Cameroonian officials, led by Paul Atanga Nji, the Minister for Territorial Administration, have repatriated and handed over the first batch of 5,000 Nigerian refugees to Babagana Zulum, Governor of Borno State Governor.
The handover took place on Monday, March 6, during a brief ceremony in Amchiide, a border community between Nigeria and Cameroon, close to Banki in Bama Local Government Area of Borno Central.
The returnees were part of thousands of Nigerians, mostly from Borno, Northeast Nigeria, 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, though said to be more than 60,000 by some accounts, fled to the camp from parts of Borno and Adamawa states. But over the years, the number came down following isolated returns.
The handover 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).
During the event, Paul Atanga Nji, the Cameroonian Minister for Territorial Administration 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 as support.
The minister commended Governor Zulum for constructing homes where the refugees would be resettled.
Governor Zulum had approved funds and supervised the ongoing construction of over 6,000 urban and low-cost resettlement houses in Banki, Gwoza, Kondugu, Kaga and others, with many of them already completed. The majority of them are used for the resettlement of refugees and internally displaced persons.
Zulum, on behalf of the Nigerian government, thanked the Cameroonian president, other officials and host communities for taking good care of Nigerian refugees in the last six years. The governor 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,” he said.
The repatriation was 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 that comprised Governor Zulum and top officials from federal ministries of Foreign Affairs, Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and IDPs as well as. Lawan Abba Wakilbe, Zulum’s Special Adviser on Monitoring and Evaluation, who chairs a technical committee on the repatriation.
After receiving the refugees, Governor Zulum flagged off the presentation of food and non-food items to the 5,000 Nigerian returnees.
Male heads of families were each given N30,000 while each woman was given N10,000 and fabric.
The governor expressed sympathy for how they lived as refugees, assuring that his government was committed to their security, welfare and would create an enabling environment for them to return to normal life.
Mustapha Gubio, the state’s Commissioner for Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement, Sugun Mai Mele, Commissioner for Local Government and Emirate Affairs, and Tijjani Banki Babagana, a former Commissioner for Housing and Energy, were part of Zulum’s delegation.