President Muhammadu Buhari, Monday, lamented the challenges the federal government is facing while handling issues of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Nigeria, saying that about 60 per cent can neither locate their parents nor identify their place of origin.
The President, who stated this when he met with Mr. Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) at State House, Abuja, Monday, said his administration is however prepared to continue talks with the Boko Haram insurgent group, “as long as they agree to involve international agencies like ICRC.
A statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, said the President also commended the role played by the ICRC in the release of the 21 abducted Chibok schoolgirls, urging it to sustain humanitarian interest in Nigeria.
“We’ve seen the result of recent talks, 21 of the Chibok girls are back”, the President said, referring to the role played by ICRC in providing immediate humanitarian assistance to the girls, who had spent over 900 days in the hands of their abductors.
“President Buhari said Nigeria’s biggest problem was perhaps the issue of IDPs, noting that there were over two million of them, “made up of over 60 per cent women and children.”
“About 60 per cent of the children don’t know their parents, or where they come from. It is weighing heavily on government,” he said.
On rebuilding of destroyed infrastructure, President Buhari said it was a priority of government, noting that the G7 had equally indicated support, which Nigeria heartily welcomes.
“We appreciate all your efforts. I am pleased you recognized that our military is cooperating with civil authorities, and respecting humanitarian issues. It is a difficult time for Nigeria. About 27 of our 36 states couldn’t pay salaries when we came last year, and we are still struggling with that. But we will get out of it,” the President said.
Maurer, the ICRC President, on his part, said their operation in the Lake Chad region is the second largest in the world, after Syria, adding that there are nutritional, health, water and sanitation issues in the North-east, in addition to rebuilding of infrastructure.
“We are ready to engage and play supportive role in responding to crisis in Nigeria. Security is a lot better than it was a year ago, but humanitarian problems are serious, and don’t disappear so quickly,” Maurer said.
The ICRC President also commended Nigeria for granting increased access to detainees, and exchanges with the Armed Forces. He added: “Detention facilities have improved, there are fewer deaths, and things are better health-wise.”