Following the insecurity in different parts of the country, the number of Nigerian refugees in Chad, Cameroon, and Niger Republic has risen to 339,669, a report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has shown.
The figure showed about 17,000 increase from the 322,000 disclosed by the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Farouq, in September 2021.
The displaced persons were victims of terrorism in the Northeast and the banditry-turned-terrorism in the North-West, as well as the killings and kidnappings across the country.
The minister had in 2021 said the breakdown “consists of 16,634 in Chad; 118,409 in Cameroon, while Niger Republic has 186,957”.
But information by the UNHCR on ‘Nigerian refugees by country asylum’ indicated that as of November 30, 2022, the number of Nigerians taking refuge in Niger Republic had risen to 187,130; 132,151 in Cameroon and 20,388 in Chad.
A chart on the website revealed that as of April 23, 2014, there were only 3,069 refugees in the three countries. The figure however rose to 37,388 in December 2014; 41,478 in January 2015; 82,064 in January 2016; 200,380 in January 2017; 205,620 in January 2018; and 272,077 in January 2019.
By January 2020, the figure rose to 279,408; 305,656 in January 2021, 328,005 refugees in January 2022 and 339,669 on November 30, 2022.
Meanwhile, the number of Nigerians seeking asylum in the three countries maintained its increase despite the promise by the Vice-President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, in March that the safe return of Nigerians displaced by the insurgency in the North-East from Cameroon, Niger and Chad would be treated as an emergency.
He spoke after the first meeting of the Presidential Committee on the Repatriation, Returns and Resettlement of Displaced Persons, inaugurated in February by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), in Abuja.
“We should immediately do whatever it takes to commence the process of repatriating our people back home. Already there are several initiatives,” Osinbajo said.
In the committee chaired by the vice-president, Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State is the vice chairman, with some ministers, the National Security Adviser, Chief of Defence Staff, Inspector-General of Police, Director-General of the Department of State Services, and others as members.
Earlier in October 2021, the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons, which is also represented in the committee, told The PUNCH that the government had begun work on repatriating the Nigerian refugees back home.
The acting Deputy Director, Refugees and Migrants Department, Murdakai Titus, said tripartite agreements for the repatriation exercise were being signed by the affected parties.
He added, “We have written to the authorities of Niger Republic that we want to bring back our people. Secondly, the Borno State governor, who is partly the host of these refugees, has taken it upon himself to visit Niger Republic. He met with the authorities there and expressed willingness to receive his people. At the same time, the Government of Niger is willing that we should come in and that the international community should come in to facilitate the return of the people.”
Despite the promises, however, the number of Nigerian refugees has continued to increase.
Meanwhile, quoting the International Organisation for Migration, the government, and the National Emergency Management Agency, the UNHCR said there were 2,197,824 internally displaced persons in the country, compared to 385,372 in Cameroon, 381,289 in Chad, and 168,806 in the Niger Republic.
According to the NCFRMI, as of July 2022, only 84,803 of the then 3.2 million IDPs had been registered.
Owing to the raging insecurity in the country, no fewer than 7,222 Nigerians were killed, and 3,823 persons abducted in 2,840 incidents between January 1 and July 29, 2022, alone, according to the data obtained from the Nigeria Security Incidents Tracker, compiled and published by Beacon Consulting.