A total of 197 Nigerians who fled the Central African Republic (CAR) following the intensification of sectarian conflict in the war- ravaged country have finally arrived Yola.
The Director, Search and Rescue, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Air Commodore, Charles Otegbade, who spoke shortly after receiving the returnees, noted that after rigorous scrutiny, the returnees were all ascertained to be Nigerians.
Otegbade said that following the escalation of the civil unrest in CAR, the returnees fled to Cameroon Republic early last year and were at an international camp facility in eastern Cameroon Republic.
He stated that the International Organisation for Migrants in conjunction with Cameroonian authorities brought the returnees to Nigerian border town of Sahuda, in Mubi South LGA of Adamawa State, following the closure of the camps.
“NEMA has received a total of 197 Nigerians from International Organisation for Migrants with the support of Cameroon authorities.
“The development follows the closure of the International camps by the organisation at Kenzo and Garua Bulai, all in eastern Cameroon Republic,” Otegbade said.
The director confirmed that the 197 Nigerians were the last batch evacuated since the CAR conflict erupted in late 2013 and early 2014.
He pointed out that at the peak of the conflict early 2014, NEMA with the collaboration of the Nigerian Air force rescued and evacuated over 2000 Nigerians from Bangui International airport to Abuja.
“Those that were trapped in various locations in Central Africa and couldn’t reach Bangui escaped into Cameroon Republic for their safety.
“And so far, NEMA had evacuated and settled over 3,000 Nigerians migrants from CAR between 2014 to date,” Otegbade said.
He said out of the total number of returnees, Adamawa has 52 indigenes, Borno 41 indigenes while Yobe has 29 indigenes.
Other states that recorded returnees, include, Gombe with 16 , Kano with 12, Bauchi with nine, Anambra with one while Kaduna also has one.
He confirmed that the remaining returnees were from Plateau, Kebbi, Sokoto Taraba and Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
He said the agency had concluded arrangement to link up all the returnees with their relatives.
“Upon their arrival at Damare NYSC Camp, the agency had hired buses to link up those from Adamawa, Taraba and Gombe with their relatives.
“While those that are in far away states like Sokoto, Anambra and others will sleep in Yola till tomorrow,” he added.
Speaking shortly after handing over the returnees, Mr. Rogers Evina, Operations Officer of the International Organisation for Migrants, Cameroon Head Office, said that the organisation camped Nigerian migrants for almost two years at Garua Bulai and Kenzo.
“At the beginning, we had over one thousand Nigerians at the camps.
“No one among the migrants was forced to come back to Nigeria; they willingly made their minds to come back home.” Evina said.
He said that Nigerians were not the only foreigners accommodated at the camps, adding that there were significant numbers of Malians, Sudanese, Nigerien and Senegalese nationals.
Narrating his ordeal, Abubakar Magaji , 42, who hails from Kumo in Akko Local Government Area of Gombe State, said he left Nigeria to CAR in 1990.
According to him, before the conflict erupted, he was a teacher in one of the government schools in Bangui, the capital of Central African Republic.
Magaji said that he taught Arabic and Islamic studies and was later relocated to Berbety region in western Central African Republic.
“When the conflict started, I made my mind to come back to Nigeria but my first wife who hails from CAR refused to follow me to Nigeria,” he said.