Friday, 3 November 2017

Special Report : Precarious Situation of Thousands of Southern Cameroonian Refugees in Nigeria… On ground Reports

Since November 2016, many Southern Cameroonians have been seeking refuge in Nigeria, following the crisis that has rocked Cameroon for one year now. But as from October 2 2017 the influx of Southern Cameroonians in Nigeria is raising concerns. 

Southern Cameroonian refugees at Utanga, cross Rivers State
“We cannot give any exact figure because the refugees come in on a daily basis. Once you register 2000 you only realise that many more come in," said the Director General of the Nigerian Cross Rivers State Emergency Management Agency, SEMA, John Inaku, on October 30 2017 in Utanga, an community hosting some of the refugees. Although there are virtually refugees all over Nigeria, the Cross River State is host to a majority given that it shares land and sea borders with Southern Cameroons.

The refugees presently in Nigeria come from the towns and cities in Cameroon. Many said they were from Kumba, Buea, Mbengwi, Limbe, Kumbo and Bamenda. A majority of them said they were from Eyumojock and especially Akwaya Subdivision in Manyu Division of the South West Region of Cameroon.

Christina Apkena..."I saw soldiers kill our people"
A sixty six year old woman who had joined others in the long walk from Akwaya main town into  Nigeria four weeks ago said she saw people being shot dead by Cameroonian soldiers and had to escape. 

“War made me to escape. I saw how soldiers were breaking into houses and killing people.  Shooting was serious and our properties were destroyed," said Christina Akpena.  A child of one of the refugees was swept away by a river while some women had to gave birth on their way as they escaped violence to Nigeria. 

John Ynaka, Cross River State SEMA Director General
Information gathered from many refugees from the Engale, Yive and Oliti villages in Akwaya indicated that they could not locate their other family members.  Those who succeeded to escaped to 

Nigeria reported that some people were still living in forests as they make desperate attempts to cross over to Nigeria for safety. In some cases complete households were affected.

According to SEMA, there are in four areas in the Cross Rivers State hosting a majority of the refugees. They are in the Boki Local Government Area, LGA, in Ikom, Etung and Obanliku Local Government areas.  Obanliku alone is hosting three major camps: one in Amana the other in Utunga and the third in the Obudu Up Ranch locality. Amana alone has more than 1500 refugees, this reporter was informed by concordant sources.

SC Children , now Refugees
With the influx of Cameroonian refugees, life in these communities have witness a dramatic twist.  “Food prices have witnessed an increase. The refugees live with our people and households have to assist them in the best way they can.

UN Official Mette Refugees at Camp in Ajaso, Ikom LGA
We have asked them not to scare our guests because they are our brothers and sisters. We have many other challenges such as open defecation. Our water sources have been tampered with.

We need more pit toilets. Imagine we have some 1500 people in Amana, some 800 in Eyindele and some 2006 in Up Ranch," explained one of the Nigerian community leaders, Demela Akov, who coordinates the Amana camp. 

At the Obudu Up Ranch camp, we were told that 51 other refugees  entered there from Cameroon on November 1 2017. All those who arrived looking weak, dejected and frustrated had trekked for  distances of over 300 Km.

Your reporter and refugees in Obudu Upper ranch, Obanlike LGA
These figures exclude the almost 600 in both the Ikom and Etung local government areas still in Cross Rivers State. The other refugees are in big towns and cities like Abuja, Lagos, Calabar, Kano, Enugu among other states.

The security situation apparently caused the Nigerian security forces to arrest more than 25 Cameroonians at a popular Hotel in Ikom LGA. They were all released, after it was realized that they were mostly Christians travelling to the Synagogue Church of all Nations for worship. 

We gathered from security sources that the swoop was on allegations that there were some hidden faces who may have want to foment trouble.

In the midst of the influx of Southern Cameroonian refugees into Nigeria, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, UNHCR has been on the ground to provide relief and support. The Nigerian Commission for Refugees and Internally Displaced,NCRIDP persons and SEMA said they had had sleepless nights trying to make the refugees feel at home. The registration process has also been ongoing.

The UN and other humanitarian organisations have also been providing nonfood and food items such as mattresses, pots, rice among others to the displaced thousands. Humanitarian organisations like the Southern Cameroons Civil Defense Cabinet, Cabinet, CDC, have also been providing the refugees with relief.

Upper Ranch Refuggees. Some cannot locate family
“We are not involved in any military activity. The Civil Defense exists in the US, UK and even here in Nigeria. The Civil Defense Cabinet is simply a group of civilians providing relief and support to Southern Cameroonians. 

SC-CDC Donates to Refugees in Ikom LGA
With the Support of Southern Cameroons Association in Canada, SCAC, we have been able to provide food stuff, 

accommodation and health to more than 450 refugees since October 24 that we have been on the ground, " the Executive President of the Southern Cameroons Civil Defense, Sir Ekili Clarence, explained. 

We also gathered that the Health and Social Services of the Southern Cameroons Ambazonia Consortium United Front, SCACUF had also come to the rescue of the refugees weeks back.

Visiting SC in Samkwana general Hospital
The Nigeria government had early in October 2017 said it was expecting to host some 30,000 to 40 000 refugees and called for the protection of the refugees.

"You are aware of the crisis happening in the Nigeria-Cameroon border for which the UN Refugee Agency has projected 40, 000 refugees that will be coming to Nigeria and 30, 000 of them are likely to come in through Cross River State.

UNHCR Official Registering Refugees
Cameroon refugees should be well protected just as they did for us during the crisis period of Boko-Haram in the North- Eastern part of Nigeria, " the Controller-General of Nigerian Immigration, Mohammed Babandede told a recent meeting in Calabar. 

A UNHCR staff who was not mandated to officially speak said as at October 27 2017 approximately 19, 000 Southern Cameroonian refugees were in Nigeria.

Watch this space for Special reports on Health, Accommodation. Feeding of Southern Cameroonian refugees in Nigeria…..

Solomon Amabo, Cross Rivers State, Nigeria

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