The National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons has put the number of displaced people in the world at over 44 million out of whom about 400,000 are Nigerians.
National Commissioner for the commission, Hajia Hadiza Kangiwa, gave the figures at the weekend in Abuja at an occasion to mark the World Refugee Day.
According to her, Nigeria hosts 4,000 refugees and asylum seekers and described these set of people as "individuals and families whose lives have been upended, whose communities have been destroyed and whose future remains uncertain".
Besides, about 1,500 Nigerians are now refugees in Cameroun following the state of emergency declared by the federal government in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States, which has led to military operations to flush out Boko Haram insurgents from their enclaves in the three states.
Also at the celebration of the World Refugee Day, Minister of Special Duties, Alhaji Kabiru Turaki, assured the people that the federal government remained committed to the principles of international protection of refugees and asylum seekers.
He said Nigeria had been generous with the asylum seekers and refugees in its domain, adding: "The asylum regime in Nigeria is one of the most generous in Africa in that asylum applicants are processed swiftly and fairly and are not detained nor denied freedom of movement as it's practised in many countries round the world due to Nigeria's non-encampment policy.”
The minister, who is also the chairman of the Presidential Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of the Security Challenges in the North, used the occasion to announce that the committee would look into the problems of Nigerians displaced by the activities of Boko Haram.
It has also emerged that the state of emergency declared in the three northern states has led to about 1,500 refugees fleeing Nigeria to Cameroun.
This figure is far below the initial estimate that put the number of Nigerian refugees in Cameroun at over 3,000.
Nigeria’s Ambassador to Cameroun, Ambassador Hadiza Mustapha, told reporters in her office in Yaounde at the weekend that the official estimate from the United Nations Refugee Commission (UNRC) and the Camerounian authorities was far below the initial figure being bandied about.
Mustapha, who was speaking ahead of the maiden summit of heads of states and governments of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Gulf of Guinea Commission (GGC), which begins today, said Cameroun had granted the refugees unlimited stay until normalcy returns to the area.
She explained that both countries have worked closely on security thereby jointly checking the activities of Boko Haram terrorists.
"In the area of terrorism, there is a lot of cooperation between our security agencies and those of the Camerounian security agencies in terms of exchange of information even in joint operations. They have also given us quite a lot of support, sometimes we have even had exchange of suspected persons. Like you rightly noted, this is all possible because of the peace that now exists between us,” Mustapha added.
She also said there were four million Nigerians living in Cameroun, describing them as well behaved, hardworking, law-abiding and playing vital roles in critical sectors of the Camerounian economy.
On the reported harassment of Nigerians by the Camerounian gendarmes, Mustapha reported an improvement in the situation.
"It is true that there is some high handedness, that the gendarmes don't seem to have very good reputation, but this is not only with Nigerians. There were a lot of these cases in the past but like I said with the improvement in the relationship, I have spoken with all the security agencies over these concerns and I have been given assurances and I have no reason to doubt the assurances that I have been given, that no Nigerian will be targeted specifically because he is a Nigerian. All they want is for us to sensitise our population to be law abiding.
"But they (Camerounian authorities) admitted and this is not a secret that there has been a lot of reforms. You know like with our own police too there are some areas of problems like lack of skills, bad eggs. So they have seen and admitted that there are bad eggs and they are doing a lot to reform. Some Nigerians have noticed that a lot of the harassments which is always on immigration, residence permit have reduced,” she said.