Plans are underway by President Muhammadu Buhari’s regime to create a database that would comprehensively capture the details of missing persons in Nigeria.
The executive secretary of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Tony Ojukwu, disclosed this at a meeting of stakeholders involved in the compilation of missing persons in Nigeria.
Sadiya Farouq, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, said the latest figures showed that out of the 64,000 disappeared persons across Africa, Nigeria recorded 25,000 missing persons, including over 14,000 children.
The Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development organised the meeting in collaboration with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and NHRC.
Mr Ojukwu, represented by the director of the Human Rights Institute, Ifeoma Nwakama, stated that the family members of the missing persons had continued to seek answers from the government on the whereabouts of their loved ones.
Speaking on plans by the government to locate such persons in the country, the NHRC boss said, “Looking inward, so to say, at the NHRC, we have always played a key role in this issue because when you talk about missing persons, there are human rights issues, there are humanitarian issues, and there are overlap between when you talk about missing persons.”
He added, “We can no longer refer to only what’s happening in the Northeast. Where is it not happening? It is happening all over the country. One of the issues it throws up is the issue of displacement, issue of family separation and the issue of people not being accounted for, and no responsible government would leave this matter without addressing it. I also believe that we will soon begin to see ourselves the role that we can play in bringing this to fruition to the extent that we will get to that stage where we will have a proper database.”
Ms Farouq explained that through the ministry’s mandate, the Buhari regime would establish a national mechanism to raise awareness about the plight of the missing.
“Also, the needs of their families, establish a collaborative network between and among different stakeholders where methodologies in approaching the question of missing persons and their families will be addressed,” Mr Farouq said.
She added that irregular migration by many Nigerians, including children, through the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean Sea in search of safety and better life contributed to the risk of disappearance.
“To date, there is no reliable national data on the number of missing persons in Nigeria because there is no official register. Currently, the country has no National structure or Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to address the humanitarian consequences of disappearances,” said the minister.
She noted that it “is very understandable why Nigeria as a country and this ministry in charge of humanitarian affairs, disaster management and social development is very concerned about this often-neglected and tragic humanitarian and social issue.”