By Ifeanyi Nwoko
As the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) celebrates 20 years of operation in Nigeria, the UN Resident Coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon has described it as the mainstay of the global body’s humanitarian response in the North East.
Speaking at a ceremony late Monday, Kallon described the UN agency as one cardinal to all its humanitarian efforts in North-East Nigeria.
Kallon noted that in the time he had spent in Nigeria, he had seen first-hand the impact of IOM’s interventions in the North East and with returnee migrants.
He said therefore that much had been done in the years and the feat necessitated celebration.
“I have seen IOM in action in complex humanitarian situations in Nigeria, I have also seen IOM in action supporting the government with migration-related issues.
“IOM is the mainstay of our humanitarian response in North-East Nigeria – that is providing humanitarian assistance to over 5.5 million people.
“I look around the camps I walked through in North-East Nigeria and I see those shelters built by IOM – I call them shelters of hope for people that have been displaced as a result of insurgency.
“The story of migration governance and management in Nigeria will not be complete without talking about IOM, nor will the historic account of the humanitarian response in the North East be complete without IOM,” he said.
He recalled that he had toured Nigeria and had seen businesses set up by returnees who were supported by IOM, pointing out those whom he spoke to expressed willingness to remain in Nigeria with the support received from IOM
He, however, warned that the occasion did not only present an opportunity to bask in the euphora of the achievements but also presented an opportunity to reflect on the way forward.
“Today is a period to think back, reflect and look at the way forward on how IOM should continue supporting the efforts of government in Nigeria.
“It is time to build on its remarkable history and to keep progressing.
“I sincerely believe that with more support from the government partners, IOM can do more,” he said.
While delivering an address of welcome, IOM’s Chief of Mission Frantz Celestin recalled how the agency began its operations in Nigeria from two desks in the office of UNICEF.
He said that in 20 years, the agency had come a long way and had made impactful achievements that were worth celebrating.
“We started with two desks at the UNICEF office 20 years ago. We have since expanded to be where we are today.
This is a true testament to the strength of our colleagues and to the work that we deliver on a daily basis
I am truly grateful for your presence, your support, and your understanding – thank you for being you, thank you for being a great supporter to us in what we do,” he said.
He thanked the Nigerian government as well as development partners for the support which they had accorded to the organization thus far.
The event had in attendance Ambassadors and High Commissioners from many countries as well as representatives of Nigerian government officials.
A high point of the event was presentations by three returnees who were rescued by the IOM in Libya and Niger Republic.
The returnees told attendees how they had been rehabilitated and supported to even begin their own businesses.
One of them, Chylian Azu who was rescued from Lybia, told a sad tale of how she was deceived by relatives to come abroad for greener pastures.
She said that her family was unable to pay her tertiary education fees due to increment, forcing her to drop out at the end and start struggling with petty businesses.
She narrated how she became a single mum and things became tougher, prompting her and her family to quickly jump at the offer of going abroad.
“They asked me to come, but little did we know that they were traffickers. I never knew people I trusted didn’t love me enough to protect me.
“I was arrested in Lybia and I was locked up.
“Thanks to IOM, they came to my rescue and I accepted to come back home because that was the sweetest opportunity I had,” she said.
Miss Azu disclosed how IOM support had also pushed her to use her story to change peoples’ mindset on migration and also support fellow female returnees through her Female Returnees Forum. (NAN)