IDPs in Nigeria and a Call for Urgent Intervention, By Olawale Rotimi

VP Osinbajo at IDPs camp in Kano
VP Osinbajo at camp in Kano

Among others, the growing level of violent attacks in Northern Nigeria has unavoidably led to the increase in the number of displaced persons in Nigeria. Due to siege laid by extremist in northern Nigeria, well over a million Nigerians are displaced and live in IDP camps in their own country. There are varying statistics about the number of Nigerians living in IDP camps, according to the Displacement Tracking Index published in February 2015, 1,188,018 consisting of 149,357 households were identified in Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe states alone. In addition to this, another 47,276 consisting of 5910 households were identified in Plateau, Nasarawa, Abuja, Kano and Kaduna states, according to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). In total, 1,235,294 were identified in northern Nigeria while the highest number of IDPs is in Borno state with 672,714, followed by Adamawa state with 220,159 and Yobe state 135,810.

According to the report been assessed, the IDP population is composed of the following:

• 53 % women and 47% men.

• 56% of the total IDP population are children of which more than half are up to 5 years old, while 42% are adults.

• 92% of were dis- placed by the insurgency.

• The majority of the current IDP population was displaced in 2014 (79%).

• The IDPs come mainly from Borno (62%), Adamawa (18%) and Yobe (13%).

• 87% of IDPs live with host families while 13% live in camps.

Boko Haram has killed more people than ISIS, particularly in 2014. The Taliban which was rated as the deadliest group in 2013 was ranked third in 2014 despite killing over three thousand people in deadly terrorist attacks. In 2014 only, 32,658 people were killed by Boko Haram compared to 18,111 in 2013. This extremist has taken responsibility for deadly attacks in Nigeria’s capital and northern parts; with Borno, Adamawa and Yobe as the hotbed. These attacks have led to massive and incessant displacement of people in this geopolitical zone of Nigeria. Assessing the spate of displacement it spread across Nigeria and her neighbours. Aside government organized IDP camps, there are many IDP camps that are organized by people escaped terrorist attacks in this zone while thousands migrated to peaceful parts of the country- south west Nigeria in particular. (How many IDP camps are situated in the south west?)

Despite efforts of the United Nations, its organs and other non-governmental organizations collaborating with the Government of Nigeria in order to ameliorate the conditions of IDPs and rehabilitate the victims, there are daunting challenges confronting victims of terrorist attacks in Nigeria. It is important to note that the thoroughly poor condition of IDPs in Nigeria reflects the impecunious condition millions of Nigerians live. There’s a wide gap of commitment to the welfare, security and rehabilitation of IDPs from the Federal and State government authorities. Briefly examined below, these are three major problems confronting government recognized IDPs camps in Nigeria:

Welfare: Displaced persons are finding it difficult to regain pre-conflict way of living because of the poor living condition; poor sanitation which exposes members of the camps to infectious diseases, poor medical facilities which accommodate growth of infectious bacteria, fungi and virus in their bodies, poor feeding which exposes them to malnutrition and poor condition of infrastructure such as power, water, roads e.t.c.

Considering the population of nursing mothers and children, several appeals have been made to previous and incumbent governments to ameliorate the condition of IDPs but created little or no result. Members of parliament representing affected regions have slammed the Federal and State Government Authorities severally but no result. Members of the IDP camps need the attention of the Nigerian government to ameliorate their conditions.

Security: In September 2015, the deadly terrorist group, Boko Haram in a suicide mission, attacked members of IDPs Camps in Madagali and Yola killing 12 persons. In one of the attacks, bombs were reported to have been detonated inside a tent at the IDP camp. This among others are security threats faced by members of IDP camps in Nigeria. Yet to recover from psychological trauma from loss of families, friends and properties, displaced persons are faced with security challenge coupled with a responsibility to protect themselves in their various camps. The inadequacy of security at the IDP camps opens them to attacks from terrorists and armed robbers.

Rehabilitation: Hosting IDPs in camps without solid rehabilitation plans makes them vulnerable to crime in a bid to survive. Members of IDP camps must be kept busy psychologically and rehabilitated economically to help them recover from the scourge of conflict. Rehabilitation process of IDP camps members have been sufficiently low. There seem to be a deliberate attempt from the government to ignore the displaced persons; this is evident in several failed, unfulfilled promises made by government and the politicizing of IDPs. Today, the IDP camps is emerging a ground for politicians to score cheap political popularity by visiting to donate scanty items while leaving out long term solutions.

In addition to the comprehensive challenges stated above, it’s pertinent to also note that there are some IDP camps that are unrecognized by the Federal and state governments. This implies that, the figures of IDPs projected by the government are not accurate since they are limited to camps organized or recognized by the government. In a short documentary broadcast on Channels Television, tagged “Displaced Persons Seek Support of Government, NGOs”, Channels TV reporter, Victor Mathias, gave a statistical, analytic and visual plight of an IDP camp that the government has refused to identify despite the agonies faced by members of the camp. His submission is asserted below:

“The Malkohi IDP camp is located a few kilometres from the government recognized IDP camp in Yola and has no security, electricity, healthcare facilities, with little or no donation from the government, NGOs and International Bodies. With 215 households, 777 children excluding men and women, they find solace in the settlement after been sacked from their ancestral homes by Boko Haram. Some members have even contemplated suicide due to extreme pains from injuries sustained while fleeing from Boko Haram”

The reporter, Victor Mathias, also interacted with the Adamawa State Government through the Commissioner for Information, Ahmed Sajoh, said the Federal and Adamawa State governments are aware of the existence of new IDP settlements but to integrate them into the government’s scheme, “proper” channel must be followed. Ahmed said until the government is informed through proper channel, no step will be taken to rescue these displaced persons.”

The above reported interaction between Channels Television journalist, Adamawa state government and an IDP camp reveals the poor condition the members of IDP settlements are exposed to and the nonchalance of government to help improve their plight. The refusal of Adamawa state government to recognize IDPs camps based on the claim that they haven’t followed “proper” channel violates responsibility of government to its citizens.

This disgraceful act against humanity also violates conventional conduct; Nigeria’s failure to responsibly accommodate Nigerians living in IDPs Camps within the country is too low a blow for the government. Recently in a similar development, we have seen European countries accommodate refugees from Syria were displaced due to on-going war in Syria, unofficial immigrants accommodated in Europe. Again, Nigeria’s failure to accommodate her own citizens in IDP camps puts to question the commitment of the government to take responsibility for the security and welfare of the people. In the same vein, due to security reasons, IDPs in Madagali and Michika LGAs were not accessible for assessment by statisticians.

There is an urgent need to break protocols in recognizing and accommodating victims of deadly attacks in northern Nigeria. These bureaucracies are irrelevant for a compassionate government. All barricades against displaced persons must be lifted; government and its agencies should scout for displaced persons from settlement to settlement and bring them comfort, particularly in crisis ridden-area of the country. The attention of the United Nations Humans Right Commission, World Powers and NGOs should be drawn and quickened to this. Corruption and government irresponsibility shouldn’t infiltrate the IDP camps.

Olawale Rotimi is a journalist/writer. He can be reached via [email protected] or 08105508224

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