The challenges of Nigeria’s rising ‘refugees’

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Not too long ago, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance, UNOCHA disclosed that no fewer than 300,000 people in Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa states – 70 percent of them women and children – have fled their homes since early 2013. In different parts of the country, communal clashes and related violence have also resulted in many people fleeing their homes and properties.

Only recently, a report stated that with 3.3 million Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, Nigeria has the largest population of persons displaced by conflict in Africa. The report, Global Overview 2014: People Internally Displaced By Conflict and Violence, published by the Internal Displaced Monitoring Centre, IDMC and the Norwegian Refugee Council, NRC, last week stated that the number of internally displaced persons in Nigeria is approximately a third of the IDPs in Africa and 10 percent of IDPs in the world. While the report noted that displacement is caused by a connection of interrelated factors, it highlighted violence, flood and storms as the main cause of displacement in Nigeria.

“Multiple complex causes trigger displacement, providing significant challenges to governments and humanitarians on the ground,” said Alfredo Zamudio, Director of IDMC; adding that “violence, abuses, and forced evictions all add to the conflict-mix in many of these situations, while in places such as Nigeria we see how challenging life becomes for those already displaced by conflict when they are struck down again by severe floods and storms.”


According to the report, 470,500 persons were displaced in Nigeria in 2013 alone, placing it as the country with the third highest number of displaced persons in the world. Nigeria is only ranked behind Syria with 6.5 million IDPs and Colombia with 5.7 million IDPs. IDMC is the leading source of information and analysis on internal displacement worldwide. In Benue, Taraba, Kaduna and Zamfara states too, clashes have been recorded between farmers and herdsmen over grazing lands leaving bloody trail, with its attendant destruction of properties, farmlands and whole communities. As at last December, Human Rights Watch, HRW gave a conservative estimate of the deaths from such clashes at 1,000. Worse still, the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA said 35 percent of health facilities in rural areas in Borno and environs have either been destroyed by Boko Haram or forced to shutdown for safety reasons, leaving injured or infirmed displaced
people in more precarious conditions.

Zamfara State government recently said more than 300 people in the last 20 months were killed in attacks on villages in the state. In Benue, NEMA said more than 100 villages were sacked by suspected Fulani herdsmen this year alone. Earlier in April, the agency setup 11 camps for over 100,000 people displaced in eight local governments in the state. Also, many of the victims of flooding caused by heavy rainfall across the country in 2012 are yet to be provided permanent places of residence. Flooding in that year alone displaced over two million people according to NEMA. The foregoing scenarios no doubt call for concerted efforts at managing the major fallout of the crises that engendered them; and that is, striving to cater for the resultant Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs.

Also known as refugees, IDPs refer to persons forced to flee their abodes but remain within their country’s borders in order to avoid effects of the armed conflicts, situations of generalised violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters. It is very difficult to get accurate figures for IDPs because populations as the situation stands now are not constant. The way it is, the situation remains fluid as IDPs troop in and out of their camps or settlements. In the light of the foregoing scenarios and against the backdrop of our aggregate desire to grow Nigeria to a nation of equal opportunities, it is clear that not much is being done to confront the IDPs issue in the country.

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