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2020 World Refugees Day: Bakassi Returnees Charged On Strick Compliance To COVID-19 Guidelines

The World Refugees Day celebration is usually celebrated on June 20 of every year to re-assess the state of refugees the world over and chart a common course of sharing in their plight. In spite of the COVID-19 pandemic that has ravaged the entire world, the day was still marked the world over, though in a very low key.  In Akwa Ibom State, the day was also marked on Saturday, June 20, 2020 in Uyo, with a select members of Cameroon returnees across various camps in the state with strict adherence to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) COVID-19 preventive measures which include the use of face mask, regular washing of hands with soap and running water, social and physical distancing and the use of alcoholic-based hand sanitizer to curb the pandemic. The  international co-ordinator, Bakassi returnees, Prince Aston-Joseph Inyang, explained that though year 2020 celebration of refugees was in a very low key, the significance  of the event still remained as it sought to give the refugees a sense of belonging and as well provide a veritable platform for palliatives distribution to keep them going, especially in this critical period, adding that Akwa Ibom and Nigeria governments have not in anyway forgotten them as integral members of the state and the country respectively. Inyang who is also the chief executive officer (CEO) of a renowned non-governmental organization (NGO), Assurance-care Neighbourhood Foundation, maintained that the commemoration of the year's event with the theme Cameroon Refugees Are not Enemies to the Country of Refugees-Nigeria was to further strengthen co-operation among Nigeria, Cameroon and international community through information sharing on migration check through immigration, education, economics, politics as well as social aspects of Nigeria-Cameroon bilateral relations, stressing that it also seeks to project the domestic and international dimension of Nigeria's engagement with the world activities, especially the bilateral relations with Cameroon for the overall benefit of those who desire to travel, live, school or do business in Nigeria. The co-ordinator disclosed that the celebration was in collaboration with four NGOs namely: Theolight Global Foundation, Assurance-care Neighbourhood Foundation, Turning Point Outreach Global Ministry and Voice of Bakassi Refugees, noting that migrants and IDPs foundation made the event worthwhile as they had put smiles on the faces of the celebrators. Inyang commended Gov Udom Emmanuel for practically providing a peaceful environment for refugees from Cameroon since 2017 and also intervening in the area of relief materials to cushion their sufferings on arrival, and appealed to the governor to do more by providing food and non-foodstuffs, shelter and support for children's education, medical attention, starter packs for the women, skills training and empowerment as well as farm implements as most of them are farmers. The co-ordinator as well lauded President Muhammadu Buhari for his love towards the displaced persons in the country and appealed to UNHCR to extend intervention materials to refugees in Akwa Ibom State as it is done for their contemporaries in Cross River, Benue and Adamawa States and NCFRMI to be more proactive in Akwa Ibom as the primary agency of information sharing regarding persons of concerns as well as shelter, medical care, skills training, food and non-foodstuffs, clothing and farm implements. Inyang appreciated the chief executive officer, Turning Point Outreach Global Ministry, Evang. Mary-Assumpta Ndifor, for her relentless efforts in providing livelihood for the refugees, her intervention support of hygiene to curb the global COVID-19 pandemic. He also commended the executive director, Theolight Global Foundation, Mrs Helen Ubit, for meeting the physical and psychological needs of the displaced persons by providing temporal shelter, health care, counselling and essential commodities as well as the Assurance-care Neighbourhood Foundation for the successful coordination of refugees from inception by providing all the transit camps and also intervening on their timely requests. The coordinator encouraged the returnees to have faith in God even as they observe the COVID-19 preventive measures of regular hand washing with soap and running water, use of face mask, social and physical distancing and the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer to help mitigate the spread of the virus in their respective camps. Earlier in his exhortation, Bishop Friday Eboutit thanked God for His love and benevolence on the returnees, noting that they were not better than those who had passed on but God still kept them. Eboutit who drew his text from Romans 12:2 reminded them to re-assess themselves and make a U-Turn where necessary while also enjoining them to obey God and the law of the land.  The CEO, Turning Point Outreach Global Ministry, Ndifor, expressed gratitude to God for the opportunity given her to be a blessing to humanity, saying she derived joy whenever she was privileged to better the lives of others. Ndifor, represented by Mr Imoh Noah, maintained that it was her pleasure to be at the event, adding that though the event was very low key, she was quite impressed at what she saw and the excitement on the faces of the beneficiaries. She charged the returnees not to lose hope as God will continue to send messiahs to meet them at the point of their need, assuring that there is hope for them. The CEO advised them to remain peaceful and law-abiding in their respective camps while still holding on to God the author and finisher of their faith, even as the obey the COVID-19 preventive measures. The executive director, Theolight Global Foundation, Mrs Helen Ubit, remarked that God has been so faithful in making the day a reality and applauded the coordinator, Prince Inyang, whom God has used right from time to coordinate the refugees despite all odds, stressing that  indeed he  is a man of courage with a great zeal and passion to serve humanity. Ubit disclosed that the commemoration of the 2020 Refugees Day (though in low key) was a demonstration of love and care to the refugees as everyone is one, saying that God will continue to connect men from far and near to reach out to them. The executive director hinted that her NGO has put smiles on the faces of many  in need, adding that she has provided a shelter as well as taken care of a teenage who got pregnant without knowing who was responsible till she put to bed and today she and her baby were in good health. She pledged that she would continue to support and work towards the wellbeing of refugees in the state even as she admonished them to stay off crime. In a vote of thanks on behalf of the returnees, Mrs Flora Kolle thanked Gov Emmanuel for his love towards them and President Muhammadu Buhari for ensuring that they were carried along. Kolle thanked the Police, Immigration, Department of State Service (DSS), among other security agencies for protecting them. She appreciated the NGOs for providing the palliatives for them and the coordiantor, Inyang, for ensuring that all of them benefited from the palliatives no matter the quantity, stating that the gesture was a clear demonstration of love to humanity, especially in times like this. High point of the event was the distribution of the palliatives which included cooked rice, cartons of malt drink, cartons of eva water, bags of rice  and garri, cartons  of noodles, face masks, alcohol-based hand sanitizer, liquid and tablet soaps, among others items, to the returnees.

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