By Frank Garriba in Abuja
Some 216 Nigerian citizens who fled from war-torn Central African Republic, CAR last week arrived Nigeria and most had no ancestral homes to go back to.
According to authorities of the Nigerian Emergency Management Authority (NEMA), the 216 returnees were received in the Nigerian capital Abuja, among them a pregnant woman who later delivered twin babies, thereby increasing the number to 218.
Some state governments tried in vain to reconnect the returnees with their families. The secretary of Adamawa State Emergency Management Agency (ADSEMA) in Northeastern Nigeria, Malam Haruna Furo, told journalists in Yola, the Adamawa State capital that for them to understand what the deportees were saying, they had to hire the services of interpreters, adding that three quarters of the returnees could not understand English or Hausa, and only spoke French.
He also said most of them were unable to retrace their local governments of origin and did not understand their indigenous languages because they left Nigeria a long time ago.
He disclosed that some of the returnees could not communicate fluently in French, the only language they now apparently knew, making it extremely difficult to establish their new documentation.
“We discovered that most of them could speak very little of the French Language they claimed to speak,” he said, adding that as part of efforts to rehabilitate the deportees, the NEMA authorities, in collaboration with the country’s Directorate of State Security, the Red Cross and other security agencies began an emergency exercise to get regular Nigerian identity papers for them.
The data collection was also to enable the Nigerian authorities sort out the returnees according to their skills and competences so that those with professional skills could be given adequate jobs while those without skills could be sent to the various skill acquisition centres in the country to learn a vocation.
NEMA has since been seeking synergy with traditional institutions across the nation to ensure that the returnees were rapidly reunited with their relations and properly reintegrated into the society. The agency has also called on members of the society who knew their relatives to be living in CAR to come to the camp to check whether they were among the deportees.
The situation has forced the Nigerian authorities to urge all its citizens living abroad not to neglect their ancestral homes and to always return home with their kids during holidays.
The Central African Republic is one of the poorest countries on earth and has been unstable for decades. The land-locked central African has a life expectancy of just 47.
Its first ever Muslim leader Michel Djotodia who seized power in a bloody coup d’etat in march last year was forced to resign last week and communal fighting between Muslims and Christians has led to thousands of deaths and epic displacement of most of the country’s over 4 million population.