Nigeria Displacement Crisis: Overcoming the Challenges and Spurring Actions

In the last five years, figures of displaced persons in Nigeria grew exponentially. Currently, with over two million internally displaced persons living in IDP camps across Nigeria, the full impact of displacement is still essentially unclear.

The displacement crisis in Nigeria is peculiar among others in the world, because it is only one among other major crises Nigeria is battling with concurrently. Following the yardstick of Fund for Peace, Nigeria remains a ‘fragile state,’ massive displacement of people, severe humanitarian emergencies, widespread vengeance-seeking group grievance, severe economic decline and deterioration of public services are characteristics of ‘fragile state’ evident in the Nigerian society.

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Faced with tough economic challenges, deep rooted corruption across board, insecurity and political instability among others, displacement crisis in Nigeria has become wider, complex and more difficult to resolve. Aside the fact that some displaced persons camps are not recognized by the government- “unofficial”, the recognized IDP camps suffer inordinate problems such as insecurity, hunger, malnutrition, poor healthcare, lack of access to quality education e.t.c.

On insecurity, a number of suicide bombing attacks have been recorded in IDP camps in Borno state Nigeria; on hunger and malnutrition, the recent report of “Doctor without Borders” show that thousands of displaced persons in Nigeria have died of hunger while many others are still faced with chronic hunger and malnutrition.

The unresolved displacement crisis in Nigeria is raising concern in the Nigerian society, as displaced persons continue to live in frustration; this could lead to other unforeseen national challenges.

Frankly, displaced persons are vulnerable to violence and crime. Their vulnerability poses a threat to the Nigerian society, and such should be addressed quickly.

Across the globe today, efforts of governments, United Nations, African Union and other international organizations, experts from various NGOs and the academia on refugees and internally displaced persons are focusing on their rehabilitation.

Rehabilitation in Nigeria has been marred by the following factors:

Lack of comprehensive data: There is a continuous shortage of reliable data on internally displaced persons in Nigeria. This has created a distorted picture of areas where interventions are needed. Various organizations have presented different figures and statistics of displaced persons in Nigeria, considering the fact that an official of the National Emergency Management Agency in an interview with Daily Trust online acknowledged that “unofficial” camps existed around the country, gathering an accurate data of displaced persons remains a task.

Policy deficiencies: Currently, there are no contemporary policies that create an enabling atmosphere for the rehabilitation of displaced persons. Many conventions and international treaties ratified by Nigeria, like the Kampala convention are yet to be domesticated in the country.

Lack of comprehensive roadmap: Various national and international organizations have been responding to the immediate needs of displaced persons in Nigeria, however, it is unclear if they have resettlement plans. Millions of persons displaced by Boko Haram have stayed in camps for at least two years; many of them yearn for resettlement. So far, there seem to be no comprehensive roadmap to resettle the displaced persons. Significant challenges in the area of coordination, shelter, livelihoods among others are issues confronting displaced persons with no definite roadmap/document for their resettlement.

Corruption: In recent months, there have been constant complaints about diversion of IDP fund by corrupt officials; this has resulted to hunger, starvation and death of children and women in displaced camps. In response to this, the Federal Government, Nigerian Senate and the Economic Financial Crime Commission have vowed to probe corruption in IDPs camps. Aside complaints about diversion of fund, some branded relief items donated to IDPs by International Organizations are spotted in supermarkets and stores nationwide.

Important steps must be taken in overcoming these challenges. The issue of displacement must not be treated politically; it calls for an urgent holistic approach. It is pertinent to note that it costs the Nigerian Government more to keep IDPs in camp than it takes to resettle them. In spurring actions for resettlement, the following must be done:

Collate Data: In April 2016, the Nigerian Government announced it was gathering data for the settlement of displaced persons; it is unclear if the data have been gathered. Academics, researchers, journalists, international and national organizations should be engaged by the Federal Government in collating data. Collating accurate data is primal to resettling IDPs. Thus, the task must be taken seriously by the government.

Roadmap: A comprehensive roadmap stating the challenges faced by displaced persons, solution to those challenges, implementation, activities with timeline, parties involved and their roles among others must be developed. The roadmap should also cover short and long term resettlement plans.

In addition, the government should intensify the fight against corrupt officials in order to ensure transparency and accountability in the rehabilitation and resettlement process of displaced persons. The National Assembly should provide legislative backing that agrees with the effort of the federal government, NGOs and international organizations in rehabilitating the displaced persons.

By Olawale Rotimi Opeyemi

(Olawale is a leading writer/journalist; he can be reached through [email protected] or +2348105508224)



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