By Dauda R. Pam, Maiduguri
Minister for Territorial Administration of Cameroon, Paul Atanga Nji, with some officials have repatriated and handed over the first batch of 5,000 Nigerian refugees to Borno State goverment.
Handing over the refugees to Governor Babagana Umara Zulum,yesterday,at a brief ceremony in Amchiide, a border community between Nigeria and Cameroon close to Banki in Bama Local Government Area in BORNO state.
This formed part of thousands of Nigerians, mostly from Borno, who, since 2014, had fled in batches to Minawao Camp located in Mokolo, far North Region of Cameroon, to escape Boko Haram’s killings.
Many Nigerians, in uncertain numbers, said to be more than 60,000 by some accounts, fled to the camp from parts of Borno and Adamawa States but however,over the years, the number came down following isolated returns.
The 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 announced that President Paul Biya had approved a relief package which included food items, mattresses, blankets and other non-food items for distribution to all the 5,000 returnees and commended Governor Zulum for constructing homes where the refugees would be resettled.
It be recalled that Governor Zulum had earlier approved funds and supervised the ongoing construction of over 6,000 urban and low-cost re-settlement houses sited in Banki, Gwoza, Kondugu, Kaga,with a substantial number of them already completed to be used for the resettlement of refugees and internally displaced persons.
On behalf of Nigeria, Zulum,thanked the Cameroonian president, officials and host communities for taking good care of Nigerian refugees in the last six years and 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 is 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 led by Governor Zulum and top officials from federal ministries of Foreign Affairs, Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development.
Also 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, Engr. Lawan Abba Wakilbe witnessed the occasion.
In his usual characteristics,after receiving the refugees, Governor Zulum flagged off the presentation of food and non-food items to the 5,000 Nigerian returnees in Banki town.
Cash gifts of N30,000 were given to male family heads each,while each woman was given N10,000 and a fabric as a show of his sympathy to the refugees, assuring them that his government is committed to their security, welfare and would create an enabling environment for them to return to normal life.