16 May, 2012
By Abubakar Ibrahim
Former governor of Borno state, Ali Modu Sheriff, recently got the shock of his life when he was arrested by neighbouring Cameroon’s security forces, allegedly for his link with Boko Haram, the extremist sect that has been waging an insurgency in parts of Nigeria’s northern region.
According to a news report on page 10 of the April 2, 2012 edition of the Cameroon daily, L’Oriel du Sahel, Modu Sheriff, also a former senator, was arrested upon entering Cameroon from Chad on his way to visit the governor of that country’s Far North Region.
The report translated from French reads: “On the 28th March, 2012, the police in Mora, under Commissioner of Police Hamadou Bello arrested the ex-governor of neighbouring Borno state of Nigeria, Dr. Ali Modu Sheriff who indicated that he was coming straight from Ndjamena, Republic of Tchad with the sole objective of congratulating his friend,the governor of the Far North of Cameroun, Mr. Joseph Beti Assomo”.According to the report, Sheriff was arrested “because this wealthy individual is accused of being a sponsor of the Boko Haram sect”.
An insurgency by the sect in parts of Nigeria’s Northern region since 2009 has claimed hundreds of lives and done extensive physical destruction. “After some hours of interrogation”, according to the report, “Ali Modu’s delegation was allowed to leave by the police after asking one of his right-hand men in North Cameroon, Hon. Abba Malla, to escort him”. However, on the “outskirts of Maroua, at Sekande exactly, Sheriff’s convoy of three vehicles was again stopped at a police checkpoint. “The head of immigration at Maroua was notified and he immediately came”, the report said, “but started making phone calls and this irritated the ex-governor all the more.
“The regional head of national security for the North,being absent for a meeting in Yaounde,his deputy was put in charge of this issue. “After waiting for several minutes, the ex-governor was overheard regretting his visit and saying, “I did not know that Cameroonians are like this, I prefer to go back to where I came from”.
Abba Malla, according to L’Oriel du Sahel, “tried in vain to reach the head of regional security on phone.Notwithstanding his pleas on behalf of his friend, Ali Modu was still taken to the regional headquarters of National Security Agency”. At that point, the ex-Borno governor really lost his cool, more so that he did not understand what the fuss was all about, knowing as he did that his immigration papers were in order and it was not his first visit to Maroua.
At around 19h.30,Yaounde was informed of Modu Sheriff’s formal arrest.”The mobile phone of the officer in charge kept ringing continuously. One of the first people to call Officer Emmanuel Yotbisi Noutcheung was no other than the Vice-Prime Minister in charge of National Assembly affairs”, L’Oriel reported.
However, the police officer reportedly rebuffed Vice-Prime Minister Yotbisi, insisting that he would take orders only from his immediate boss. “The police officer informed the Vice-Prime Minister that any orders should be given to his boss, Aloysius Alemngue who will relay to him”, said the report. At last, it took the intervention of the Camerounian Prime Minister Mr. Philemon Yang to secure Sheriff his freedom.
“The Prime Minister himself,Mr.Philemon Yang, instructed the deputy head of police of the Far North to release the ex- Borno state governor around 20.00,” the reported concluded.