Nigeria joins UNHCR, ECOWAS, NCFRMI to mark World Refugee Day



By Chimezie Godfrey

The Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, says Nigeria has joined the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), the Economic Committee of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Nigerian Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRMI) to mark June 20, as the World Refugee Day (WRD).

The theme for this year is “Everyone can make a difference; every action counts”.

The Minister, Sadiya Umar Farouq said that the United Nations General Assembly, UNGA, in its wisdom has rechristened Africa Refugee Day as World Refugee Day (WRD) on 4th of December, 2000 via Resolution 55/76. 

She added that the day was set aside to commemorate the plight, courage, and resilience of refugees who have fled their countries as a result of conflict and insurgencies, for reasons of race, nationality, membership of a particularly social group or having differing political opinions. 

Farouq further stated that the World Refugee Day (WRD) is also to draw the attention of world leaders, as well as non-government actors to refrain from actions, decisions and policies that escalate conflicts in the society and give rise to mass displacement. 

According to her, the theme is apt and cannot be more relevant now that the world is being devastated by COVID-19 pandemic which has constrained the freedom of people in major cities across Nigeria and the measures put in place to contain the spread of the lethal virus. 

“This has created untold hardship to the citizens and most especially the vulnerable population, including the Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). 

“The pandemic has presented an opportunity for the whole world to rethink the way we support Refugee communities. 

“As a responsive government, the government of Nigeria under President Muhammadu Buhari has deployed an inclusive approach in carrying out humanitarian interventions which has been exemplified in the context specific interventions carried out during the period of Covid19 Pandemic, targeting the most vulnerable population, including the Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). 

“The protection of Refugees and other vulnerable groups is among the top priorities of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration” the Minister  added.

She  disclosed that the ministry has also taken a step further in developing modalities for inclusion of Refugees in the social safety nets through the National Social Investment Programme (NSIP) in order to make everyone count, most especially the vulnerable groups.

She pointed out that all hands must be on deck in the drive to providing protection and assistance to Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). 

According to her, as a Ministry mandated to coordinate all humanitarian issues, they will continue to ensure the safety and well-being of the Refugees in Nigeria.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) Representative to Nigeria, Ms. Chansa Kapaya, stated that in Nigerian the persons of concern to United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) include; 2,045,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the North East out of which 1.8 million are in the BAY states, 57,800 Cameroonian refugees in the South East. 

She added that there are about 2,340 urban refugees and 1,122 asylum seekers in Lagos, Ogun, Kano States and the Federal Capital Territory. 

According to her, over the past few years there has been an escalation of conflict in the Lake Chad region with cross-border activities of Boko Haram which has caused the displacement of many Northeastern part of Nigeria and the far Northern region of Cameroon. 

Kappaya pointed out that consequently,  292,141 Nigerian refugees have sought asylum in Niger, Cameroon and Chad. 

She further stated that Refugees and the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) through the support of UNHCR, NCFRMI, and other humanitarian organizations are stepping up to make their actions count in their various communities by becoming entrepreneurs, engaging in the production of handbags, shoes, mats hand fans, keyholders and other useful items during this Covid19 crisis. 

“Some are also involved in the production of face masks for commercial purpose using locally available materials while others are making difference by teaching in schools either as employees or volunteer teachers in the refugee settlements.

“The World Refugee Day (WRD), UNHCR is appealing to everyone to help continue this global movement of solidarity and actions, everyone can make a difference, and everyone counts when it comes to promoting inclusion, respect, and dignity for all, including refugees, internally displaced and stateless people,” she stated.

The ECOWAS Commissioner, Social Affairs and Gender, Dr. Siga Fatima Jagne who was represented by the ECOWAS Director for Humanitarian and Social Affairs, Dr. Sintiki Ugbe, stated that in view of the theme of the World Refugee Day (WRD), Commission in line with its humanitarian mandates will continue to support member states to address the sufferings of the populations affected by humanitarian concerns. 

According her, the Commission is implementing food assistance to 4 members states in the region which include; Burkinafaso, Mali, Niger and Nigeria worth 1 million dollar as palliatives to ease the impact of covid19 pandemic in the region. 

Jegne appreciated the collective efforts of all stakeholders in organizing the World Refugee Day, and making sure that the needs, importance and priorities of refugees are not forgotten even during this pandemic. 

She noted that the Commission is committed to remain engaged in working with member’s states, local communities and partners to continue to search for durable solutions to displacements in the region through political and diplomatic process as well as demonstrating true commitment by providing assistance through member’s states to alleviate the suffering. 

She commended the Nigerian Government and the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, for the demonstration shown to Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Nigeria with the establishment of a commission to specifically address the needs of Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced persons.