United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for the safe and “dignified” return of people displaced by conflict in northeast Nigeria, as local authorities close camps and urge people to go back to their communities.
More than 40,000 people have been killed and some 2.2 million people displaced by more than a decade of fighting in the region between the military and Boko Haram and its offshoot Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP).
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During a Tuesday visit to a camp for displaced people in Borno state capital Maiduguri, the birthplace of Boko Haram, Guterres praised the local governor’s development efforts.
Nigerian authorities are planning to close all camps for displaced people in Borno by 2026 – but aid agencies are concerned about security and conditions on the ground in some of the communities to which the displaced will return.
“Let’s do what we have to do about humanitarian support to these camps,” Guterres said.
“But let’s try to find a solution for people, and that solution is to create the conditions, security conditions, development conditions for them to be able to go back home in safety and dignity.”
Nigerian officials say they only return people to secure areas, with the goal of encouraging the resumption of farming and weaning people off humanitarian assistance.
Guterres also visited a rehabilitation camp for former armed fighters and called for more support for efforts to reintegrate them into society.
Thousands of Boko Haram fighters and their families have surrendered in recent months.
“I was amazed to see today in the centre [that] those that have been terrorists, they want to integrate in the society and contribute to society. And the policy that is in place here is a policy of reconciliation,” he said.
Before flying to Nigeria, Guterres went to meet displaced people and refugees in western Niger.
His regional tour is due to end on Wednesday.