More Nigerians displaced by emergency rule than government admits

Nigeria’s ambassador to Cameroun said the refugees are taken care of by the UN.

About 1,500 refugees have fled from Nigeria into the northern part of Cameroon since the start of an emergency rule in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states seeking to root out Boko Haram fighters, Nigeria’s ambassador to Cameroun said.

The figure disputes earlier claim by the Nigerian presidency that less than 200 people were displaced by the conflict.

The presidency had claimed in a statement by spokesperson, Doyin Okupe, that reports of thousands of Nigerians fleeing to neighbouring states, were exaggerated. The statement said most of those found particularly in nearby Niger as refugees, were actually Nigeriens returning home.

Giving remarks in Yaounde, ahead of the first ever held summit of Heads of States and Governments of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Gulf of Guinea Commission (GGC), which kicks off Monday, with a focus on maritime safety and security in the Gulf of Guinea, the ambassador, Hadiza Mustapha, said 1,500 people were affected.

She said contrary to reports in the media that the refugees were over 3000, they are actually 1,500, as confirmed by the UN Refugee Commission and the Cameroonian authorities in that region.

Mrs. Mustapha said the cooperation between the security agencies of both countries has checked the activities of Boko Haram terrorists and that the Cameroonian government has magnanimously granted the refugees unlimited stay until the situation normalizes in their states back home.

“There is a saying that you cannot choose your neighbours but you share both the good and the bad with your neighbours. It is true that we have seen not only with the Boko Haram insurgency but with the declaration of State of Emergency, a few refugees who have come into the Cameroon,” she said.

The ambassador said relations between the two countries have significantly improved since the issue of Bakassi was resolved.

“In the area of terrorism, there is a lot of cooperation between our security agencies and that of the Cameroonian security agencies in terms of exchange of information even in joint operations. They have also given us quite a lot of support; sometimes we have even had exchange of suspected persons,” she said.

On the number of refugees in Cameroon and what the Mission was doing to make their stay comfortable, the envoy said, “what I have seen in the media is over 3000 refugees in the northern part of the Cameroon.

But when we asked the authorities there we were told they are 1,500 and the UN Refugee Commission is taking care of them.”

She also said there are currently four million Nigerians living in Cameroon describing them as well behaved, hardworking, law abiding and holding the economy of Cameroon together in critical areas.

Reacting to reports of harassment of Nigerians by the Cameroon Gendarmes, Mustapha admitted that while this was true in the past, there has been great improvement in the relations between the Nigerian community and their host authorities.

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