About 680 members of the Civilian Joint Task Force, CJTF, have lost their lives to the Boko Haram insurgency from 2014 till date in Borno State, the hotbed of the war.
The CJTF are civilian vigilante who grouped together in 2014 to join in the fight against Boko Haram. They are largely supported and financed by the Borno State government and often work with the military.
The Legal Adviser to the CJTF, Jubril Gunda, made the disclosure in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Maiduguri on Sunday.
Mr. Gunda, who described the dead CJTF members as heroes, said they were killed in various operations in the state.
He said that many members of the CJTF also sustained various degrees of injuries since the group joined the campaign to end insurgency in Nigeria’s North-East.
Mr. Gunda noted that the CJTF had made remarkable contributions in ensuring the return of peace to war-ravaged communities in Maiduguri and elsewhere.
The legal adviser, who described himself as a staunch member of the CJTF, pleaded with the federal government to provide money and materials for the families of dead CJTF members.
“Their families are left on their own with no compensation, except the token burial money given by the Borno State government.
“Their children cannot afford to go to school or pay house rent,” he said, describing the conditions of bereaved families as pathetic.
Mr. Gunda revealed that 780 members of the group had been trained and exposed to combat operations to boost their combat readiness.
“It is our sincere believe that the 780 trained CJTF members will make a great difference in the campaign against insurgency.”
Mr. Gunda called on the Borno government to pay allowances and provide vehicles for the group to motivate them.
He also advocated closer collaboration between the military, police and the group to ensure smoother implementation of the anti-insurgency campaign.
About 100,000 people have been killed and millions displaced since the Boko Haram insurgency started in 2009.
Majority of the displaced are internal within Nigeria while others are in neighbouring countries like Cameroon.
On Sunday, the Presidential Committee on the North-East Initiative, PCNI, urged the Cameroonian government to stop violating the tripartite agreement by forcibly repatriating Nigerian refugees in her country.
Tijjani Tumsah, Vice Chairman of the Committee, made the call on Sunday in Abuja when he appeared on the News Agency of Nigeria forum.
He said that more than 19,257 Nigerian refugees had been forcibly repatriated in the last few months.
According to him, forcibly repatriating these Nigerian refugees in Cameroon is a breach of international conventions and tripartite agreement on the protection of refugees signed by Nigeria, Cameroon and UN Refugees Agency, UNHCR.
He said that the refugees, who had found themselves in the unfortunate situation which was no fault of theirs, require adequate protection, assistance and deserved a dignified return when they decided to.
He said that the unfortunate act by the Cameroonian authorities have further thrown the refugees into another state of displacement as some of their communities have not been certified safe enough for return.
The official said the PCNI was engaging the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRMI), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other relevant agencies to address the issue.
“It is unfortunate that these refugees have been returned in an undignified manner which is again returning to secondary displacement.
“Right now, we have had engagements with the office of the National security adviser in terms of trying to make everybody responsible to their commitment of the tripartite agreement between Nigeria and Cameroon.
“We also are engaging with the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to be able to receive those people who are in here by providing shelter, food, medical care and so on.
“The PCNI is also engaging with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ensure that the tripartite agreement is adhered to.
“It is sad that we are in this position because some countries are not keeping up to the conventions they signed; but I assure you that the NCFRMI and NEMA are doing all they can to ameliorate the situation,’’ Mr. Tumsah said.
On March 2, the governments of Nigeria, Cameroon and the UNHCR signed a tripartite agreement, a legal framework which sets out modalities for the voluntary return of refugees.
The agreement states that the voluntary return of refugees to their countries must be done in safety and dignity.
The Cameroonian authorities did not keep to her part of the agreement as she forcibly repatriated over 19,257 Nigerian refugees from the Minawowa refugee’s camp and the Kolofata northern region of the country.
The Cameroonian government said that they discussed with Nigeria to facilitate the return of the refugees as they suspected that some of the refugees might include the dreadful members of Boko Haram sect.
The influx of the refugees raised concerns of the UNHCR and the international community.