By Wandoo Sombo
Abuja – Mr Eloi Fillion, the Head of Delegation, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says the committee in collaboration with the Red Cross is searching for 10, 480 persons, most of them children.
Fillion disclosed this on Wednesday in Abuja at a press conference which preceded an exhibition to mark the 2017 International Day of the Disappeared.
The event was organised in collaboration with the National Human Rights Commission(NHRC) and the National Technical Committee on the Establishment and Management of Database of Missing Persons.
The ICRC head in Nigeria added that out of the number, 746 persons had been located, while 580 had been reunited with their families.
He said that the 2017 celebration included a photo exhibition to depict the void left behind by persons who were missing.
According to Fillion, the ICRC is supporting the efforts of the Nigerian government to address the issue of missing persons and the rights of their families.
He noted that in 2017, over 4,000 tracing requests were made to the Red Cross by persons seeking information about the fate of missing relatives.
“In particular, the ICRC is supporting the decision to establish a temporary mechanism on missing persons.
“The ICRC has supported the National Technical Committee for the Establishment and Management of Database of Missing Persons since it was inaugurated in 2016,” Fillion said.
On her part, Chairperson of the Technical Committee, Mrs Maryam Uwais, said that the Federal Government was embarking on a pilot project of the temporary mechanism in three states of the federation.
“A plan of action for a pilot project of the temporary mechanism in Borno, Rivers and Benue has been developed and will take off as soon as the necessary resources and arrangements are in place.”
According to her, “the establishment of a national database of missing persons is an independent humanitarian mechanism and does not attempt to attribute responsibility for deaths or disappearance of missing persons.’’
She said the mechanism was aimed at responding to the rights of families to know the fate and whereabouts of their missing relatives.
Uwais added that it would complement the work of other agencies that had the mandate to investigate missing persons’ cases.
“The mandate of the mechanism include to receive and register tracing requests from families and relevant authorities, operate a unique registry of data and adopt necessary regulations to this end.
“Clarify the fate and whereabouts of missing persons for purely humanitarian reasons and provide support to families of missing persons by implementing a support framework, and take measures to ensure the enjoyment of their rights including the right to know.”
Earlier, the Acting Executive Secretary of the NHRC, Mrs Oti Ovrawah, urged relevant authorities to take appropriate measures to treat cases of disappearance and to continuously update families about the progress achieved.
“The obligation to clarify the fate and whereabouts of missing persons implies respect for families’ right to know the fate of relatives reported missing, their whereabouts or the circumstance of their death,” Ovrawah said.
Recounting how his relatives went missing, Mr Musa James-Hassan, said that the trauma of not knowing the fate of his bother was unbearable.
“We were escorting the corpse of my younger brother for burial when we were attacked and some of our relatives including my bother were abducted.
“The 16-year-old daughter of one of my brothers is now the bread winner of the house. She looks after her three other siblings because they have no one else and I am only able to render very little assistance to them.”
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN),reports that the National Technical Committee was inaugurated in 2016 in response to the huge number of Nigerians who were missing as result of insurgency, armed conflict, violence or natural disasters.
The committee was tasked with the responsibility of establishing the necessary components for the oversight, implementation and management of the database of missing persons in the country.
NAN also reports that the United Nations set aside Aug. 30 to remember persons who were missing in recognition of the pains and suffering of their loved ones.(NAN)