Nigeria partners UN, Cameroon on return of 65,000 IDPs

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To ensure the safe return of over 65,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) currently in Cameroon, Nigeria has signed a tripartite agreement with the UN and Cameroon, an official has said.

Hajia Sadiya Umaru-Farouq, the Federal Commissioner, National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons, disclosed this in Calabar while inaugurating the distribution of food and non-food items to Bakassi IDPs.

Umaru-Farouq explained that the agreement was signed to ensure the protection and assistance of Nigerian nationals in Cameroon on their voluntary return to Nigeria.

According to her, the 65,000 IDPs consist of Boko Haram victims and the displaced people of Bakassi.

“We have about 65,000 Nigerians in Cameroon. The number consist of Boko Haram victims and the displaced people of Bakassi.

“This agreement is voluntary for those willing to return to Nigeria and for those who wish to stay in Cameroon.

“We will profile them and see the numbers that want to return home and those that want to remain in Cameroon.’’

Meanwhile, the Federal Commissioner distributed 40 bags of rice, 10 wheelbarrows, 40 cartons of indomie noodles, 14 kegs of groundnut oil, 12 kegs of palm oil, bedsheets and dozens of wrappers among others, to the IDPs.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that over 40 households were beneficiaries of the food and non-food items.

John Inaku, the Director-General, Cross River State Emergency Management Agency, said that the issue of IDPs in the state started when the oil-rich Bakassi peninsula was ceded to Cameroon in 2008.

According to Inaku, the Bakassi camp has over 3,720 IDPs, adding that the people had continued to suffer untold hardship because they no longer engaged in fishing, which is their main occupation.

He pleaded with President Muhammadu Buhari to look into the plight of Bakassi IDPs, with a view to resettling them permanently.

Earlier during a courtesy visit, Gov. Ben Ayade, told the Federal Commissioner that the IDPs had been dislocated from their ancestral homes.

Ayade said the IDPs had been reduced to what he called `elements’, adding that some of them were greatly affected by the displacement.

‘‘The Bakassi IDPs can no longer afford adequate feeding per day; they can no longer fish or farm to earn a living.

‘‘They have been taken away from their source of livelihood.”

The governor then requested the president, through the commissioner, to permanently resettle the Bakassi people, whom, he said, had lost touch with the true meaning of life.

In a remark, Mr Etim Okon-Ene, the Camp Leader of the Bakassi IDPs, thanked the Federal Government for the show of love to them.

Okon-Etim used the opportunity to appeal to both the federal and state governments to provide them with adequate security at the Akwa-Ikot Eyo-Edem camp.

A cross section of the beneficiaries who spoke with NAN, commended the Federal Government for the gift items.