Over 23,000 persons mostly children were reported missing in eight years in Nigeria amidst armed conflicts in the North-east of the country, according to a new report by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
The report, published Wednesday ahead of the annual International Day for the Disappeared on August 30, said the coronavirus pandemic is hindering the search and reunification of missing persons as large gatherings of persons are discouraged.
The report also stated that about 44,000 people are registered as missing across Africa due to conflicts, climate change, and immigration of whom 45 per cent of those are children.
Nigeria, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Cameroon, Libya, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo account for 82 per cent of the disappeared persons registered by the Red Cross in the continent.
Nigeria has the highest number of the missing people registered, at about 23,000, and the report said more 20,000 missing persons are in the Northeast where Boko Haram has continued to unleash terror on defenseless residents since 2009.
Conflict in North-East
Nigeria’s North-east region has been enmeshed in a bloody insurgency for over a decade which has resulted in thousands of deaths and mass displacement of residents in Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe States.
Attacks on civilians in the region have continued despite claims by the government that the group has been defeated.
President Muhammadu Buhari came into office in 2015, winning a majority votes on the promise to tackle the northeast insecurity in six months.
In June, Boko Haram in one its deadliest attacks, killed 81 people in Gubio, a Borno community. The UN humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, had while commenting on the killings of the civilians, bemoaned the failing state of insecurity in the Northeast.
Reuniting the children
Aliyu Dawobe, the spokesperson of the ICRC in Nigeria told BBC Hausa Service on Thursday that the Red Cross received complaints of the missing persons in Nigeria due to conflict in the Northeast from 2012 to 2020.
He said the among the missing persons, children constitute 60 per cent of reported disappearance in Nigeria.
“Those missing persons are not under the Red Cross safe custody. They were, however, under the Red Cross search following complaints by relatives of the missing persons because Red Cross does search for the missing persons,” he said.
“The search are mostly conducted at Internally Displaced Person Camps (IDPs), likewise, children do ask us about their missing parents which we normally ask about their names, towns, and addresses then we conduct the search,” Mr Dawobe said.
He said the Red Cross in Nigeria in 2019 was able to reunite over 53 children with their parents and other missing relatives.