CAMEROON has repatriated 5,000 Nigerian refugees out of 9,800 expected back home in the first batch. A total of 46, 000 Nigerian refugees are expected to return home from Cameroon in the long run.
The refugees fled Nigeria in 2014 due to Boko Haram insurgency but have now expressed willingness to return to the resettlement houses built by the Borno State government.
The refugees who had been camped at Minawao, located in Mokolo, far north region of Cameroon, were handed over to Borno State government during a brief ceremony that took place in Amchiide, a border community between Nigeria and Cameroon, close to Banki in Bama Local Government Area of the state on Tuesday.
Paul Atanga Nji, Cameroon’s minister for territorial administration, who led the handover team on behalf of his country, disclosed that President Paul Biya had approved a relief package that included food items and mattresses, blankets and other non-food items as support to all the 5,000 returnees.
Nji also commended Babagana Zulum, governor of Borno State, for constructing over 6,000 urban and low-cost resettlement houses sited in Bama, Banki, Gwoza, Kondugu, Kaga and other parts of the state, noting that most of the housing units had been completed.
Receiving the 5,000 refugees on behalf of Nigeria, Zulum expressed appreciation to Biya and the host communities for accommodating the refugees over the last six years and assured the returnees of his government’s commitment to creating an enabling environment that would enable them to resume a normal life.
“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 camp. We remain eternally grateful,” Zulum said.
The governor later flagged off the presentation of food and non-food items to the returnees. Male heads of families received 30, 000 naira, while each woman was given 10, 000 naira and a fabric.
In February, Zulum had led a Nigerian delegation to Marwa in Cameroon for a meeting on the tripartite agreement signed between Nigeria, Cameroon, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, over the repatriation of Nigerians in the country.
The tripartite agreement spelt out international best practices on humanitarian issues involving the movement of persons between two or more countries and the roles and limitations of all parties, and the protection of refugees’ rights.
Before that meeting, the governor had held series of talks with Nigeria’s minister of foreign affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama; minister of humanitarian affairs, disaster management and social development, Sadiya Farouq; commissioner, National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons, Basheer Mohammed, and other relevant ambassadors.
The handover ceremony was attended by top officials from Cameroon, including the governor of the far North Region, Midjiyawa Bakary, officials of the Borno State government, and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).