Betta Edu, minister of humanitarian affairs and poverty alleviation, said on Wednesday that 23,000 people were reported missing in less than a decade due to the insurgency in Nigeria. The Nigerian official warned that more Nigerians will likely go missing, stressing that the 23,000 figure is “the tip of the iceberg.”
Ms Edu said this in Abuja at a stakeholders’ engagement to mark the International Day of the Disappeared. She said the figure represented half the number of missing people in Africa.
Ms Edu said that the report of the missing people released by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Nigerian Red Cross Society (NRCS) resulted from the insurgency in some parts of the country.
“Today, over 23,000 persons are still missing. However, it is likely that this is just the tip of the iceberg as a more efficient mechanism is needed to improve the reporting and forensically trace cases of missing persons,” the humanitarian minister said.
Ms Edu said the issue of missing people had become one of the most critical and long-lasting humanitarian consequences of armed conflicts and called for sober reflection.
Ms Edu explained that the present administration was committed to curbing the issue, hence the need to facilitate and strengthen the legal frameworks that would substantially address the incidences of disappearance.
Yann Bonzon, ICRC head of delegation, said over 23,000 people registered by the Family Links Network in Nigeria never returned home and remain missing. Mr Bonzon said the number did not convey the true extent of the issue.
“The actual number of missing persons is likely to be much higher, with Nigeria having more missing people than any other country on the continent,” noted the ICRC head of delegation. “Until a national mechanism is created, immediate steps must be taken by the Nigerian government to prevent disappearances, to prevent the disruption of family links and maintaining links between separated family members.”
Mr Bonzo added, “It will also help to address proper management of the dead.” Mr Bonzon said ICRC would continue working closely with the government and relevant stakeholders to prevent disappearances and encourage and promote adopting international best practices.
“Let us collectively remind ourselves that while people might be gone, they will never be forgotten, and their families will never stop searching for them,” stated Mr Bonzo.