Dele Ogbodo in Abuja
The Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, the Minister of Interior, Lt. Gen. Abdulrahaman Dambazzau and the Minister of External, Mr. Geoffrey Onyema, yesterday said the federal government had concluded on a comprehensive strategy for the return of Nigerian refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who fled the country to Cameroun, Niger and Chad.
Currently, the government is said to be contending with over 1.8 million IDPs within the country and 50,000 refugees all residing within the Niger, Cameroun and Chad Basin.
Speaking at the regional protection dialogue on the Lake Chad Basin (LCB) in Abuja, Osinbajo said government would make necessary arrangements for the return of Nigerians who fled to neighbouring countries as soon as the modalities for that exercise is jointly agreed by all the neighbouring countries soon.
The acting president expressed appreciation to the governments of Cameroun, Chad and Niger for receiving and hosting Nigerian refugees in their respective countries, adding that their open handedness for accommodating Nigerian refugees and IDPs demonstrate clearly that “We are indeed one people.”
He said: “In the last seven years, the ecological disaster has been overshadowed by a major humanitarian crisis in the region. hundreds of thousands of refugees and IDPs fleeing the scourge of mindless mass murder maiming and destruction of the Boko Haram, giving rise to humanitarian and protection problems of enormous proportion in Nigeria Cameroun Niger and Chad.”
Also speaking in the same vein while expressing his appreciation to the three neighbouring countries, Onyema said the fight against requires multifaceted approach and collaboration by the 4 countries.
However, the minister said the scarce resources due to the crisis in the economy poses some developmental challenges, stressing: “What we have is supposed to be for developmental purposes and here we can hardly afford on top of all the developmental challenges that we are faced with to have contend with over two million IDPs and refugees.
“Nigeria appreciates the sacrifices the neighbouring countries are making in hosting our refugees. The protection is extremely important as we have to secure these refugees and IDPs and we need to international agreement and treaty in assuring the security of refugees and once that has been secured we have to look at other aspect.”
In a remark, Dambazzau, expressed optimism on the return of the IDPs and refugees, while adding that there are still threat from Boko Haram.
He said: “We are adopting a comprehensive strategy for the safety return of the IDPs and refugees in the neighbouring countries. The emphasis is on voluntary return and secondly there is need for physical protection and also the issue of reconstruction and reintegration and infrastructure like water and electricity in such a community.”
According to him, the imperative of the regional dialogue will lead to a comprehensive action plan to respond accordingly, adding that government is resolute and focused to deal decisively with terrorism and violent extremism in all its ramifications. The said the essence of the dialogue is to identify the most urgent protection risk in the Chad basin and the conflicts and to find solutions to the affected population.
He said: “I have no doubt that the protection dialogue will also serve as a forum to explore opportunities, strengthen regional collaboration and mobilise international support for the actualisation of the objective of the dialogue.”