The National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRMI) has disclosed that Cross River is presently home to 52,000 refugees.
Mr Innocent Efoghe, South South Zonal Coordinator of the commission, disclosed this at a one-day workshop on Global Compact for Refugees (GCR), organised by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in partnership with NCFRMI.
While noting that the figure would increase with time, he pointed out that the refugees were mostly from Cameroon.
The zonal manager, however, appealed that the refugees should be seen as Nigerians as they had similar rights as Nigerians, except the right to vote and be voted for.
On the workshop, he said, “The Global Compact for Refugees (GCR) has to do with the advancement of partnership for providing services to refugees and their host communities.
“It’s about responsibility sharing. The GCR comes up every four years.”
Speaking further, Efoghe said, “In 2019 the Federal Government actually made four major pledges. The first one was to include matters of refugees, IDPs and their host communities in the national development plans.
“The second one was to strengthen the country’s protection capacity, for instance when refugees cross the border into the country, what the Federal Government does is to grant them protection, starting from the process of profiling and registration, and then they are granted protection.
“It also ensures availability and accessibility to durable solutions, and then to sustain Nigeria’s role in regional and subregion efforts in addressing the root causes of displacement.”
Efogh said government had been doing a lot to see that those pledges were carried out, adding that one of such roles had to do with the inclusion of refugees in the national identification registration exercise.
“Refugees can actually register in the NIN programme. This started about two years back.
“The government also made it possible for refugees to work, do business and move freely within Nigeria. They are allowed to move freely as long as they don’t cross international borders.
“The only thing they cannot do is to vote and be voted for. Every other thing that Nigerians can do, refugees can do it.
“Government has equally assisted refugees in the area of agriculture.
“When we talk of durable solutions and livelihood programmes, government has carried out a lot of workshops, trainings and also provided implements for refugees and equally make sure they have access to lands for farming.
“That has been done since 2019 that the pledges came up,” he stated.
He said unlike other countries, the Federal Government did not want the camping system for refugees in the country.
“Here refugees are allowed to live within the host communities.What we have in Ogoja that you hear people calling camp, it’s not a camp. It’s a settlement.
“The government does not run a camping system, reason being that refugees are free to move and do business; and it means that as they don’t keep them in camps, they can equally look for jobs and get employed.
“In the area of health, with the support of UNHCR, the government has been able to revitalise most of the primary health centres in the host communities where refugees are. A lot of them have been brought up to standard.
“In Cross River State, we are looking at about 52,000 refugees as at today, and as we speak, the registration is still ongoing. Some of my staff are in the field carrying out registration.
“As the days go by, the number increases. Nigeria is hosting close to 90,000 refugees from Cameroon,” he said.
On her part, Ms Irene Umondi, Head of Sub office, UNHCR, Ogoja, rated Cross River high in the implementation of the GCR.
According to her, “The state is very much exemplary in terms of how it has already undertaken inclusion and integration of refugees in various ways and the basic services that are given through education, health and even access to livelihood.”
The GCR provides a framework for more predictable and equitable responsibility sharing in finding sustainable solutions to refugee situations.(NAN)