President Muhammadu Buhari assured, Wednesday, in Abuja that the return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to their original homes will begin from early next year. The IDPs were forced out of their communities by the Boko Haram insurgency which had ravaged the northeast region. Speaking when he hosted a delegation from the International Rescue Committee (IRC) led by former British foreign minister, Mr David Miliband, President Buhari said that his administration would do all within its powers to facilitate the quick return and resettlement of over two million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in their towns and villages.
According to a statement issued by his senior special assistant, Media, Malam Garba Shehu, the president told Mr Miliband and his delegation that the federal government would welcome the support of the IRC and other local and international non-governmental organisations in the rehabilitation of IDPs.
“In 2016, the return of the IDPs will start in earnest. They will return to their communities to meet destroyed schools and other infrastructure which have to be rebuilt.
“With agriculture being moribund in the region in the last two years without cropping, hunger is already manifest. We will welcome all the help we can get to assist the returnees, “ President Buhari said.
Responding to a request by Mr Miliband on the federal government’s priorities as to the nature of assistance required for the IDPs, the president said that there was an urgent need for support in the areas of agricultural inputs, health, nutrition, water and sanitation.
President Buhari urged the IRC and other international agencies to work with the Presidential Committee on the North-East and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) which, he said, were already doing a lot to cater for the IDPs and restore some basic infrastructure in communities affected by terrorism and insurgency.
Mr Miliband assured President Buhari that the IRC would intensify its ongoing work in Nigeria where it has assisted over 350,000 displaced persons, mainly in Adamawa and Borno states.
He called for an increased security presence in recovered towns and territories, saying that most prospective returnees still feared for their safety on their return home.
Meanwhile, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has revealed that the Cameroonian government has repatriated over 18,000 refugees to Nigeria, with more still being expected from the country.
Thousands of Nigerian refugees fled to Cameroon’s Far North region to escape incessant Boko Haram attacks on civilians in the north-east.
NEMA’s planning officer in Adamawa State, Alhaji Sa’adu Bello, told the Hausa Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) that Cameroonian authorities had begun since August this year to return Nigerians who fled to the country for safety.
The Cameroonian authorities had earlier said that the refugees came from villages caught in the fighting along the border and that more continued to cross into the extremely volatile border zones.
The conflict in north-east has also forced some 18,000 people to flee to western Chad, including more than 15,000 since early January after major attacks in Borno State.
Meanwhile, Niger Republic, in its bid to rid its prisons of the dreaded Boko Haram insurgents, has agreed to transfer about 500 inmates who belong to the sect back to Nigeria.
A magistrate who craved anonymity told Reuters news agency that “Nigeria sent a working group here (to Niger) last week and the two sides have established an initial list of 500 detainees who will soon be transferred to Nigeria.”
The exact time when the prisoners, who are in detention centres of Kollo, Diffa and Koutoukale, would be transferred is still unknown.
Both countries form part of an 8,700-strong regional taskforce dedicated to destroying a terror group that has killed thousands of people and displaced millions in its push to create an Islamic caliphate in the region.