Again, Camer­ou­nian sol­diers in­vade Cross River com­mu­nity

• Our troops are on ground, says Nige­rian army

The Guardian (Nigeria) - - FRONT PAGE - From Ani­etie Ak­pan, Cal­abar

CAMEROO­NIAN sol­diers have in­vaded Nige­rian com­mu­ni­ties in Cross River State, the sec­ond time in two months.

The sol­diers had re­port­edly killed a Nige­rian and a Cameroo­nian refugee in Danare, Boki Lo­cal Govern­ment Area (LGA) of the state in De­cem­ber, last year.

The in­ci­dent fol­lowed a mil­i­tary crack­down on An- glo­phone se­ces­sion­ists in the neigh­bour­ing na­tion, re­sult­ing in dis­placed per- sons stream­ing into Nige­rian ter­ri­tory. Sources at Danare said the sol­diers stormed the com­mu­nity on Thursday, de-

mand­ing that the vil­lage head hand over some refugees to them. The leader turned down the re­quest and the troops left with­out hurt­ing any­body.

On Mon­day night, how­ever, the sol­diers re­turned. Num­ber­ing be­tween 50 and 100, they al­legedly crossed the in­ter­na­tional bor­der into Danare, search­ing for Cameroo­nian mil­i­tants said to have sought refuge in Nige­ria. The mil­i­tants had al­legedly at­tacked the sol­diers, prompt­ing the reprisal.

The Spokesman for the com­mu­nity and a for­mer coun­cil­lor in Boki LGA, Mr. Dou­glas Ogar, flanked by some in­di­genes, yes­ter­day, told news­men in Cal­abar that the sol­diers in­vaded the vil­lage at about 2:00 a.m. on Mon­day, shoot­ing in­ter­mit­tently.

He said: “Our peo­ple did not sleep, yes­ter­day (Mon­day), be­cause gen­darmes from Cameroon in­vaded our com­mu­nity, claim­ing they were look­ing for Am­bazo­nian mil­i­tants. The mil­i­tants, who have since taken refuge in the sur­round­ing forests, were also shoot­ing. The en­tire com­mu­nity was in chaos.

“It is im­por­tant to re­call the sad in­va­sion of Danare com­mu­ni­ties, which hap­pened on Jan­uary 25 this year, when more than 80 Cameroo­nian sol­diers with var­i­ous weapons crossed the Danare-daddi/danare-bo­dam in­ter­na­tional bor­der open­ings and ab­ducted five na­tives.”

Ogar said the sit­u­a­tion posed a se­ri­ous dan­ger to the safety of refugees and the en­tire Boki com­mu­ni­ties.

Ac­cord­ing to him, the sol­diers said their mis­sion was to warn the res­i­dents of Danare to be aware they would re­turn and stage a raid in­tended to cleanse the com­mu­ni­ties of all threats to the Cameroo­nian govern­ment.

“This is a cal­cu­lated of­fen­sive from the Cameroo­nian mil­i­tary on Nige­ria. They have shown out­right de­fi­ance of Nige­ria’s ter­ri­to­rial sovereignty and de- spised 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.”

Com­ment­ing on the lat­est in­va­sion, the Cross River State Se­cu­rity Ad­viser, Mr. Jude Ngaji, said: “The is­sue has gone be­yond the po­lice. The Nige­rian army has just de­ployed a bat­tal­ion in the area. No Nige­rian has been killed. And as you know, this is an in­ter­na­tional is­sue which is be­ing han­dled at the high­est level of govern­ment.”

The United Na­tions High Com­mis­sioner For Refugees (UNHCR), mean­while, has said an es­ti­mat- ed 36,000 per­sons from Cameroon have fled into Nige­rian com­mu­ni­ties.

But re­act­ing to the al­leged in­va­sion, the spokesman for 13 Am­phibi­ous Brigade Cal­abar, Cap­tain Kay­ode Owolabi, said: “There is noth­ing like that. Ac­tu­ally, they may come to their own side and not (the) Nige­rian side.”

When asked, how­ever, to com­ment on pho­to­graphs the peo­ple in Danare had taken of the Cameroo­nian troops and of their meet­ing with the com­mu­nity, Owolabi said: “I saw the pic­tures that Cameroo­nian sol­diers en­tered our ter­ri­tory. But ac­tu­ally, our men are there. But the net­work to reach them is the prob­lem. But as soon as I get the in­for­ma­tion, I will send it to you.”

Dur­ing the De­cem­ber in­cur­sion by the sol­diers, a for­mer coun­cil chair­man, Mr. Kings­ley Mbia, had sent an SOS text mes­sage to the head of the De­part­ment of State Ser­vice, say­ing: “In­for­ma­tion at my dis­posal has it that the Cameroo­nian army are at the verge of run­ning over Danare 1 com­mu­nity in Boki LGA. Shoot­ing on the out­skirts of the vil­lage has claimed the life of one Akombi Mbia of Danare 1 and Osang Ce­les­tine Enu, a dis­placed per­son in Danare. We wish to ap­peal that sol­diers be de­ployed in the area to save the life of the peo­ple.”

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