By Abraham Olatokunbo
After several diplomatic efforts between officials of Nigeria and Cameroon governments, the much expected repatriation of Nigerian refugees from Cameroon has been fixed for February 27 and March 7, 2021.
Most of the 46,000 refugees fled troubled Borno State to neighbouring Cameroonian towns especially Minawao at the peak of the Boko Haram crisis.
The decision on the scheduled repatriation dates was taken after a tripartite commission meeting involved representatives of the Federal Government Borno State Government and Government of Cameroon.
The meeting, which held on Wednesday, had in attendance; the Cameroonian delegation led by the host country’s Minister of Territorial Administration, Paul Atanga Nji, Governor of Far North Cameroon, Midjiyawa Bakary, and some humanitarian officials, and the Nigerian side led by Governor Zulum, top Officials from the Nigerian High Commission in Cameroon, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Malam Bashir Nura Alkali, and the Ministry’s Humanitarian Director, Ali Grema, a representative of the Federal Commissioner, National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons, Mr. Hassan Ejibunu, the Governor’s Adviser on External and Liaison Services, Ambassador Adamu Abbas who is also a member of the Technical Working Group (TWG) established for implementation of the tripartite repatriation agreement, a member of House of Representatives representing Bama, Ngala, Kala-Balge Federal constituency of Borno State, Zainab Gimba, the Director General of Borno State Emergency Management Agency, and some relevant officials.
A statement on Thursday by Zulum’s spokesman, Mallam Isa Gusau read: “Following a two-day visit to Cameroon by Borno Governor, Prof. Babagana Umara Zulum, a tripartite commission meeting held on Wednesday night, has fixed February 27th, and March 7th, 2021 to commence the voluntary repatriation of Nigerian refugees towards resettlement in Borno State.”
The statement further read that: “About 46,000 Nigerians, mostly from Borno, have been taking refuge in Minawao refugee camp, located in Mokolo, far north region of Cameroon.”
It disclosed that: “Governor Zulum alongside Federal humanitarian officials from Nigeria and Cameroon, were at the Minawao camp Wednesday, before returning to Maroua, capital of the far north region, for a tripartite commission meeting.
“Zulum’s initial target was to have first batch of 9,800 willing Nigerian refugees repatriated this week for resettlement in newly built houses located in Bama and Banki.
“However, yesterday (Wednesday)’s meeting of the tripartite commission came up with a revised standard operating procedure which was signed by all parties agreeing that repatriation holds on February 27th and March 7th, 2021.”
The statement explained that: “The tripartite commission was established in the aftermath of a tripartite agreement signed in Cameroon on March 2nd, 2017, between Governments of Nigeria, the Republic of Cameroon and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), on repatriation of Nigerian refugees who fled to Cameroon since 2014 over attacks by Boko Haram in parts of Borno and Adamawa States.
“The agreement created a legal framework which identified modalities for voluntary, dignified and safe return of refugees to their countries of origin with all parties agreeing to critically assess safety of resettlement destinations, ensure refugees are well informed of the realities of where they will returned in order to make them take informed decisions while neither Nigerian officials nor communities in Cameroon should force refugees to leave. The UNHCR was to keep supporting the refugees and protecting their rights and obedience to local laws under the UN convention.
“A tripartite commission with representatives from Nigeria, Cameroon and the UNHCR, was then established to monitor the implementation of the tripartite agreement by ensuring all parties live to their signed commitments in favour of refugees.”
Zulum, who arrived Cameroon on Tuesday evening, before his trip have had series of meetings aimed at following all established procedures towards lawful repatriation of the refugees in Cameroon,
with Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajiya Sadiya Farouq, the Federal Commissioner, National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons, Senator Basheer, and with relevant ambassadors.
It has been reported that majority of refugees at the Minawao refugee camp, who are mostly from Borno State, have regularly appealed to Governor Babagana Zulum to spearhead their repatriation to safe and rebuilt communities in Borno in order to return to decent living.
The governor had in September 2019, during his trip to the camp in Minawao, promised citizens that he would in response to their appeal, work with stakeholders towards their successful reparation and dignified resettlement in over