting in Abuja that extradition was ordered to preserve Cameroon’s unity and sovereignty.
“President Muhammadu Buhari assures you that we will take all the necessary measures, within the ambit of the law, to ensure that Nigeria’s territory is not used as a staging area to destabilise another friendly sovereign country,” Monguno told the meeting.
He said both President Paul Biya and the entire people of Cameroon have the backing of Buhari in finding solution to the country’s internal crisis.
Monguno urged the Cameroonian authorities to engage in constructive dialogue to de-escalate tensions in the anglophone regions and facilitate the return of Cameroonian refugees who have crossed the border into Nigeria.
At least 30,000 Cameroonian refugees are said to have fled to Nigeria following the crisis.
The UNHCR has accused Nigeria of breaching international agreements over the extradition of the separatist agitators who were arrested in Abuja on January 5.
The UNHCR said most of the 47 sent back to Cameroon had submitted asylum claims in Nigeria.
Cameroon has called the 47 “terrorists” and said they will “answer for their crimes”, as tensions mount in the Southwest and Northwest Regions, home to most of the country’s English-speakers.
The anglophones have complained about decades of economic inequality and social injustice at the hands of the French-speaking majority.