MSF Accuses Cameroon of Forcefully Repatriating Nigerian Refugees

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• 55 Deaths recorded at military detention camp, alleges Global Amnesty Watch 

By Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri and Paul Obi in Abuja
 

The Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders, MSF) has accused the Cameroonian military of forcefully repatriating Nigerian refugees, a situation “which is against United Nations charter.”

This is coming on the heels of the allegation by the Country Representative of Global Amnesty Watch Foundation, Helen Adesola that 55 persons died at the military detention camp in Maiduguri, before 593 Boko Haram suspects were recently cleared and handed over to the Borno State Government recently

The MSF in its report made public yesterday said thousands of Nigerian refugees returning home after spending several years in Cameroon are doing so under compulsion.

It said the displaced persons were being relocated to territories with little or no facilities for basic human needs.

Though the Cameroon army had claimed that the displaced Nigerians chose to return home, as peace had returned to the border areas of Banki, Kirawa, Madagali, Michika and Mubi in Adamawa and Borno states, MSF insisted that Boko Haram insurgents were still active in these regions.

“Most of the refugees will end up in the Nigerian villages of Banki, Gulumba, Gamboru as well as Bama town, “ stated MSF.

Mayara (not his real name), told MSF that he had lived in Kolofata, a town in northern Cameroon for more than one year.

He said: “They just decided to send people back to their country without any explanation. We did not tell them we wanted to return to our country. They forced us to come here. They woke us up early in the morning and took us to a field where they gathered all of us.”

She said life in Cameroon had not been pleasant at all.

“We had water and food problems. We never benefited from any food distribution. You either farmed or did menial jobs like breaking firewood, or selling water. This was how we survived,” said Mayara.

He said they had gone for several days without food, adding that: “There were people selling drugs, so, if your child was sick you would have to pay for drugs.”

Mayara’s experience is similar to that of 55-year-old Malla. He said: “I don’t know the whereabouts of my family after they were deported by Cameroon soldiers a month ago.”

MSF insisted that the deported Nigerian refugees are living in deplorable conditions.

“I was brought here two weeks ago. The soldiers came and gathered people. Those who didn’t have a Cameroonian ID were put into vehicles and driven away,” said one of the refugees.

He said that despite the hardships in Cameroon, it was not his wish to be taken back to Nigeria but said he had no choice.

“It would have been better if we were taken to Pulka or Gwoza, which is our area than coming here,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Country Representative of Global Amnesty Watch Foundation, Helen Adesola has alleged that 55 persons died at the military detention camp in Maiduguri, before 593 Boko Haram suspects were cleared and handed over to the Borno State Government.

Adesola who briefed the media after a tour of some facilities in Borno State, attributed the deaths to “heat waves” and not meningitis as earlier reported in some media.

She said: “Medically, the treatment and prevention for heat waves is the exposure of the detainees to fresh air and proper hydration.

This is what the centre is doing as the detainees are being brought out into the open to seat under trees and adequate drinking water is being provided.”

She said that the findings of Global Amnesty Watch Foundation indicated that everything was in order at the detention centre, noting that there was room for improvement.

“The detention facility, like many other communities dealing with this kind of issues requires additional intervention to ensure that authorities are able to better cater for sick inmates,” noted Helen.

She insisted that the Borno state government must wake up to its responsibility, as 593 cleared detainees are citizens and residents of the state.

“The Borno state government must not abandon them even though they are being held on the suspicion of their linkages with Boko Haram terror group,” she said.

She added that the Nigerian Army, which is responsible for the detainees, is doing all within its power to ensure the well-being of detainees in custody.

Boko Haram: ‘Our Resolve to Restore Security not in Doubt’ Says DHQ

In a related country, the Defence Headquarters yesterday said its determination and resolve to restore peace and security in the North-east where the military is confronting Boko Haram terrorists and other criminals in the country is not in doubt.

Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Gabriel Olonisakin stated this at a one-day 2017 Defence Correspondents’ Seminar, held at the Defence Headquarters, Abuja.

General Gabriel Olonisakin, tasked journalists to exercise restraint while reporting issues that have serious security implications.

“It is in acknowledgement of this enormous and vital role, that this forum is being given all necessary support, so as to further explore more areas for collaboration and partnership.

“Indeed, our determination and resolve to restore peace and security in the country have never been in doubt.

“The Armed Forces of Nigeria and other security agencies are working assiduously to ensure that terrorism and criminalities among others are checkmated,” he added.

He also tasked journalists to “ensure they balance their reports by getting the side of the military through appropriate military quarters” adding that, that the Directorate of Defence Information  would remain the clearing house for all media related issues of the military.

Olonisakin who was represented by Rear Admiral Jonathan Ango, asked journalists especially Defence Correspondents to always liaise with the Director of Defence Information, DDI, to obtain official statements and also clear doubts.

Olonisakin observed that as a result of the continuous drive of the military to maintain an open door policy, media organisations have always been granted permission and provided armed escorts to our theatres of operation.”

“Likewise, some Non-Governmental-Organisations and Civil Society Organisations were facilitated to perform their duties at different locations of the mission areas nationwide, “he added.

The Chief of Defence Staff said the Defence Headquarters would continue to leverage on the existing cordial relationship between the media and the military, “having in mind the critical role media plays on military operations.”

He commended the organisers of the seminar for choosing the theme: “Professional Information Management, a Panacea for Improved National Security”, saying he was particularly happy that the topic elicited intellectual discourse on issues surrounding information management and national security.

He stressed that the theme was aimed at educating journalists on the subject, stating that, “no better time than now for such a topical issue to be discussed by the media stakeholders.”

Keynote Speaker, Dr. Ogomu Onoja of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) highlighted the imperative of media-military relations.

Onoja called for a proactive measure on the part of the media in the interest of national security, while urging the military to strive for a more cordial relationship with the media.

Chief Discussant and Executive Director of Development Specs Academy, Dr. Okey Okechukwu tasked the media and the military to pay more attention to cyber security given the threat it poses to national security.

Okechukwu harped on the need for the military to key into cyber security as means to enhancing its operations and protection of its national security apparatus.

Speaking, Director of Defence Information, Major General John Enenche, explained that “it was necessary for the Defence Headquarters and his office in particular, to always ensure that Defence Correspondents were adequately prepared to function creditably.”

Mr. Sola Atere of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) also made presentations on the role of the media in reporting conflict.