The Federal Government yesterday flagged off fishing equipment for Bakassi returnees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), Oron in Akwa Ibom State.
The flag-off ceremony, which was performed by the Federal Commissioner, National Commission for Refugees, Migrants, and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRMI), Hajia Ismali Ahmed-Suleiman, on behalf of the Presidency, also witnessed the distribution of relief materials to the affected persons.The federal commissioner, who also inaugurated the Oron field office of the Commission and a utility vehicle for its operations, commended the displaced persons for their orderly conduct and peaceful co-existence at the IDPs camp in Udung Okung, Oron Local Government Area.
Hajia Ahmed-Suleiman, however, assured them that her visit to the area would have a positive impact on the welfare of the refugees in the camp, even as she hinted that the President was mindful of the welfare of Nigerians, especially the vulnerable members of the society.
“President Muhammadu Buhari is very mindful of the welfare of the citizens, especially the vulnerable ones. I had to come and see things for myself, and I want to assure you that now that I have come and seen the situation, I can tell you that as I get back to Abuja, the Minister will be briefed and positive things will happen here.”
She, therefore, encouraged them not to allow their present conditions to despair them, saying: “I want to encourage you not to allow the conditions here to affect your dreams. This present condition shouldn’t lower your spirit.
“You should also realise that tomorrow holds a lot, and with determination, you can overcome the present challenges. I commend your orderly conduct and for being able to set a peace settlement mechanism without resorting to conflict.”
Meanwhile, the Akwa Ibom Bakassi Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons Cooperative Association (AKIBARCON), in a remark by its President, Obong Solomon Inyang and Secretary General, Dr Anthony Edem, respectively, appealed to the Federal Government to implement the Green Tree Agreement that was signed in 2006.
The group lamented that the non-implementation of the agreement has adversely affected the economic and social well-being of the Bakassi returnees and internally displaced persons in Akwa Ibom State.
He regretted that since the “unplanned and unprepared return from the Bakassi Peninsula in 2008,” it was only in 2022 that we started to receive welfare packages and relief materials from the Federal Government.
The group decried the deplorable conditions of about 75,000 voiceless Bakassi Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons in the state,” and urged the government agencies to make relief materials available to them on a monthly basis.
In his remarks, Head of office, Oron Field, Mr Cajetan Iheanacho, disclosed that “the refugees’ location in Akwa Ibom State is spread over 16 local government areas, but for administrative convenience, it is reduced to seven settlements.”
The office head said that since the take-off of operations in the area almost two years ago, the Commission has carried out the identification, documentation and registration of refugees in the state.
“The NCFRMI Akwa Ibom field office in collaboration with UNHCR carried out a registration exercise of the refugees in September 2021. At the end of the registration exercise, we had a total number of 1,670 registered refugees,” he added, noting that the office has been working with other partners in the daily profiling of new arrivals in the state.
“In Oron alone, we have over 200 profiled new arrivals awaiting registration and in Nsit Ubium we discovered over 130 refugees and profiled them. So far in the entire state, we have over 1,500 new arrivals waiting for registration,” Iheanacho stated.
He commended the efforts of other international partners and independent NGOS that have been collaborating with the commission in the state.
AKIBARCON, however, described the visit of the Federal Commissioner and the flagging-off of the fishing equipment as a “milestone,” even as it expressed gratitude to the Federal Government for the relief materials donated to them, which include two engine boats, two wooden boats, assorted food items, blankets, mattresses, utensils and grinding machines.