from EMEKA OKONKWO in Abuja, Nigeria
ABUJA – MORE than 23 000 civilians have fled violence in northwest Nigeria and sought refuge in neighbouring Niger in the past month.
This brings the number of Nigerian refugees in Niger to 60 000 since the violence began in April last year.
Armed groups are perpetrating the attacks in the states of Katsina, Sokoto and Zamfara.
They constitute 95 percent of the refugees.
Many have also been caught up in the clashes reported being blamed on farmers and herders of different ethnic groups as well as vigilantism.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) disclosed the deadliest attack claimed 47 lives in Katsina.
It prompted airstrikes by the Nigerian Armed Forces.
“Those fleeing speak of extreme violence unleashed against civilians, murders, kidnappings for ransom and pillaging and looting of villages,” Babar Baloch, the UNHCR spokesperson,said.
Refugees from Nigeria are allowed to seek protection in Niger despite border closures due to coronavirus (COVID-19).
New arrivals are in urgent need of water, food and access to health services, as well as shelter and clothing.
“Many were barely able to carry anything in the rush to save lives,” Baloch said.
UNHCR is working closely with authorities in Niger to relocate at least 7000 refugees to safety, in villages 20 kilometres away from the border.
The violence is not directly linked to the Boko Haram terror operating in the Lake Chad and in the Sahel.
Niger and Nigeria are both impacted by the Boko Haram insurgency, which has claimed 30 000 lives in the past decade.
– CAJ News