Thousands of Nigerians forced by Boko Haram fighters to flee abroad from their homes in the North-east have begun to return home, the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, has said.
A report by the agency said at least 29,581 of the documented 240,000Nigerian refugees who had fled into Cameroon, Chad and Niger are back in the country.
The report came months after the news that Cameroon planned to repatriate at least 56,000 Nigerian refugees.
The Nigerian government debunked an allegation that it had endorsed the plan for the repatriation.
In 2015, Cameroon, a non-member country of the ECOWAS, was accused of dehumanizing Nigerian refugees by chasing about 2,600 of them out of their territory without informing Nigerian officials.
In gross violation of the international etiquettes on refugees management, Cameroonian officials reportedly piled the Nigerian refugees into trucks and dumped them in border communities in Adamawa state.
Most of the returnees had lamented the unfriendly environment they endured in Cameroon before its government finally hauled them out.
They claimed that the Cameroonian gendarmes evacuated about 12,000 Nigerians in just four days by cramping about 40 refugees, including women and children, into vehicles designed for 12 to 15 passengers.
In June, the Nigerian government signed a tripartite agreement with the United Nations High Commission for Refugee, UNHCR, and Cameroon for the return of the refugees. About 80,000 Nigerian refugees were expected to return following the agreement.
According to the latest NEMA report on ‘humanitarian relief intervention,’ “about 29, 581 Nigerians who fled communities in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa as result of insurgent activities to Republic of Niger and Cameroon voluntarily returned last year”.
The report, which was issued by the spokesman of NEMA, Sani Datti, said “13,046 Nigerians returned from Niger Republic in May 2015 and were received in Geidam, Yobe State”.
This group were those forcefully repatriated by Cameroon.
Between April and December, 2015 “NEMA received about 16,595 Nigerians that had voluntarily returned from Cameroon through the Sahuda border crossing area near Mubi, Adamawa State”, the report further stated.
The report indicated that most of the refugees were being received back in IDP camps where officials of the concerned north-east states joined other aid agencies to provide them with humanitarian relief supports.
“Some of the Nigerians that fled to neighbouring countries (Niger, Chad and Cameroon) were provided with humanitarian relief support by Nigeria through NEMA to alleviate their suffering”, the report said.
“The displaced Nigerians have also received humanitarian supports from the host governments, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), the host communities and Nigerian citizens living in the three host countries.
“There are presently 20,804 displaced Nigerians living in Chad, 80,709 in Cameroon and 138,321 in Niger”, the report stated.
NEMA said it hopes to get over the issue of humanitarian conflict, with the improving “successes recorded by the Nigerian Military with the support of Multi-National Joint Military Task Force (JTF) in the fight against Boko Haram insurgents”.
The agency said its focus was “gradually shifting towards Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Resettlement, Recovery and dignified return of IDPs back home while process for the return of Nigerian refugees from neighbouring countries is equally on-going”.
The relief agency also said it would sustain the humanitarian response through enhanced collaboration with the affected states and relevant stakeholders in order to overcome the challenges in the north-east of Nigeria.
Meanwhile, about 240,000 documented Nigerians remained trapped in Cameroon, Chad and Niger Republic, waiting for help to return home.