By Chijioke Okoronkwo
Abuja – President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday in Abuja said the current rate of return of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the North-East was encouraging.
Buhari expressed this view while declaring open the 2nd Regional Protection Dialogue on the Lake Chad and the Launch of the 2019 to 2021 Humanitarian Response-Strategy for North-East, and the 2019 to 2020 Regional Refugee Response Plan.
The president was represented by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
Buhari recalled that on June 6 to June 8, 2016, the first Regional Protection Dialogue on the Lake Chad Basin was held in Abuja during which a 24-point action statement, known as the “Abuja Action Statement” was adopted.
He said that the document provided a roadmap and framework for all concerned countries and stakeholders’ towards tackling the many issues confronting us in the Lake Chad Basin.
According to him, one worrisome issue in the Lake Chad Region is the dwindling fortunes of inhabitants of the area; the job losses and diminishing sources of livelihood, and forced migrations that fuel insecurity and instability in the region.
Buhari said that in collaboration with its neighbours, Nigeria had consistently degraded the ability of the insurgents to hold territory as they had done barely four years ago.
“While we assist displaced persons to return to their homes and communities, we are mindful of the need not to prioritise return over the safety of the displaced persons.
“I must say that the current rate of return of these IDPs and refugees is encouraging; and this is due to improving security in many areas that were once out of bounds.
“The respective agencies of government have been very up and doing in this regard.
“Let me also specially commend the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and other development partners for their efforts in ensuring the safe return of the IDP and Refugees.
“Our challenge now is to ensure that this improving security extends to the other areas in which we have witnessed recent unfortunate setbacks,’’ he said.
The president said the most important message of the gathering was that the humanitarian and protection challenges presented by the crisis in the Lake Chad remained urgent and required active collaboration to bring stability and succour to the region.
He called on governments, development partners, local businesses and the private sector generally to recommit to a speedy implementation of all the objectives of the second dialogue.
Buhari expressed appreciation over the presence of participants from sister countries in the Lake Chad Basin – Chad, Cameroon and Niger, as well as delegates from the UNHCR, and other Development Partners.
Earlier, while performing the launch of the 2019 to 2021 plan, Sen. Udoma Udo Udoma, Minister of Budget and National Planning, said the initiative was geared towards providing succour to people of the North-East.
“It gives great pleasure to launch the 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan with a three-year strategy running from 2019 to 2021.
“It is a humanitarian response plan for the North East; this is a collaborative effort between the government of Nigeria and our development partners aimed at ameliorating the suffering of the people of the North East caused by insurgency that have resulted in widespread humanitarian crisis impacting negatively of the lives of millions of Nigerians.
“The efforts of the Nigerian military in the last three years under this administration have greatly improved security,” he said.
Udoma said the latest initiative was developed because the magnitude of the humanitarian need of the region called for a continuous review of strategy so as to improve the effectiveness of the efforts.
The British High Commissioner, Catriona Laing, said that the international community in partnership with the government of Nigeria and governments in the region had stepped up their response to the crisis in the North-East.
Represented by Debbie Palmer, Head of Office, Department for International Development (DFID), Laing said that the joint effort was able to avert famine in North-East in 2017.
She said that no fewer than five and a half million people were reached in humanitarian aid in 2018 which saved thousands of Nigerian lives and assisted refugees who had fled across borders.
“Displaced people now have access to food, water and protection services as a result of humanitarian action,’’ she said.
Goodwill messages were delivered by representatives of the governments of Chad, Niger and Cameroon. (NAN)
By Chijioke Okoronkwo