The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), has warned the Federal Government that the volatile northern states of Yobe, Adamawa, particularly Borno State are not yet safe for return of the refugees and over 2.7 million Internally Displaced Persons.
UNHCR Regional Representative for West Africa and Regional Coordinator for the Nigeria Situation, Ms Liz Ahua, gave the warning on Monday in Abuja at the ongoing Regional Protection Dialogue on the Lake Chad Basin.
She revealed that the Boko Haram insurgency and its spill over into Cameroon, Niger and Chad has led to loss of thousands of lives and caused massive displacement of over 2.7 million people in the region.
She added that the activities of the insurgents have impacted more than 20 million persons in the four countries, while expressing fears that another 50,000 persons have been dislocated from their homes in the town of Bosso in Niger, following an attack that took place June 3, 2015.
She acknowledged that the success achieved by military operations that have brought back a number of areas in north-eastern Nigeria that had been occupied by Boko Haram, now under government control as well as the insurgents reduced capacity for military engagement.
She, however, said the success recorded by the military has not degraded the capacity of the Boko Haram sect for harassment, maiming and killing of defenceless civilians.
Consequently, Ahua said the conditions in much of the north-eastern were not yet conducive for the return of Nigerian refugees and IDPs to the affected states.
She noted that alongside persistent threats from Boko Haram, the presence of mines and unexploded improvised devices as the absence of basic services pose acute humanitarian and protection risks for the affected populations.
Ahua added that similar situation of insecurity continue to prevail in the border regions of Cameroon, Chad and Niger, where Boko Haram attacks on civilians.
“The context of ongoing insecurity and terrorism threats pose particular challenges to ensuring an appropriate protection environment for refugees, IDPs and local communities,” she said.
According to her, about 60 per cent of the affected populations were children, disclosing that at least 20,000 unaccompanied children have been displaced by the conflict.
She said: “The numbers in Niger will certainly swell to more than 180,000 internally displaced persons, while Cameroon and Chad report 160,000 and 54,000 IDPs respectively.”
Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Interior, Mr Bassey Akpanyung, his opening remark underscored the importance of the regional dialogue on protection of Boko Haram victims, given the progress Nigeria and other members of Lake Chad Basin Commission have made in the fight against the Boko Haram insurgency in the north-eastern part of the country.
He noted that the significant degradation of the potency of the insurgent group by multi- national Joint Task Force came with attendant social and humanitarian challenges, particularly the emergence of refugee camps for displaced Nigerians in neighbouring countries as well as IDPs within Nigeria.
He lamented that within the satellite camps of the recaptured areas of the North East, the majority of IDPs are women, children and older persons who have special protection concerns, including exposure to sexual and gender-based violence, abduction, child protection issues, killing, maiming of family members, family separation and destruction of property.
Akpanyung, therefore, said the gathering of the government officials from Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad would provide veritable platform for objective dialogue that would proffer lasting solutions to the protection risks in the Lake Chad Basin resulting from the conflict-induced crisis.