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Refugees in Niger say Borno State governor has not kept his promise to repatriate them

2 December 2021
Reading time: 3 minutes

Even though Babagana Umara Zulum, the governor Of Borno State, told Nigerian refugees in the Diffa and Bosso regions of Niger that they would be returned to their homeland by November 27, the displaced persons have not heard a word from him.

On October 29, Zulum visited the refugees in Niger to assess their situation. He told them they would be back in their ancestral community on November 27.

But they have not heard from him since.

The refugees fled from their homeland in Malam Fatori in the Abadam Local Government Area of Borno State, which the Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’way Wa’l-Jihād (JAS), more commonly referred to as Boko Haram, occupied for six years until the military took back control.

RNI spoke to some of the refugees.

Abakar Kyari said they knew they would be returning to their homeland but Zulum had not kept his promise that they would be returned on November 27 and they had not heard from him since he visited them in October. “We are ready to leave at any moment.”

“Earlier, many of us were not ready, because the government told us that the repatriation would be gradual with about 1,000 returning at a time.”

He said Malum Fatori was now covered in shrubs and bush and the first returnees would have to clear the land before the others arrived so that we would all have shelter.

Abatcha, also living in Bosso Camo, said some of the refugees dreaded the thought of returning. They were terrified and uncertain because they were still concerned about the insecurity issue.

“Most of us really want to return home but many still have doubts about our security.”

He said the refugees had families scattered all round Nigeria because of the insurgency. “Our relatives in Sokoto-Kebbi states used to call us asking when they would be able to meet us again. Most of us are eager to go home and see our relatives and friends.”

Babagana Ya’u said: “We have packed our belongings and now we are just waiting for the government to come and take us home. The time they were supposed to fetch us has come and gone. The government promised us we would be going home on November 27. But we are still waiting and we have not heard anything.”

He said God was with them and they expected to hear good news from government soon. “We are ready to return home.”

The refugees said they were grateful that Niger had given them a temporary home but they said the land they got was unfertile compared with their land in Nigeria. They said they could not produce adequate food, they lacked assistance from the government and non-governmental organisations and they struggled to use the technical farming equipment.

“When we tried to use the machines used in the modern system of farming, it broke our hearts seeing how much effort we put in and wasted because the land is not fertile,” Ya’u said.

About the author

Aisha Sd Jamal