By Michael Olugbode
Borno State Governor, Prof. Babagana Zulum has received the first batch of 5,000 Nigerian refugees repatriated from neighbouring Cameroon.
The 5,000 refugees were part of thousands that fled at the peak of the Boko Haram crisis and negotiation of their return has been on ongoing.
The refugees were handed over to the governor by Cameroonian officials, led by the Minister for Territorial Administration, Paul Atanga Nji, at a brief ceremony in Amchiide, a border community between Nigeria and Cameroon close to Banki in Bama Local Government Area of Borno Central on Monday.
The handover ceremony was attended by top officials from Cameroon, including the governor of the far North Region, Midjiyawa Bakary and officials of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).
The Cameroonian Minister for Territorial Administration, Paul Atanga Nji Paul, announced that President Paul Biya had approved a big relief package which included food items, mattresses, blankets and other non-food items for distribution to all the 5,000 returnees as support.
The minister commended Zulum for constructing homes where the refugees would be resettled.
Zulum had approved funds and supervised the ongoing construction of over 6,000 urban and low-cost resettlement houses sited in Banki, Gwoza, Kondugu, Kaga and different others, with a substantial number of them already completed. Majority of them are used for resettlement of refugees and internally displaced persons.
Zulum, on behalf of Nigeria, thanked the Cameroonian president, other officials and host communities for taking good care of Nigerian refugees in the last six years. The governor appreciated the donation made by President Biya.
“I wish to sincerely convey our deepest appreciation to the government of Cameroon under the distinguished leadership of President Paul Biya for the enormous support to my fellow Nigerians who took refuge in the Minawao [refugee] Camp. We remain eternally grateful”, Zulum said.
The repatriation was to implement the outcome of a tripartite commission meeting held in Marwa, Cameroon, on February 10, 2021, which was attended by officials from Cameroon, the UNHCR and a Nigerian delegation that comprised Governor Zulum and top officials from federal ministries of Foreign Affairs, Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and IDPs as well as Zulum’s Special Adviser on Monitoring and Evaluation, who chairs a technical committee on the repatriation, Mr. Lawan Abba Wakilbe.
After receiving the refugees, Zulum in Banki town, flagged off the presentation of food and non-food items to the 5,000 Nigerian returnees.
Male heads of families were each given N30,000; while each woman was given N10,000 and a fabric.
The governor showed his sympathy for how they lived as refugees, assuring that his government was committed to their security, welfare and would create an enabling environment for them to return to normal life.
The state’s Commissioners for Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement, Mr. Mustapha Gubio; Local Government and Emirate Affairs, Sugun Mai Mele and a former Commissioner for Housing and Energy, Mr. Babagana Tijjani Banki, were part of Zulum’s delegation.