From Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
A total number of 300,884 Nigerian refugees, currently reside in the Republic of Niger, Chad and Cameroon, Data sourced from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Nigeria has shown.
This was even as the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouq; her Women Affairs counterpart, Paulen Tallen; the Minister of State, Budget and National Planning, Clem Agba; the Governor of Borno State, Babagana Zulum, the Comptroller-General of Immigration, Muhammed Babandede, the Director-General of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Imaan Sulaiman-Ibrahim; the UNHCR Country Representative, Chansa Kapaya and others, gathered in Abuja for the Stakeholders Meeting on the Implementation of the Global Compact on Refugees.
Out of the numbers, Borno State Governor, Babagana Zulum, said 200,000 were from Borno State and have been yearning to return home.
The data which were updated on November 30, 2020, gave the breakdown to include Nigerian refugees in Niger (168,081), Cameroon (116,960) and Chad (15,843).
Also as at Nov 30, Nigeria recorded 66,031 registered refugees in the country from across the globe.
The numbers of the refugees and their countries are: Cameroon (63,603); Central African Republic (710); Democratic Republic of the Congo (652); Syrian Arab Republic (308); Mali (145); Cote d’ivoire (136); Chad (87); Sudan (47); others (342).
The UNHCR Nigeria data also showed that a total number of 1,397 foreign nationals are currently seeking asylum in the country.
Speaking during the meeting, Kapaya said even though Nigeria faced complex humanitarian challenges, it has been a generous host country to refugees and asylum-seekers for decades from within the region and far beyond and has provided a safe haven and access to essential life-saving basic services.
Kapaya also said UNHCR and the Federal Government continued to record hundreds of new arrivals every month, adding that the refugees were hosted predominately in the South-South in the states of Cross River, Benue and Taraba.
“The country has been home to over 61,000 refugees and asylum seekers who have sought refuge from neighbouring Cameroon, escaping from political tensions in the South West and North West of the country since 2017. UNHCR and the Government of Nigeria continue to record hundreds of new arrivals every month, these refugees are hosted predominately in the South- South in the states of Cross River, Benue and Taraba. The Country also hosts some 4,300 Urban refugees and asylum seekers living in various urban centers in Nigeria mainly from the DRC, CAR, Cameron, Syria, Turkey, Mali, Cote D’Ivoire and others.
“In addition, Nigeria faces a protracted humanitarian crisis in northeast Nigeria particularly in the three States of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe which is now over a decade with a cycle of violence and displacements due to insurgency activities of NSAG that continues to create new emergencies. Despite a significant scale-up of humanitarian response since 2016, more and more Internally Displaced Persons have been forced to leave their homes with over two million internally displaced, while another 300,000 Nigerians displaced externally and have sought refuge in the neighbouring Lake Chad Basin countries of Cameroon, Chad and Niger. The operating environment remains extremely volatile, particularly in Borno State for civilians, aid workers, humanitarian cargo and assets,” Kapaya said.
In his remarks, Zulum said the objective of implementing Nigeria’s commitment to refugees was a laudable one.
Zulum also said there was the need to follow up commitment by action, which he stated, was very important.
Zulum added that he was of the view that stakeholders should first look into the possibility of supporting Nigerian refugees, especially those living in the Republic of Niger, as well as those in the Republic of Cameroon, who have been agitating for return for a long time.
“This is very important because we have over 200,000 refugees from Borno State that are residing in the countries of Cameroon, Niger, as well as in Chad.
“They have shown their quest to return home. Nobody is forcing them. In fact, they are on my neck. And therefore, I am of the view that we should look into the possibility of supporting their return,” Zulum said.
Zulum further said Borno State was ever ready to partner with the Federal Ministry Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development with a view to identifying suitable places for their return in a dignified manner.