By John Ndiba
Dr Neba Afor’teka Fontem, a Lecturer in the University of Buea, has been arrested in Buea and locked up at the Yaoundé maximum security prison. Dr Neba Fontem was arrested on Tuesday, January 17, 2017 by Special Forces dispatched from Yaoundé. Dr Fontem has been a disguised trade unionist who served as Secretary General at the informal unregistered teachers’ trade union of the University of Buea (SYNES). Recently, Dr Neba Fontem joined the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium (CASC) an unregistered body as its Secretary General. Cameroon’s Minister of Territorial Administration had banned the Consortium declaring its activities null-and-void and Dr Neba Fontem was arrested with others when the banned group were tailed into a hideout holding a secret meeting. Sources present during his arrest report Dr Fontem Neba crying, cleaning his dripping nostrils and begging for clemency, making financial overtures to the security officials who stood their ground to execute their mission.
Earlier on the day of his arrest, Dr Neba Fontem’s dilapidated rickety car was engulfed in a fire incident. Some observers opine that he may have personally arranged for the burning of his car to free financial resources in his keeping from separatist sponsors abroad to purchase a newer luxury car for himself. However, the forces of law and order are still investigating to unearth issues relating to the incident.
In the meantime, Dr Neba is incarcerated at the Yaoundé Maximum Security Prison. In a press release by Cameroon’s Minister of Information, Mr Issa Tchiroma, Dr Neba Fontem shall be given a fair trial, with his right to proper legal representation respected.
Dr Neba Fontem, a graduate from an obscure Nigerian University has participated in student associations and is reported being involved in strikes from his time in CAST Bambili High School to the University of Calabar as student and today as a teacher in higher education. Paradoxically, his academic pursuits of teaching and research pale in comparison to his feat in civil disobedience serving as fulcrum for diverse social groups with a plethora of agenda not related to education and academia.
Cameroon in recent times has combated terrorism in the Northern part of the country, and some unlawful combatants have been tried in Military Tribunals, and handed prison sentences of 25 years. In 2014, Cameroon passed a law on terrorism to check invasion by Boko Haram terrorists which have links to Al Qaeda in the Maghreb.
Dr Neba Fontem’s activities have been under military surveillance for a significant period of time, now. Recent pronouncements by the Head of State, Government Ministers and other senior officials have linked the disobedience initiated by Dr Neba Fontem and the Consortium to extremism and radicalism, with a possible penalty of 25 years imprisonment.
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