Photograph — Financial Times

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) on Wednesday disclosed that about 245,000 Nigerians, mostly from the North East, are seeking refuge in Cameroon, Niger and Chad.

Antonio Canhandula, UNHCR and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) representative in Nigeria, revealed these figures at the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) programme in Abuja which aims to support countries of refugee origin and ease the pressure on countries hosting refugees.

In his estimation, Canhandula said that currently, 94,000 Nigerian refugees from the North East are in Cameroon, 12,000 are in Chad while 112,000 are in Niger. Also, with the insurgency in the North West, there was an outflow of 27,000 refugees to Niger.

In view of the high migration rate of Nigerian refugees from the country, the state of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps across the West African nation is questioned. According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (iDMC) at the end of 2018, there were over 2.2 million IDPs recorded in Nigeria with Borno alone accounting for 80 percent.

Although there are about 6 IDPs centres in Nigeria they are not properly equipped to house all these refugees, leaving them no choice but to migrate outside the country in search of a safe haven. Also, quite a number of Nigerian IDP centres lack enough food and clothing to go round, are unhygienic, and prone to trafficking.

In a report by Philip Obaji, a Nigerian human rights educator and initiator of the Up Against Trafficking Campaign in Maiduguri, He explained the fraudulent enticement IDPs (especially girls) face in camp so as to escape hardship and secure a better future.

More often than not, teenage girls have to fend for themselves while in camp and most times get advances from local community law enforcers and members of the Civilian Joint Task Force. These men offer food in exchange for sex, Aisha one of the IDPs said that “It was so frustrating having to beg for food, and coming into contact with people who only wanted to exploit us.” 

Traffickers leveraging on the weakness of these girls lure them with the promise of taking them abroad where they can earn a living. Subsequently, most of these girls die in the desert and never make it to their promised destinations.

In addition to why some IDPs tend to leave the country, the issue of inadequacy in basic amenities came to light. The Nigerian government is then tasked with the responsibility of providing an enabling environment where their citizens can live in and flourish. 

In order to prevent more Nigerian refugees from migrating out of the country, the government has to make provisions for better IDPs facilities which are furnished with the necessary features to inhabit internally displaced persons. Provide an avenue for IDPs to make ends meet and more importantly, increase the standard of living of its citizens. 

By Treasure Nnabugwu

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