By Rabiu Sani
The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) says 1.8 million persons displaced by Boko Haram insurgency are unwilling to return to their ancestral communities soon in the North-East.
The Secretary-General of the Council, Mr. Jan Egeland, made this known while presenting the report on situation of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), in Maiduguri.
The report titled “Not Ready to Return” was compiled in collaboration with Danish Refugee Council and Protection Cluster Nigeria.
He said the IDPs were still concerned about security in their communities, reconstructing their destroyed homes and finding means of livelihood when they return home.
Egeland said that 3, 400 households were interviewed during the study at various IDP camps and host communities in 12 local government areas of Borno.
He explained that the study indicated that more than 80 per cent of those interviewed were unwilling to return home in the immediate future due to security concerns.
“The findings of the report are indisputable, when 86 per cent of people tell us they are not ready to go home yet, we must listen, and this cannot fall on deaf ears.
“Today, I met a woman in Monguno, who fled her village two years ago after Boko Haram set it ablaze. She is eager to bring her six children home, but she told me it is too soon, that the armed group are still present.
“People must decide to return of their own free will, coercing communities to move home is a deadly recipe set to worsen the conflict.
“While the end game is for communities to return home, the unfortunate truth is that pushing people back now will have harmful consequences.
“An overwhelming 85 per cent of people living in formal camps tell us they feel safer there than where they were before, despite the deplorable attacks on camps.
“Even, if the security situation improves, half of the displaced persons interviewed say their houses were destroyed in the conflict.
“Forty eight per cent of them do not have information about the current state of their homes, indicating that this figure could be much higher,” he said.
Egeland noted that while the military gained successes in the fight against the Boko Haram insurgents, the armed group resorted to attacks on soft targets, including markets and sites sheltering displaced persons.
The NCR secretary-general added that the report recommended certain measures needed before the displaced persons could go home, including overall improvement of security in rural communities.
He said that resources must be channeled into rebuilding homes and re-establishing livelihoods adding that it is important to involve the displaced persons in developing these programmes.
“People need a roof over their heads and the prospect of making a living, if they are to have any chance of rebuilding their lives.
“We are ready to work with the government to help displaced Nigerian’s return home. But movements must be voluntary, safe and informed”.
The had in Federal Government in collaboration with Borno Government had already embarked on massive reconstruction and rehabilitation of communities liberated from Boko Haram insurgents.
The projects were designed to fast-track reconstitution of civil authorities, provide shelter, education, health, water supply, and facilitate resettlement and alternative means of livelihoods to the displaced persons.
The government had so far resettled communities in Dikwa, Askira, Damasak, Konduga and Monguno among others.