Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has expressed concern over the deteriorating security situation in the country.
The UNHCR disclosed that violence in the country has forced 23,000 Nigerians into the Republic of Niger.
UNHCR spokesperson, Babar Baloch, at a press briefing yesterday in Geneva, said ongoing violence in parts of north-western Nigeria forced an estimated 23,000 people to seek safety and security in Niger last month.
Baloch added the development took the total number of refugees fleeing the northern part of Nigeria to take sanctuary in neighbouring Niger to more than 60,000 since the first influx in April 2019.
“Since April 2019, people have fled relentless attacks by armed groups in the Sokoto, Zamfara and Katsina states of Nigeria. Most found refuge in Niger’s Maradi region.
“Fearing and fleeing the same insecurity in the border areas, an additional 19,000 Niger nationals have become displaced inside their own country.
“UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is concerned about deteriorating security inside Nigeria and the risk of armed incursions spilling over into Niger.
“The latest influx of refugees, mainly desperate women and children, follows attacks in Nigeria’s Katsina, Sokoto and Zamfara states during the month of April. Several villages in several local government areas were attacked by gunmen. The deadliest attack claimed 47 lives in Kankara, Danmusa and Dusin-ma local government areas in Katsina State and prompted airstrikes by the Nigerian Armed Forces,” UNHCR said.
UNHCR further said those fleeing spoke of extreme violence unleashed against civilians, murders, kidnappings for ransom and pillaging and looting of villages.
The UN agency added that refugees from Nigeria were allowed to seek protection in Niger despite border closures due to COVID-19.
“New arrivals are in urgent need of water, food and access to health services, as well as shelter and clothing. Many were barely able to carry anything in the rush to save lives.
“Many have also been caught up in the clashes reported being blamed on farmers and herders of different ethnic groups as well as vigilantism. Some 95 per cent of the refugees have come from Nigeria’s Sokoto state, rest from Kano, Zamfara and Katsina states.