The Federal Government says it will establish a national mechanism to create awareness about the plight of missing persons in the country.
Hajiya Sadiya Farouk, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development said this on Tuesday in Abuja during a meeting for stakeholders involved in the file of missing persons in Nigeria.
Farouk represented by the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Nasir Gwarzo, said that the latest figures showed that out of the 64,000 disappeared persons across Africa, Nigeria is recording over 25,000 missing persons including over 14,000 children.
“The Federal Government through the mandate of the Ministry shall establish a National Mechanism to raise awareness about the plight of the missing.
“Also, the needs of their families, establish a collaborative network between and among different stakeholders where methodologies in approaching the question of missing persons and their families, will be addressed,”Farouk said.
She said that irregular migration by many Nigerians, including children through cross borders, the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean Sea in search of safety and better life contributed to great risk of disappearance.
According to her, to-date there is no reliable national data on the number of missing persons in Nigeria because there is no official register.
“Currently the country has no National structure or Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to address the humanitarian consequences of disappearances.
“It is very understandable why Nigeria as a country and this Ministry in charge of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development is very concerned about this often-neglected and tragic humanitarian and social issue.” she said.
According to her, the ministry shall rely on the capacity of Law Enforcement Agencies to investigate cases of the missing persons to bring closure to the families of the missing.
She said It was also important to address the root causes of the problem which often include poverty, discrimination and political instability.
Mr Tony Ojukwu, Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission said that plans are underway to create a database that would comprehensively capture the details of missing persons.
Ojukwu represented by the Director of Human Rights Institute, Mrs Ifeoma Nwakama, said that the family members of the missing persons had continued to ask the government about the whereabouts of their missed persons.
According to him, Nigerians who are still missing within the country is as a result of insecurity, armed conflict, among other factors.
He said with time the commission started witnessing increasing incidence of conflicts, crises here and there.
” We can no longer refer to only what’s happening in the Northeast. Where is it not happening? It is happening all over the country.
“One of the issues it throws up is the issue of displacement, issue of family separation and the issue of people not being accounted for, and no responsible government would leave this matter without addressing it so, it is a matter that should be a source of concerns for all of us representing one agency or the other.
“I also believe that we will soon begin to see ourselves the role that we can play in bringing this to fruition to the extent that we will get to that stage where we will have a proper database,” he said.
Ojukwu said that the government has done a lot to attend to do some sort of tracing to find out what is happening because when you listen to families, and it is a good strategy to invite family of these persons.
According to him, It is really sad going through this type of trauma.”he said.
Mr Yann Bonzon, head of ICRC Nigeria Delegation, said people are left with the anguish of not knowing the fate or whereabouts of a loved oneBonzon said that at least 25,000 people reportedly missing in the country was likely to be a tip of the iceberg.
According to him, behind every missing person is a family. People that are left with the anguish of not knowing the fate or whereabouts of a loved one.He said that in Nigeria, they knew that there are at least 25,000 people missing, the vast majority in relation to conflict in the northeast.
“These are the numbers of cases that have been registered with the ICRC and Nigerian Red Cross Society. We know that this number is likely just a tip on of the iceberg.
“But what this number also represents is many thousands of people – thousands more than the number of people missing itself – who are impacted by that absence,” Bonzon said.He said that the cross knew that at least 13,000 families in Nigeria are seeking missing loved ones.