Simon Ateba, a journalist based in Nigeria, was on Friday, arrested by security agents in Cameroon when he was working on a story of Nigerian refugees who fled across the border to that country.
He narrated what happened on his Facebook wall: ” I was given my phone for five minutes to make some calls. Just spent my first night in Mokolo cell with two Nigerians who fled Boko Haram terrorist attacks between Gwoza and Maiduguri in a town or village called Sigesia. My first night in a cell in Cameroon far north was because I went to a refugee camp with about 50,000 Nigerians to do an independent reporting without them allowing me to do so.”
Before that, as he wrote on his wall, he had contacted the minister of communication, spoken to the governor, the army spokesman “here” and having gone to the UNHCR office in Maroua and spoken with officials there, he realised they will never “allow me to see Nigerians living there. So I went anyway, entered the camp and saw things for myself at Minawao camp, 12 kilometres in the bush from the main road and about 60 kilometres from Maroua where Boko Haram have struck three times.”
He narrated further: “I spent the night with Abdulahi Amidou who fled and was accused of bringing foodstuff. He denied it. Living the best hotel in Maroua to sleep in a stinking cell with mosquitoes everywhere was shocking but Abdulahi and the rest told me their horrific stories. My flight should be 31 from Ndjamena but with me in a cell, that’s difficult to achieve. Still with my phone in my cell.”
In the beginning, he explained that he made contacts and was informed that he must meet the governor of the region who would grant him access to the camp with Nigerians. In what would look like a zig-zag trip, Ateba met the governor. He narrated: “He said he doesn’t have power. That power rests with the minister of communication. I got in touch with the minister and the army spokesman, sent text messages and so on. Here you need to travel to Yaoundé 800 kilometres away to meet the minister when he’s ready to meet you. Then he will send you to meet the governor in person in Maroua 800 kilometres back. Then the governor will send you to see the mayor. Then the mayor will send you to the gendarmerie. Then the gendarmerie will send people with you to the camp. The minister will choose which Nigerian in the camp you will speak with. And generally the leader who will tell you ‘We are grateful to the Cameroonian government. We are just very well treated here’. So that’s the procedure.”
Ateba, a former member of staff of TheNEWS/PM News, is working on this investigative story, supported by the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, Abuja, under the leadership of Mr. Dayo Aiyetan.
Ayetan told TheNEWS this afternoon that his organisation would “make contacts to make sure Ateba is released”.