By Akanimo Sampson
TENS of thousands of Cameroonians are currently seeking refuge and safety in Nigeria, the African big brother country.
Over 16,000 Cameroonians have already fled to Cross River State in Southern Nigeria following renewed violence in the Anglophone parts of Cameroon earlier last October.
The United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR, is at the moment working with the Nigerian government and other UN agencies on a contingency plan, readying humanitarian assistance for up to 40,000 people crossing into Cross River.
Humanitarian workers are even fearing that 40,000 might actually be a conservative figure in a situation where the conflict might escalate.
Worse still, Nigeria and Cameroon are already grappling with one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, with 2.5 million people displaced by Boko Haram insurgency in the Lake Chad region.
The current influx of Cameroonians seeking refuge in Nigeria poses additional challenges to the international community and burden to an already stretched assistance.
The Deputy Representative of the UNHCR in Nigeria, Ms. Brigitte Mukanga-Eno, who disclosed that over 16,000 Cameroonians of the Anglophone extraction are in Cross River, said more are expected as the crackdown continues in the Northwest and Southwest regions of that troubled country.
Before now, this reporter had warned that the war going on in Cameroon would strain the capacity of Governor Ben Ayade’s administration to cope with the growing humanitarian crisis coupled with that of the Bakassi Peninsula dispute.
However, the UNHCR expects the number to increase daily and Ms. Brigitte while speaking at a workshop organised by the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Center (CISLAC) for actors on humanitarian intervention in Cross River in Calabar, the state capital, said her organisation is in an advanced stage of setting up camps for the refugees.
Represented by Mr. Momoh Solomon, she pointed out that the UNHCR has projected the influx of 40,000 refugees coming into Nigeria in three months with half of that number to be in Cross River.
CISLAC’s Executive Director, Mr. Auwal Ibrahim Musa lamented the non availability of a policy direction on Internally Displaced Persons (IDP’s) in Nigeria and called on attendees to work towards having a legal framework.
‘’The consequence is that the plight of the IDP’s would remain as it is; fragmented and uncoordinated, and the responses to the root causes of internal displacement remain very poor and ineffective’’, he said.
Ibrahim who was represented by Mr. Okeke Anya, stressed that IDPs will continue to be susceptible to all forms of exploitation, abuse and neglect across the country and largely vulnerable.
On their part, arepresentative of the state Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Mr. Andy Akpotu-Adeshi disclosed that the agency has been at the forefront of tackling IDPs’ crisis in the state, due to its coordinating role of bringing all relevant stakeholders to the table.