…Blames terrorism as major factor
…Seeks joint efforts to tackle indoctrination
Isaac Job, Uyo
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has said Nigeria is currently home to 1.8 million internally displaced persons (IDPs).
UNHCR Regional Representative for West Africa, Ms Liz Ahua, disclosed this on Monday in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, during the 2019 ECOWAS Ambassadors retreat jointly organised by ECOWAS and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), with the theme “Mixed Flows and Durable Solutions in the ECOWAS Region”.
She said the growing number of displaced persons in West Africa is becoming more challenging as terrorism grows, and many communities are becoming indoctrinated, as the problem of displaced persons can only be tackled jointly.
She noted that climate change is becoming a threat to the livelihood of millions of people across the region, resulting in situations that threaten the progress of ECOWAS and UNHCR.
“Never since the inception of ECOWAS and UNHCR long standing relationship have we been confronted by challenges so immense and diverse as the growing crises, that are in every respect unlike anything we have seen.
“Even as the specter of terrorism looms, entire communities are being indoctrinated right before our eyes from the shores of Lake Chad to the Mediterranean sea and southward to the beaches of the Atlantic ocean.
“Others have been caught between the cross fire and the number of displaced people today presents a new challenge; one that will only be overcome by joint action. Nigeria hosts 1.8 million internally displaced people and Burkina Faso is threatening to become the new theatre of displacement.
“Climate change is threatening the livelihoods and lives of millions across the region like never before. It is a sobering moment indeed but one for which these frameworks were created,” she said.
Also speaking, the Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the Economic Committee of West African States (ECOWAS), Ambassador Babatunde Nurudeen, said political instability is responsible for the migrations of Nigerians and member States of West Africa to Europe and other developed countries of the world.
He said the migration has impacted negatively on the economic development in ECOWAS states as useful human capital resources are being exported out of the sub-region.
He stated that a larger part of people moving out of the sub-region and Nigeria inclusive are young energetic persons that would have served as viable human resources had they stayed back in their countries of origin.
Ambassador Nurudeen, who also doubled as the Chair of the Permanent Representatives’ Committee at the event, said the situation has resulted in more negative consequences than positive ones for Africa and responsible for a mixed flow of complex movement of population made up of refugees, asylum seekers, economic migrants, victims of trafficking and stranded migrants among others.
He mentioned that the retreat will address the problems political instability in West African countries have caused at both the national, regional and even global levels.
“Of the diverse factors that drive mixed flows conventionally, the major one that has aided the flow of migrants in and out of member States of the West African sub-region is political instability.
“Without any iota of doubt, the political architecture in our sub-region has been responsible for several agitations against marginalization coupled with the tight syndrome of some of our political leaders which eventually lead to incessant outbreaks of restiveness, insurgency, terrorism, intrastate violence in the forms of ethno-religious, political, criminal as well as struggle for scarce resources.
“The flow of migrants resulting from these socio-political upheavals has led to massive displacement of people, many of whom have had to migrate out of the affected states to save their lives and property.
This has also impacted greatly on the achievement of economic development in the ECOWAS sub-region as viable human resources that are supposed to develop the sub-region move out in large numbers on a regular basis.
“The most worrisome in this situation is that a larger part of this movement is made up of youths who arguably are expected to be the most viable human resource of West Africa,” he stated.
In his opening remark, the Akwa Ibom State governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, said Nigerian youths were leaving the country for greener pastures because of the lack of employment, adding that the talk about the porosity of borders is based on the fact that no county wants to welcome economic liabilities.
He stated that his government is investing in the state and the lives of the youths to make the environment conducive for them to strive.
Emmanuel, who was represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Emmanuel Ekuwem at the occasion said “in Akwa Ibom State, the governor is keen on the need to get young people off the streets.
“The age bracket of young people who move from home is about 18 years to about early 40s. These age bracket of people are creative, intelligent, hardworking, energetic, dynamic and impatient.
So we as a state, we as a nation, Nigeria, have to do our best to harness those talents, capacities and energies in those young ones, otherwise, we are going nowhere.
“In Akwa Ibom State, the interest of the governor is to take these people off the street and get them gainfully employed, give them a sense of purpose and direction.
Once the passion is right, the governor always says everything is achievable,” he explained.