6,000 flee B'Haram crisis to Niger - UN
Thousands in northeast states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States have fled to neigbouring Niger Republic no thanks to the military onslaught against the Islamist terror group, Boko Haram.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that over 6000 have fled.
According to the UN agency, those fleeing said they were leaving for fear of being caught in the military crackdown on insurgents linked to the Boko Haram sect, particularly in the Baga area of Borno State, UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards said in Geneva.
'Refugees report that air strikes by government forces are continuing from time to time, and that planes are regularly flying over the states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa where the state of emergency has been in force since May 14,' he stated.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, also known as the UN Refugee Agency, made this known in a report it presented in New York, United States on Tuesday by its spokesperson, Mr. Adrian Edwards.
Edwards said, 'Those who spoke to UNHCR say they escaped for fear of being caught in the government-led crackdown,' Reuters quoted him as saying.
He added that the presence of the Nigerians refugees in Niger was 'putting a strain on meager local food and water resources' on the country which 'struggles with food insecurity due to years of drought.'
According to him, the 'refugees are either renting houses or staying with host families, who are themselves living in very precarious conditions.'
Edward stated that UNHCR member of staff, who visited several border villages hosting the refugees met some Nigerian families living out in the open and some under trees.
The presence of the newcomers is also putting a strain on meagre local food and water resources, the agency said, noting that Niger, a country in the Sahel, itself struggles with food insecurity due to years of drought.
'UNHCR plans to deliver some relief to the new arrivals as well as to the host community. We are also helping the local authorities to register new arrivals,' Mr. Edwards said.
The UNHCR said the security situation in Nigeria remains 'extremely difficult.' It added that information about the humanitarian situation and displaced people in the northeast is limited since it is not present in the areas that are under a state of emergency, due to the prevailing insecurity
The report also stated that the Nigerian 'refugees reported that air strikes by government forces are continuing from time to time, and that planes are regularly flying over the states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa where a state of emergency has been in force since May 14.'
It added, 'People arriving in Niger also mentioned the increasing presence of roving armed bandits in several states in Nigeria. The people also spoke of rising commodity prices coupled with pre-existing food insecurity which is also becoming a major concern for the populations of the affected states.'
Nigerian forces are engaged in a four- week-old operation to regain territory from fighters loyal to Boko Haram. The soldiers claim that they had destroyed key Boko Haram bases and arrested more than 150 suspected insurgents in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states.
The military was not immediately available for comment, but in a statement on Friday Defence Headquarters Spokesman, Brig -Gen. Chris Olukolade, denied a report that Nigerian refugees were 'pouring into' Niger.
This was even as the National Emergency Management Agency said it was responding to the humanitarian needs of the displaced Nigerians in Niger Republic to alleviate their conditions.
It said the basic needs were identified by a special assessment carried out by its team that was dispatched to the Niger Republic to ascertain the conditions of Nigerians that had crossed over the border into the country.
Meanwhile, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary- General for West Africa, Mr. Said Djinnit, has tasked West African countries to collaborate and tackle terrorism in the sub-region.
Djinnit, who is also the Chairman, Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed Commission, observed that the threat of extremism and terrorism is affecting all West African countries and the Africa continent in general.
He said this on Tuesday in Abuja when he paid a visit to the Minister of State for Defence , Mrs. Olusola Obada, in her office.
The Special Representative said the visit was to explore how he could work closely with ECOWAS and its leaders in stabilising the region and creating conditions for peace.
He said, 'The threat of extremism or terrorism is affecting all the countries in West Africa and Africa in general. So there is need for a general effort. This should be a national effort, though Nigeria is putting its own effort but we need to mobilise the entire region to work together to address the root cause of the problem, address the concern and challenge in a coordinated manner within the framework of the existing plan of action with ECOWAS, African Union and the UN.'
Djinnt said Nigeria was faced with a big challenge and it was the responsibility of the government to ensure the safety of its citizens.
According to him, this should be done by taking into account the issue of human rights, adding that he was sure the government was aware of that.
He commended Nigeria for the role it had been playing in the Gulf of Guinea in the fight against piracy.
The envoy said that he was aware that there were agreements and security arrangements between Nigeria and Cameroon.
'I encourage both countries to work closely in addressing common security threats at their common borders, especially in the context of the growing pressure put by the extremist and terrorist groups in the border Sahel region which has affected Nigeria and other countries,' Djinnt stated.
In her remarks, Obada said the relationship that existed between Nigeria and Cameroon dated back to 1960s and was anchored on affinities and shared destiny.
According to her, presently, there are over four million Nigerians living in Cameroon, which makes it the biggest host of Nigerians in the Diaspora.
Also on Tuesday, the President of the Senate, David Mark, assured that terrorism would soon be history in Nigeria.
He gave the assurance while meeting with the presiding officers of the Czech Republic Parliament on Tuesday.
Mark, who is on a visit to the country, said the operations against insurgents in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states would bring terrorism to an end in Nigeria.
He said, 'The operation is being handled well and sooner than later, terrorism will soon become part of our history. We are conscious that fighting terror is difficult because of factors that dwell on human rights and collateral damages. But the operators of emergency that has been introduced in the area will bring terrorism to its end.'
Mark noted that Nigeria had played the role of ensuring stability in Africa and added that it ( Nigeria) had always been a home to all Africans.
He expressed regrets however that the nation came under attacks from misguided extremists.
'This trend became escalated by the situation in Mali, Niger, Libya and Chad but the Federal Government tried to curtail this through appeal and other carrot approaches but this did not quite succeed until the introduction of emergency rule,' Mark said.
He told the Czech parliamentarians that the National Assembly would continue to create legislative instruments that would deepen democracy in Nigeria.
Earlier the President of the Czech Parliament, Mr. Milan. Stech, sympathised with the Nigerian government over the Boko Haram attacks.