Nigeria accounts for the most missing people in Africa.

Written by on September 9, 2020

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in its latest report that over 23,000 persons, mostly children, were reported missing within eight years in Nigeria.

The report said that the case of missing persons was worsened by the violence of the Boko Haram/Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) terrorism in the Northeast of the country.

Unfortunately, the report noted, the COVID-19 pandemic is hindering the search and reunification of missing persons as large gatherings of persons are discouraged.

But Nigeria is not alone on the issue of missing persons.

Across Africa, about 44,000 people are registered as missing due to conflicts, climate change and immigration. Out of this number, 45 percent are children.

According to the ICRC, Nigeria, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Cameroon, Libya, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo account for 82 percent of registered disappeared persons in the continent.

The striking factor appears to be that Nigeria has the highest number of missing people in Africa with the figure of about 23,000.

The Red Cross said that out of this number, 20,000 are in the Northeast where Boko Haram/ISWAP has continued its terrorism endeavours on defenseless residents since 2009.

Aliyu Dawobe, Spokesperson of the ICRC in Nigeria, said last Thursday that the Red Cross received complaints of the missing persons in Nigeria as a result of terrorist activities in the Northeast from 2012 to 2020.

Dawobe noted that among the missing persons in Nigeria, children constitute 60 percent, adding, however, that “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”

“The search is mostly conducted at Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) Camps. Likewise, children do ask us about their missing parents which we normally ask about their names, towns, and addresses then we conduct the search.”

He said the Red Cross in Nigeria in 2019 was able to reunite over 53 children with their parents and other missing relatives.

While most of the missing persons are traceable to abductions of hundreds of people in attacks by Boko Haram/ISWAP fighters, including the most popular – the Chibok girls abducted since 2014, many people have disappeared after being arrested by security forces and Civilian Joint Task Force (JTF) assisting in Counter-Insurgency operations.

Efforts by various Nigerian security and human rights agencies to tackle the issue of missing persons have always come short.

In 2015, Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission announced that a database for missing persons would be established, but five years later the database is still not operational.

Yet, Nigeria, as a party to core international human rights and humanitarian law treaties, including the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and the Geneva Conventions, has obligations to provide information on suspects in custody and open inquiries on the fate of missing persons.

On Sunday, August 30, Nigeria joined the world in commemorating the International Day of the Disappeared 2020, but families and friends of missing persons bear the pains beyond the day of commemoration.

They remember their loved ones every day and wish there could be a full closure of the status of their relations and friends.

So, it is time the Nigerian government through its security and humanitarian agencies work more to reduce the number of missing persons in the country. It is no badge of honour to bear.

The security agencies should periodically provide information on the fate or whereabouts of those in its custody and also hasten the release of suspects in government detention facilities who have not been charged.

In addition, the military, other security and humanitarian agencies especially those in Northeast region, should increase efforts to locate and return missing persons; those in Boko Haram/ISWAP captivity.

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