Borno State Governor, Babagana Zulum says it is time for over 200,000 refugees from his state who are in neighbouring countries to return home.
Zulum made the call on Thursday at a stakeholders’ implementation meeting on the Global Compact of Refugees in Abuja.
The event was organised by the Ministry of Humanitarian and Disaster Management Affairs in collaboration with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
The UNCHR in May said violence in parts of North-western Nigeria forced an estimated 23,000 persons from their homes to seek safety in Niger Republic in April alone.
This newspaper also reported how 40,000 Nigerians had migrated to Niger last year as a result of killings and kidnap for ransom crises in Nigeria.
Those refugees were displaced by violence in states in the North-west and are separate from the tens of thousands displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-east.
But Zulum said his government is keen that refugees from Borno in neighbouring countries like Cameroon, Republic of Niger and Chad be brought back home.
“We need to follow up commitment with action, which is very important. One of the importance of this Global Compact of Refugees is to support citizens of countries of origin for the return of refugees back to their home country,
“I am of the view that we should first look at how we can help to support Nigerians who are taking refuge in another country, especially those who are living in the neighbouring Niger Republic as well as the Republic of Cameroon who have been agitating in the past.
“This is very important because we have over 200,000 from Borno State who are now refugees in countries like Cameroon, Republic of Niger and Chad.
“The government of Borno is willing to support and work with the humanitarian sector to ensure the return of Nigerian refugees in other countries.”
Speaking at the event, the UN Country Representative, UNHCR Nigeria, Chansa Kapaya, said part of the objectives of the UN Global Compact on Refugees is to support conditions in countries of origin for return in safety and dignity.
The four UN Global Compact on Refugees objectives, according to Ms Kapaya, are: “To ease pressure on host countries, enhance refugee self-reliance, expand access to third-country solutions and support conditions in countries of origin for return in safety and dignity.”
She said the initiative began between May and November 2019, and was organised jointly by the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced persons (NCFRMI) and UNHCR at state and federal levels to develop national pledges.
The UN country director also said despite Nigeria’s complex humanitarian challenges, the country has been host country to over 61,000 Cameroonian refugees and asylum-seekers in Cross River, Benue and Taraba since 2017.
She added that Nigeria has also hosted about 4,300 urban refugees from the DRC, CAR, Syria, Turkey, Mali, Cote D’Ivoire and others.
“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 centres in Nigeria mainly from the DRC, CAR, Cameron, Syria, Turkey, Mali, Cote D’Ivoire and others.
“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.”
In her remarks, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, Sadiya Umar, said the government had increased assistance and support in response to recent influx of Cameroonian refugees.
According to her, there are over 3.3 million IDPs, comprising over 2.7 million in North-East Nigeria, 513,000 in Cameroon, Chad and Niger and 244,000 in the four other countries.
“We have over the years increased our assistance and support in response to recent influx of Cameroonian refugees. Let me also state that Nigeria has consistently remained committed to the implementation of the 1951 United Nations Convention on Refugees and its Protocol, as well as other relevant instruments. The GCR will only assist us to amplify our efforts and have a gainful traction,” she said.