The United Nations High Commission for Refugees has said that there are about 218,000 Nigeria refugees in Chad, Cameroon and Niger Republic.
Addressing a news conference in Abuja on Wednesday, the UNHCR country representative, Mr Anthonio Canhandula, urged the Federal Government to create conditions that would facilitate the return of the refugees to the country.
Mr Canhandula added that Nigeria is currently housing 46,000 refugees from Cameroon, which is spread across Benue, Cross River and Taraba States.
He also noted that only 1.2 million of the 1.8 million accessible Internally Displaced Persons are receiving assistance – a situation which he believes requires urgent attention.
The United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees (UNHCR) has called for additional efforts from states and the Federal Government to alleviate the sufferings of Nigerian refugees in neighbouring countries as well as Internally Displaced Persons living in camps across Nigeria.
Speaking at a news conference ahead of the 2019 International Day for Refugees in Abuja, the country’s representative for the UN agency, Antonio Canhandula, noted that recent crisis in Zamfara and Sokoto States have swelled the numbers of Nigerian refugees in Niger and Cameroon.
According to him, there is an urgent need to improve the quality of response to the IDPs.
He also maintained that its time for countries that are a signatory to the Kampala Convention to domesticate the terms of 2009 agreement, which seeks to protect the rights of refugees and IDPs.
The United Nations refugee agency called Wednesday on the Italian government to allow 177 migrants trapped on a coastguard vessel near the Sicilian port of Catania to disembark “for humanitarian and medical reasons”, adding that there were 34 children on board.
The Diciotti vessel rescued the migrants six days ago but Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has insisted he will not allow them to land unless other European Union countries promise to take some of them in.
Aid organisations Save The Children and Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) backed the UNHCR’s call on Wednesday.
The case has continued to stir controversy in Italy with renowned anti-mafia writer Roberto Saviano — who has been a trenchant critic of Salvini — accusing the government of “taking 177 human beings hostage”.
Saviano said on Tuesday that the case of the Diciotti “represents a very serious and illegal case of abduction of multiple persons by the state”.
Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli, whose ministry controls the coastguard, said he hoped a solution could be found quickly.
“We are waiting for Europe, above all those pro-Europeans such as (French President Emmanuel) Macron and (German Chancellor Angela) Merkel… to come forward,” Toninelli told the Euronews channel on Tuesday evening, complaining that previous agreements to relocate migrants rescued by Italy earlier this summer had not yet been fulfilled.
Late Wednesday Salvini on said he had given permission for 29 children on the vessel to disembark, though it was unclear if this was an official request.
“There are 29 children onboard the Diciotti? They can disembark. Now, Even if Brussels is sleeping,” Salvini said in a Facebook comment.
He had previously threatened to send the migrants on the Diciotti back to Libya if no European solution is found.
The 177 migrants were spending their seventh night on board the vessel on Wednesday, and their second off Catania.
“They are very well,” insisted Toninelli, adding that they were being “given constant medical checks, they are fed and therefore they are in excellent conditions”.
However, journalists at the scene said conditions were difficult overnight due to rain and bad weather.
Three prosecutors in Sicily said Wednesday they had opened investigations over the migrants on the vessel, including into possible people smuggling.
Italy’s new government, formed by the League and the populist Five Star Movement after elections in March, has set a goal of zero migrant arrivals in Italian ports.
The United Nation High Commission for Refugees and the Benue state government have assured the over 10,000 Anglophone Cameroonian refugees forces to flee their country because of the ongoing military crackdown, of a better camp welfare.
The UNHCR country representation, Mister Antonio Jose Canhandula gave the assurance of immediate intervention from the international community, when the Benue state emergence management agency led him to assess the conditions of the refugees.
One of the refugees, Osar Ferdinand stated the discomfort being experienced in the hands of the Cameroonian government, all in the struggle for equitable distribution of resources and their pitiable conditions at the Abande Refugee Camp in Benue state.
They appealed for help in the areas of food, bedding and medical services.
The UNHCR country representative has assured the refugees of immediate assistance before the end of January.
This particular case of Anglophone Refugees who have other camps in Cross River state in Nigerian and the ongoing herdsmen killing in the country, further underscore the need for the United Nation to urgently step in to help Nigerian and Cameron.
The Benue State government has threatened to arrest any official caught diverting relief materials from the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp set up in Makurdi for the victims of the flood in the state.
This warning by the government is following a stand-off between camp officials and the IDPs who demanded an explanation on the movement of relief materials out of the camp.
The deputy governor and chairman of the flood disaster management committee, in the state, Benson Abounu, issued the threats on Sunday following the alleged movement of relief materials without his approval.
But for the timely intervention of the Deputy Governor in the ensuing crisis, representatives of the IDPs were up against the camp management and the camp security which they accused of complicity in the unauthorized movement of the items.
The conflict between representatives of the IDPs and camp officials was almost turning into a free for all, before the attention of the deputy governor was drawn to the matter, upon arrival at the camp.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to Nigeria and ECOWAS has decried the increasing number of refugees in Africa.
The UNHCR representative, Mr Jose Canhandula made the censure on Tuesday in Abuja at an event to mark the World Refugee Day.
“There are around 20 million refugees and double that number of internally displaced persons in the world, half of whom are children. Majority of migrants who have arrived in Italy in 2016 are from Nigeria,” he said.
Mr Canhandula called for an urgent intervention by governments across the continent to address the issue of refugees and internally displaced persons.
He also advised African leaders to address the plight of illegal migrants who die in the Mediterranean Sea and Sahara Desert in the hands of human and drug traffickers.
The UNHCR High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, visited a camp for displaced people in South Sudan on Saturday and called on the country’s leadership to help stem the flow of people from within its borders.
Grandi said the international community had become frustrated with the way peace was moving, adding that this was the time when aid needed to be increased.
He stressed that South Sudanese refugees should not be ignored because they are not visible on the shores of Europe or Australia, or at the border of Mexico and the United States.
South Sudan’s internal conflict, which broke out at the end of 2013, has claimed thousands of lives and driven well over a million of people from their homes, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency.
The Borno State chapter of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) said it has offered free legal services and counselling to 1,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
The State NBA Chairman, Babakura Kaka, stated this on Wednesday at the 2017 Legal Year celebration, during a court session at the Borno State High Court in Maiduguri.
Mr Kaka said that so far the NBA has treated and won 300 cases bordering on IDPs free of charge in courts.
He explained that the project, Legal Protection for IDPs, was designed to provide justice for all and ensure the people get the required justice.
“We are partnering with UNHCR to carry out humanitarian assistance to the IDPs by providing free legal services,” said the chairman.
In his address, the Chief Judge of Borno State, Justice Kashim Zannah, urged members of the NBA to reflect on sad events that happened in the state and learn from the lessons.
“An exclusive society that pushes the weak to the extreme margins is always susceptible to hateful demagoguery.
“It is time for rolling up our sleeves, not rolling out drums. It is not over until it is over.
“It cannot be over until the several widowed wives regain their charming smiles.
“It wont be over for anyone until it is over for the thousands of orphaned children.
“Not until they all come to view the society without bitterness, if not with gratitude. It is our collective duty to ensure that.
Oneness Of Humanity
“We must particularly appreciate and extend our gratitude to the international community, state and non-state actors for their assistance in reaching this tipping point and continuing empathy and assistance in our rehabilitation and reconstruction.
“They have rekindled our confidence in oneness of humanity.
“We should be careful not to allow the activities of very few opportunists lead us to expressions that may earn us the tag ‘ingrates’.
“In addition, for us in the legal community, our task is cut out. We must redouble our efforts and ensure that justice is done to all,” Zannah said.
The Presidency has refuted claims by some aid agencies that there is mass starvation in IDP camps set up in northeast Nigeria.
A statement from the Presidency says it is concerned about the attempts to whip up fears that the humanitarian crisis is worse than being reported.
While it recognizes that local and international humanitarian responders including the United Nations have done an immeasurable amount of effort filling in the gaps wherever they existed, the federal government says it is not true that 100,000 or even a million people will die because government is unable to provide care at the camps.
The Presidency says it is handling the situation with great sensitivity and has put measures in place to cushion the humanitarian challenges with collaboration between NEMA and the Presidential Committee on Northeast Initiative.
Both organisations provide raw food items to IDPs at formal camps, self-settled centers, host communities and satellite centers while the state governments complement with condiments, firewood and maintain environmental quality of the IDP camps.
About 80,709 Nigerian refugees, mostly from Borno State, in the Republic of Cameroon, have received 1,460 bags of assorted food items from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).
The items, which were delivered at the weekend, were handed over to the displaced persons on behalf of the Nigerian government for the feeding of the refugees displaced by Boko Haram insurgents in Nigeria’s northeast.
They are taking shelter in Minawao and other locations in the far north region of Cameroon.
According to the Director General of NEMA, Muhammad Sidi, who was represented by the Agency’s Director of Search and Rescue, Air Commodore SBB Muhammad, handed over the items to officials of Cameroon for onward presentation to the United Nations High Commission for Refugee (UNHCR) which has been managing the camp.
He said the items were meant to provide succour to the Nigerian refugees.
In his message, the Director General said NEMA would continue to liaise with the Government of the Republic of Cameroon to ensure that all Nigerian refugees were living in good condition.
Mr Muhammed appealed to youths in the camps to desist from using drugs and urged them to always “be of good character and be good ambassadors of our country”. Some youths in the camp were recently arrested for drug use.
He assured the refugees that the Nigerian government had not forgotten them and that the government was doing everything possible to evacuate them back to their respective states.
The NEMA boss also thanked the Republic of Cameroon, INGOs and UNHCR on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria for hosting and providing them with protection.
Speaking through an interpreter, an official of the Government of Cameroon, who received the items, Mrs Menguene Marie, appreciated the Nigerian government for providing succour to its citizens and also thanked the government of Cameroon for its support to the refugees.
Appreciating the efforts of the Nigerian Government, Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Refugees, Mr Asshigar Mohd, from Bama Local Government, said: “We have been in Minawao camp for three years, we do have regular feeding, have school and hospital, but we want leaders of our communities back home to visit us”.
He appealed to the Nigerian government to evacuate them to their places in Borno State since peace had returned in most of the communities.
The items delivered include 650 bags of rice, 300 bags of Guinea corn, 200 bags of Millet, 150 bags of Beans, 10 bags of Ground nut, 50 bags of flour, 50 bags of sugar and 50 bags of salt.
Others include 100 cartons of tinned tomato, 50 cartons of Maggi Cubes, 150 cartons of spaghetti, 150 cartons of bath soap and 50 cartons of vegetable oil.
‘Provided With Humanitarian Relief’
At least 239,000 Nigerians are still refugees in neighbouring countries where they fled to in the heat of insurgency in the oil-rich nation’s northeast, an emergency management agency has said.
The figure was contained in a report of humanitarian relief intervention by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) released recently.
It also says that about 29, 581 Nigerians, who fled their communities in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa to Republic of Niger and Cameroon as a result of insurgents’ activities had voluntarily returned to Nigeria.
According to the report, 13,046 Nigerians returned from Niger Republic in May, 2015 and were received in Geidam, Yobe State while Between April and December, 2015 NEMA received about 16,595 Nigerians that have voluntarily returned from Cameroon through the Sahuda border crossing area near Mubi in Adamawa State.