WACSOF: Nigerians Make up More of 750,000 Stateless West Africans

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Chineme Okafor in Abuja

The West African Civil Society Forum (WACSOF) has said that by virtue of Nigeria’s population and emergence of insurgency in the North East in 2009, the country currently contributes more to the 750,000 people that the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) said are without legal bond to any state in the West African region.

Speaking in Abuja during the recent launch of the outcome of its mapping of stateless persons and persons at risk of statelessness in North Eastern states of Nigeria, the Acting General Secretary of WACSOF, Auwal Ibrahim Musa aka Rafsanjani, stated that currently, there are no specific data on how many Nigerians have been rendered stateless by the Boko Haram insurgency in the North East, but that the number was huge.

Musa explained that even though the UNHCR captured 750,000 people of the West African origin to be stateless, Nigeria’s contribution to the number is reportedly more on account of the internal strife she is currently contending with.

He said apart from the Boko Haram, other internal insurrections in other parts of the country like the Biafra agitation in the South East, the Fulani cattle herders’ challenges majorly in the North Central, and militancy in the Niger Delta, and displacement of indigenes of Bakassi peninsula in Cross River were contributors to the situation.

According to him, the survey, which was done with support from UNHCR, identified that with the return of Nigeria to democracy in 1999, statelessness became an apparent national issue with clear evidences.

He also explained that through the survey conducted, many more people were at the risk of statelessness, adding that Nigeria’s current constitution has done very little to protect such people from becoming completely stateless.

“The UNHCR estimated that about 10 million people in the world have no legal bond with any state and 750,000 of this population live in the 15 West African states. These individuals referred to as stateless continue to suffer denial of their human rights as possession of nationality is a prerequisite for basic political, economic and civil rights,” said Musa.

He noted: “As it is now, there is no variable data to state how many persons are stateless in Nigeria, and that is why this research is aimed at mapping out the number of persons that are actually stateless in Nigeria, and currently the National Bureau of Statistics does not have this data, and we are encouraging them to do that.

“In fact, the contribution of Nigeria to the 750,000 stateless persons in West Africa is more. Even the number of people that have been impacted by the insurgency in the North East, or the Bakassi issue in Cross River State speaks of this. There are also so many denials that exist. The girls that Boko Haram kidnapped and impregnated, their children are not recognised because Boko Haram said they are not part of Nigeria,” he added.