The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees yesterday cautioned the Nigerian government against returning the internally displaced persons to their homes in Borno and Yobe States, saying the states were not yet boko haram negative.
Liz Ahua who is the UNHCR Regional Representative for West Africa and Regional Coordinator for the Nigeria Situation, gave the warning in Abuja at the Lake Chad Basin regional protection dialogue for the victims of Boko Haram insurgency.
According to the high commissioner, Boko Haram insurgency and the spill over in Cameroon, Niger and Chad had caused the death of thousands, sacked over 2.7 million people from their homes in the region and affected the lives of over 20 million persons in the countries. She also further stated that 60 percent of the affected population were children.
Ms. Ahua stated that many of these displaced children were living in areas where the humanitarian and civilian government actors had slim chances of helping them because of insecurity.
“We note that there are returns that are taking place even as we talk today, but I simply would want to underscore that the conditions are not fully ripe yet because we still have persistent threats from Boko Haram, presence of mines, unexploded Improvised devices as well as absence of some basic services,” she said.
The UNHCR high commissioner went further to say that in Nigeria alone, about 3.5 million IDPs and host communities live in areas of Borno and Yobe states that were still largely inaccessible to humanitarian actors. However she expressed joy over the victories recorded by the military and intelligence operations which regained some of the areas in north eastern Nigeria that were initially under the control of insurgents.
Irrespective of the successes recorded by the military, Ms Ahua noted that these has not fully eliminated or degraded the chances of further harassment and killing of innocent civilians, hence the state of the environment in the northeast especially borno is not totally favorable for the return of IDPs and Nigerian refugees.
Speaking on same event, Ms Ahua expressed fear that about 50,000 persons may have been sacked from their town last Friday following an attack that took place in Niger republic. Also according to her , the number of IDPs in that country would certainly swell to 180,000 while Cameroon and Chad had been reported to be hosting over 160,000 and 54,000 IDPs respectively.