Deji Elumoye in Abuja
The federal government has released N15 billion to bring home thousands of Nigerians in three neighbouring countries – Chad, Cameroon and Niger Republic – who were forced to flee Nigeria at the height of Boko Haram and other terror activities in the North-east.
Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State made this known yesterday while briefing newsmen at the State House, Abuja, after a meeting of the Repatriation, Return and Resettlement Committee, chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
According to Zulum: “Few months ago, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria established a committee for the return and resettlement of displaced Nigerian living in the Republic of Chad, Cameroon and Niger to Nigeria.
“Based on the recommendation of the Chairman of this committee, which is the Vice President, N15 billion has been released to the committee. We are here to discuss the modalities for implementation; who does what. So far, so good. A lot has been discussed. Many items will be procured so that the repatriation exercise will take immediate effect.”
Asked how many displaced persons have been brought back so far, the Borno State governor said: “More than 300,000 have returned. But under this phase, we are yet to begin the process. This is the 4th Phase of the exercise we shall embark upon very soon.
“Guidelines were provided for respective agencies that are to handle this matter. What should be given to the individuals in terms of food and non-food items; what type of house shall we build; what is the transportation medium? What is the minimum threshold required to return people from the neighbouring countries to Nigeria? These are some of the issues that were discussed according to international best practices.”
In the meantime, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has directed all government agencies involved in the implementation of the work of the Presidential Committee on the Repatriation, Returns and Resettlement of Displaced Persons in the North-east to harmonise items needed and their prices in all procurements to be undertaken on behalf of the Committee.
The Vice President also directed effective monitoring and evaluation of the implementation at a meeting he presided over yesterday at the Presidential Villa.
At the meeting, presentations were made by the Borno State Government, the Military, the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons, and the National Emergency Management Agency, following the release of the N15 billion by the President for the task.
Specifically, the federal government has released N6 billion to the Borno State Government, N3 billion to the Defence Headquarters, N2.5 billion to NEMA and N3 billion to the Refugee Commission for the first phase of the work of the Presidential Committee.
After presentations by the different government agencies, questions were raised about price differentials between quotes and local market rates, and also certain duplications of needed items.
Osinbajo who expressed serious concern about the price differentials and the duplication of needs then directed that the sub-committee on harmonisation of needs and prices should correct the situation.
He also directed that the sub-committee should be engaged with the task of effective evaluation and monitoring.
Osinbajo then specified that the sub-committee should work in consultation with Borno State Governor, who is also the Vice Chairman of the Committee, regarding the harmonisation of the needs and prices.
According to the Vice President, “the President is very serious about the work of the Committee, emphasising the need for judicious use of resources and transparency in the spending of the funds already released.
“It makes sense to have the already existing Sub-Committee liaise with the Governor of Borno State in order to streamline the needs and acquisition of requirements preparatory to the return of the IDPs.”
Each government agency at the meeting made presentations on the state of preparation for the returnees.
According to the presentation of the Borno State Government, construction of housing for refugees and Internally Displaced Persons, rehabilitation of damaged houses and the provision and rehabilitation of social utilities such as schools, health, water and other facilities have begun.
The meeting yesterday was attended by Zulum, Muhammad Inuwa Yahaya, Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, Director General of NEMA and representatives of Chief of Defence Staff, Inspector General of Police, and other heads of agencies involved.
President Buhari inaugurated the Committee in February 2022, with members drawn from State Governments, Ministries, security agencies, National Refugee Commission, and the National Emergency Management Agency, among others.