From Andy Esiet, Calabar
Cross River state government has raised the alarm over the high rate of about 200, 000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees in the state as it seeks federal government and international intervention.
Cross River Director General (DG), Migration and Control Agency, Prince Mike Abua, who gave the figures while fielding questions from journalists in Calabar on the high influx of refugees, migrants and internally displaced in the state immediately after his paper presentation in a workshop organized by “Children of Rural Africa- Nigeria (COR Africa)” at Transcorp Hotel, Calabar, yesterday said out of the total 200, 000 persons, 50, 000 are said to be refugees that migrated from neighbouring Cameroon taking refuge in the state due to the outbreak of civil war in the Cameroon Republic.
Worried by this alarming figure, he charged the federal government and the International Commission for Migrants, Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons to conduct a comprehensive survey in the state so as to ascertain the number of migrants, refugees and IDPs in the state.
Speaking on the topic “Agro-business and Education Opportunities for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons” Abuo said with a survey, it would be easy for a database to be built to enable the government have a full grasp of actual migrants and refugees figure in Cross River and will help government to plan ahead of time in terms of infrastructure and facilities that can provide succour to the refugees and the IDPs.
Giving a breakdown of the number of migrants who have infiltrated Cross River State, due to the state’s position on the border line, he said that 100, 000 are IDPs as a result of persons displaced from Bakassi following the loss of the area to Cameroon at the Internal Court of Justice (ICJ) and most of them currently being held up in bad condition in Obanlikwu Local Government Area of the state while about 50, 000 IDP are as a result of communal clashes over mere parcels of land and another 50, 000 refugees that fled from the Cameroon civil war..
“We have an influx of thousands of refugees because of the civil war in Cameroon, it’s overwhelming. This is not something that the state government alone can handle”, Abuo said and called on the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) “to stand by us by improving upon the good works that they have been doing, and the IOM and other international organizations to provide some funding and intervention.
“We call for an increase in terms of international funding to provide succour for these persons. The little facility that is available is enough to cater for the number of refugees that are in the state”.
On his part, the National Programme Director, COR Africa- Nigeria, Dr. Jimoh Odunayo, stressed that his organization which had previously provided skill acquisition programmes /livelihood support for the refugees embarked on the training of a thousand refugees to close the gap existing between the training that the refugees had received from implementing partners.
Jimoh stated that the essence of the training workshop is to look at the opportunities that are available for migrants, refugees and IDPs in the area of agribusiness and educational opportunities as “we noticed that there is a gap that is existing between the training that they have received and the support and everything. We realized that due to the effect of COVID-19, which broke out in 2020, the gains recorded have been eroded so far on this.
“We are doing this to ensure that the refugees and internally displaced recover from losses incurred during the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic. We are saying that there should be a national confab where we will possibly deliberate, the action plan and ways to make this better for them beyond the government…We are working with one thousand persons across three settlements in Cross River State. We will give them starter packs after the training. We are trying to restrategize and change the logic of training”.
Recall that the UNHCR during the celebration of World Refugee Day 2020 in June last year expressed concern over the increasing number of refugees in the state as the settlements in the state now are experiencing serious congestion problems arising from its current refugee population of over 36, 000.
The UNHCR Head of Field Office, Calabar, Mr. Christopher Mubanga had said, “UNHCR estimates that 70.8 million people are refugees or have been displaced by violence in their countries, and one out of every 100 people in the world has fled their homes. Nigeria is presently hosting over 57,000 Cameroonian refugees in Akwa Ibom, Benue, Cross River and Taraba states and Cross River State alone hosts over 36,000 Cameroonian refugees”.
He said that this means Cross River alone hosts more than 63 percent of the refugees in Nigeria currently staying in Okende and Adagom 1 an2 settlements in Ogoja Local Government Area of the state and for now, “our settlements are actually congested”.