2019 World Refugees Day: What does it mean to take a step with refugees?–By Olajide Adelana

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Three people blew themselves up on Sunday night, 16 June, 2019 while people were watching the evening news and waiting for a football match to start at a viewing centre in a busy market outside Konduga, Borno state.  Thirty people were reportedly killed in the incident and people alleged that the attack was the handiwork of a faction of Boko Haram led by Abubakar Shekau. Also on the same day, residents of Tudiri village in Ardo Kola Local Government (LGA) and Kasuan Baila area of Jalingo, Taraba State capital were thrown into mourning as suspected herdsmen killed at least one person, burning several houses while other valuable property were destroyed.

Despite a renewed offensive by the Nigerian military, the security situation in the country, particularly in the troubled Northeast and Northwest regions has continued to worsen. In 2018 alone, not less than 541,000 people were displaced by conflict and violence.  The trend has continued unabatedly with a total of 10,164 people displaced in Borno and Adamawa states between 27 May and 2 June, 2019 as a result of conflict, fear of attacks, military operations and involuntary relocations, an Emergency Tracking Tool (ETT) report by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) showed.

Activities of the military in the Northeast have had a huge impact on the mix of factors that recently caused the displacements of people in the region. While 32 percent of people relocated due to improved security, 38 percent were then displaced by military operations in the region. Other movement triggers include, voluntary relocation (7%), involuntary relocation (1%), fear of attack (8%), ongoing conflict (2%), and poor living conditions (12%).

These statistics say a lot about the military’s offensive in the Northeast and why there is need for a robust overhauling of strategies to combat Boko Haram and other rising security challenges in region. As Nigeria joins the rest of the world to celebrate 2019 World Refugee Day, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says it is calling on everyone to take a step with refugees. This is very important so as to limit conditions that may encourage the forceful displacement of people environmentally and economically, UNHCR’s public information officer, Gabriel Adeyemo said in a recent conversation on the issue.

Taking a step does not have to be sophisticated and it can connote indulging in simple activities such as walking or running to show solidarity with refugees. Nigeria’s decision to take a step with refugees would only mean much if urgency is given to renewed commitments towards eradicating the pull and push factors that led to the displacements in the first place and those that might further aggravate the conditions of people already displaced.

To achieve this, government must take urgent steps to entrench social and economic inclusion of populations, says UNCHR country representative, Antonio Jose Canhandula at an Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) ambassadors’ retreat held in Uyo. A good place to start is through adequate planning, using relevant data which can then be purposefully used to deliver the dividends of democracy to the people whilst addressing issues of statelessness and forced migration. The Nigerian Government must also encourage increased partnership amongst Lake Chad Basin countries and other countries within the ECOWAS sub-region to prioritize citizens’, Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and refugees’ welfare and safety in both military and non-military engagements by state actors. Until that is done, Nigeria can only be portrayed by the living conditions of IDPs and refugees’ within the country instead of the ceremonial tributes paid to refugees for their courage and resilience.

That is what it means to take a step with refugees.

Olajide  Adelana is an investigative journalist and development enthusiast.

 

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