The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has estimated that over 6,000 people have being displaced in north-eastern of the country as a result of the on-going military clamp-down on Boko Haram insurgents following the state of emergency in the region.
The UNHCR spokesperson, Adrian Edwards, made this known in a report it presented in New York, on Tuesday where it is estimated that 6,000 people, mostly women, children and elderly are displaced following the military onslaught against members of Islamist militant sects, Boko Haram and the al Qaeda-linked Ansaru.
The refugees are said to have fled to neighbouring Niger Republic.
“Those who spoke to UNHCR say they escaped for fear of being caught in the government-led crackdown,” Edwards said. He added that the presence of the Nigerians refugees in Niger was “putting a strain on meagre local food and water resources” on the country which “struggles with food insecurity due to years of drought.”
According to him the “refugees are either renting houses or staying with host families, who are themselves living in very precarious conditions.”
Edward stated that UNHCR member of staff, who visited several border villages hosting the refugees, met some Nigerian families living out in the open and some under trees.
Disclosing that the agency would help the Nigerien authorities to register the refugees, he further said that there were plans to deliver some relief to the refugees and their host communities.
He noted that 240 others, comprising Niger nationals and people of other nationalities, also fled from Nigeria to Niger while some ran to Cameroon and Chad in the past few weeks.
The two countries also share common boundaries with Nigeria.
The report also stated that “the Nigerian refugees reported that air strikes by government forces are continuing from time to time, and that planes are regularly flying over the states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa where a state of emergency has been in force since May 14.”
“People arriving in Niger also mentioned the increasing presence of roving armed bandits in several states in Nigeria. The people also spoke of rising commodity prices coupled with pre-existing food insecurity which is also becoming a major concern for the populations of the affected states” it added.
The Nigerian Army are engaged in a four- week-old operation to regain territory from fighters loyal to Boko Haram. The soldiers claim that they had destroyed key Boko Haram bases and arrested more than 150 suspected insurgents in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states.
A statement by Defence Headquarters spokesperson, Brigadier -General Chris Olukolade, denied the report that Nigerian refugees were “pouring into” Niger.
This was even as the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) stated it was responding to the humanitarian needs of the displaced Nigerians in Niger Republic to alleviate their conditions.
NEMA claimed that the basic needs were identified by a special assessment carried out by its team that was dispatched to Niger Republic to ascertain the conditions of Nigerians that had crossed over the border into the country.