Nearly 22,000 Nigerians have been reported missing in the North-east region due to a decade of conflict in the area, according to the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Peter Maurer.
Maurer told reporters Thursday in Lagos that the figure is the highest number of missing persons registered with the ICRC in any country.
He also said millions of people had also been displaced due to the conflict.
In 2018, the Global Terrorism Index ranked Nigeria as the third most terrorised country in the world, for the fourth consecutive year.
ICRC, in a statement, said nearly 60 per cent of the missing Nigerians were minors at the time they went missing.
“Every parent’s worst nightmare is not knowing where their child is. This is the tragic reality for thousands of Nigerian parents, leaving them with the anguish of a constant search.
“People have the right to know the fate of their loved ones, and more needs to be done to prevent families from being separated in the first place.
“Families in North-east Nigeria are often separated while fleeing attacks. Others have had loved ones abducted or detained and do not know their whereabouts. The ICRC works with the Nigerian Red Cross and other Red Cross and Red Crescent societies in the region to trace missing people by showing photographs, calling out names, and going door-to-door in camps and communities,” Maurer said.
He added that he had during a five-day visit to Nigeria met with President Muhammadu Buhari and went to Maiduguri, capital of Borno State and the hotbed of Boko Haram insurgency in the North-east.
He also met with civil society organisations, business leaders and spoke with families affected by the conflict in Maiduguri and Monguno, many of whom are said to have missing relatives.
Maurer also attended a sensitisation forum on Humanitarian Partnerships and Social Investment that was organised by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) in collaboration with the ICRC. He said social investments were needed to provide victims of humanitarian conflicts with small businesses that would help them to return to normal lives.
He called on the private sector to help “because there are still more gaps to be filled. What we want is partnership that can enhance capacity by making capital available for productive work.”
The forum, which was aimed at deepening the private sector’s participation in humanitarian social investment in Africa, was attended by Chairman of the United Bank for Africa (UBA) and Founder of Tony Elumelu Foundation, Mr. Tony Elumelu.
Elumelu said private sectors and wealthy Africans should invest in humanitarian efforts with the desire to make people self-reliant and self-dependent.
He described the Tony Elumelu Foundation’s goal in humanitarian crises as helping to provide victims with businesses that would support and integrate them to the society where they could live with self-respect and dignity.
“The first beneficiaries of our engagement with ICRC were 200 beneficiaries at about $8 million. Today we have a lot more. We have partnership with UNDP also. Our vision is to offer global opportunity to our people and compliment what agencies like ICRC are doing so that we can reduce these cases of fragility we are seeing all around us. At the Foundation, we believe that poverty anywhere affects all of us everywhere,” he added.
Earlier, President of LCCI, Babatunde Ruwase, had described the forum as a further effort at sensitising and deepening the private sector’s involvement in humanitarian partnerships to engender social investment in Nigeria and Africa.
“The event of today (yesterday) is to sensitise the business community on the imperative of scaling up their participation and engagement in the humanitarian space.
“Let me also say that it is in our own enlightened self-interest to contribute and support social investments tailored towards addressing humanitarian challenges through partnerships that promotes a win-win proposition,” he said.
The National President of the Nigerian Red Cross Society, Bolaji Anani, acknowledged the growing partnerships the society enjoyed with the private sector.
“In addition to being an important source of funding for humanitarian operations, they also pave the way for innovation and technical excellence in humanitarian and development assistance,” he stated.