Alex Enumah in Abuja
About 218,000 Nigerians are refugees in three neighbouring countries of Cameroon, Chad and Niger Republic, according to data from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).
The UNHCR Country Representative, Anthonio Canhandula, gave the breakdown as 94,000 of the refugees being in Cameroon; 12,000 in Chad and 112,000 in Niger Republic.
Canhandula, who gave the data yesterday at a consultative meeting on the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) in Abuja, urged Nigeria to create conditions that would facilitate the return of the refugees to the country.
“Nigerian refugees in Cameroon, 94,000; Nigerian refugees in Chad, 12,000; Nigerian refugees in Niger, 112,000 and I am talking of the North-east crisis, because there is another crisis in the North-west in Sokoto and Zamfara which has created another crisis of internally displaced population of a figure we don’t have,” he said.
He also said on the home front, Nigeria was housing 46,000 refugees from Anglophone Cameroon, who are spread across Benue, Cross River and Taraba States.
While commending Nigeria’s efforts at implementing the Global Compact, which is aimed at uplifting refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), he said, the shift now was to reduce dependence of refugees on aid by promoting early self-reliance.
“We are working hand in glove with the local authorities to ensure that refugees are positively occupied in seeking self-reliance, be it in farming or other income generating occupations,” Canhandula said.
He lamented that a lot of refugees have become accustomed to aid that “they would refuse to be resettled and prefer to stay in the camp, waiting for the monthly assistance.”
According to him, the objectives of the Global Compact amongst others is to ease the pressure of refugees on host countries, enhance refugee self-reliance, expand access to third countries as a solution and create in countries of origin, the conditions for return in safety and dignity.
While noting that there is a reduction in the figure of Adamawa State IDPs as a result of the return of peace and security, he said infrastructure and other basic amenities as well as means of livelihood remained a major challenge to those who had returned to their communities.