By Jonathan Ugbal: Government House Correspondent
Following the camping of over 2,400 Cameroonian migrants at different points by the Cross River State Government, the Nigerian Government and the United Nations have commended the Governor, Senator Ben Ayade for welcoming the migrants and assisting them.
The Federal Commissioner, National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons, Hajia Sadiya Farouq and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNCHR), Country Representative to Nigeria and the ECOWAS, Anotonio Canhandula gave the commendation Friday in Calabar, the state capital when the duo led a delegation on a courtesy visit to Mr. Ayade in his office.
“We thank you for your hospitality and your benevolence towards them and to also plead with the refugees themselves who are here in Calabar,” said Hajia Sadiya, adding that: “We want to really use this opportunity to thank you for accepting them and also giving them all kinds of assistance that they require.”
She said that the Commission has registered over 2,000 migrants who are camped in the state and blamed the influx on the crisis that erupted in Southern Cameroon.
“So far we have registered over 2,000. The Commission in collaboration with the UNHCR, SEMA has been on the field for the past 3 weeks to register them,” said Sadiya who also disclosed that camps have been set up in Ikom, Amana in Obanliku and Obudu local government areas.
She further added that relief materials are currently being distributed while other processes were ongoing as stipulated in the United Nation’s charter of Geneva in 1951.
“We are profiling them now together with the State Security Service, Nigeria Immigration Service and Nigeria Police Force,” she said.
Mr. Canhandula in his remarks said that he was the only one among his family members that did not grow up as a refugee but quickly added that his working with the UNHCR was some form of supplementation and said Mr. Ayade’s act was in cue with the true nature of Africans.
He said that he wants to give a “message of gratitude and appreciation for the solidarity that you have already shown in receiving refugees in your state.”
He continued: “Being a refuge says a lot to me personally and working for this organization is some form of supplementation of what I have seen in Mozambique.
“In Mozambique we say that when you see your neighbor house is burning, run and help and that is exactly what you have done. That is an African spirit that we have seen everywhere, where actually when we see a neighbor suffering, the neighbor gives a shoulder to help him without asking questions.”
Canhandula added that the UNHCR High Commissioner was ‘looking very closely at this situation’ and; “He will like to reconfirm to your excellency that we will remain personal in managing these situation until it is resolved.”
Mr. Ayade in his remarks said that from his records, a total of over 2,430 refugees are being camped in the state and explained that the state camped those at Ikom only 3 kilometers away from the border to prevent a situation detrimental to the state.
He lampooned the United Nations for failing to live up to expectations and wondered why it failed in its duty stipulated in Charter 51.
The Governor however promised to keep the state doors open to welcome Cameroonians in the state.