Nigeria: Fragmented response to internal displacement amid Boko Haram attacks and flood season
Girls standing in front of a water-damaged house in Gurmana, Niger state, which has flooded every year for decades. During the 2012 floods, the whole village had to temporarily relocate to the primary school. (Photo: IDMC/Noémie Pierre, May 2013)
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31 December 2012
Hundreds of thousands of Nigerians were internally displaced during 2012 as a result of violence and human rights violations. Boko Haram, a radical Islamist armed group which aims to create an independent state in northern Nigeria governed by sharia law, carried out direct attacks causing many to flee their homes.
Other violence and human rights abuses committed by both Boko Haram and the country’s military, as well as ongoing inter-communal violence, also caused significant displacement. More than six million people were also displaced by floods which affected large parts of the country during the second half of the year, killing several hundred people and leaving tens of thousands more in a state of severe deprivation having lost their homes, crops and livestock. The floods also compounded the predicament of people already displaced by conflict and violence and hampered return movements.
In the absence of reliable and disaggregated data on the number, sex and location of IDPs in Nigeria, the country’s Commission for Refugees put the number of people displaced by both violence and natural disasters at more than one million as of March 2012. It did not, however, divulge the methodology used for its assessment. Most IDPs are known to find refuge with relatives and friends or in churches. There was also little information available on the fate of the estimated 65,000 people who were displaced by post-electoral violence in 2011. That said, hundreds of people from this group of IDPs are known to remain in camps in Kaduna state, where they receive no assistance from the government, livelihood opportunities are limited and most of the children have been out of school since their families fled their homes.
Boko Haram’s attacks mainly affected northern and central areas of the country in 2012. Yobe and Borno states were particularly hard-hit, with hundreds of people killed and thousands displaced by armed attacks and bombings targeting both government and civilian sites. Police and military posts, churches, newspaper offices, schools and pubs were all attacked. In the north-western cities of Damaturu and Potiskum, entire neighbourhoods were reported to have been deserted by their inhabitants. Christians were Boko Haram’s main targets, but the group also attacked Muslims perceived as cooperating with the authorities against it.
Intense fighting between the Islamists and the army, and raids by the latter involving excessive use of force caused further displacement. In July, the army’s Special Task Force forcibly evacuated thousands of people in Plateau state from their homes ahead of what was billed as an anti-terrorist operation. Most of those affected were able to return home after a few weeks.
Inter-communal violence caused displacement primarily in the north and the Middle Belt region of the country, which constitutes the dividing line between the Muslim north and the Christian south. Clashes between livestock herders and arable farmers over the use of land caused deaths and the destruction of property and crops, and led to the displacement of thousands of people during the year in several areas of Adamawa, Benue, Nassarawa and Plateau states.
The government’s response to IDPs’ needs was largely limited to short-term emergency assistance. The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) continued to lead relief operations while the National Commission for Refugees (NCFR) was in charge of providing longer-term support. In April, NEMA signalled its intention to close several displacement camps in central and northern areas of the country in an effort to encourage people to return to their areas of origin and resume their lives. The regional coordinator for the areas affected explained that maintaining the camps was also a strain on the resources of the states involved.
In April 2012, Nigeria ratified the Kampala Convention and took steps to revise and redraft its national policy on IDPs in line with the convention’s provisions, which came into force on 6 December. By the end of the year, however, the policy had still not been adopted. In mid-2012, a law was drafted to amend NCFR’s mandate and remove areas of overlap with that of NEMA. The latter has also signalled its intention to review its own mandate in order to clarify responsibilities.
The UN and international NGOs concentrated their efforts primarily on development programmes in 2012, and few organisations responded to the emergency humanitarian needs arising from forced displacement. A humanitarian country team was set up during the year, and UNHCR increased its protection capacity by deploying two officers to work on issues relating to internal displacement.
4,500 newly displaced in Nigeria’s volatile Middle Belt region (17 April 2013)
Some 4,500 people were displaced and 19 left dead over the Easter weekend following clashes between Muslim Fulani herders and Christian farmers in central Nigeria's Kaduna state. Two IDP camps were set up by local authorities, but the conditions in these camps and the extent of access to basic needs are unknown.
These clashes followed a spate of religious, ethnic and land-related conflicts in neighbouring Plateau state, for which nearly 60 people lost their lives and many were displaced due to the violence and the destruction of houses. Another attack in Plateau state on 9 April caused further displacement after houses were burned down.
The Middle Belt region, comprising states of central Nigeria such as Plateau and Kaduna, is at the crossroads between the country’s mainly Muslim north and mostly Christian south. Violence between nomadic Muslim herders, who are seen as ‘settlers’ and Christian farmers, seen as ‘indigenous,’ regularly flares up in this region. This is a consequence of rivalries and conflicting claims over land and economic resources, causing widespread internal displacement and loss of lives and property.
In 2012, at least 40,000 people were displaced following communal clashes between farmers and herders in central states during the year. Although data is limited, over the past 15 years hundreds of thousands of people are estimated to have been displaced, amid increasing tensions and violence.
Fears for neglected IDPs, as rainy season approaches (17 April 2013)
With the rainy season fast approaching, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) warned that 2013 rain patterns could be similar, if not worse, to those in 2012 when at least 2.1 million people fled from their homes.
Many of those displaced in 2012 remain in dire conditions in 2013. In Delta state, IDPs recently claimed that they had not received much-needed assistance from the state after the 2012 floods and reported feeling abandoned. In Taraba state, victims of the floods reported suspicions that funding destined for assistance was diverted by state officials.
While many IDPs are still staying with host families, others returned home after camp closures. Many returned to find their farmland devastated and homes in ruins, leaving them no other option but to squat in shacks . Other IDPs, for example in Bayelsa state, received assistance but are still suffering from the heavy trauma experienced by the crisis.
According to a November 2012 assessment carried out in 14 of the most affected states, 5.7 million animals were killed and two million hectares of farmland washed away. The destruction of farmland, crops and infrastructure used for agricultural production contributes to the decline of sources of income and dependence on markets and food aid .
Millions displaced by floods struggle with escalating food prices (30 October 2012)
Since July, at least 1.4 million people have been displaced, 550,000 homes have been damaged, some 431 fatalities have been reported, and many more remain missing in devastating floods which affected 30 of the country’s 36 states. Attributed to torrential rains, the floods have further caused the loss of houses, crops, livestock and property, as well as causing major damage to roads, bridges and other infrastructure.
By mid-October, there were 36 IDP camps situated throughout the most affected areas of the north-central regions. The situation in camps remains dire, with IDPs reporting a severe lack of food and clean drinking water, alongside reports of discrimination in aid delivery.
With the rainy season not yet over, neither the flood warning system nor the recent evacuation order of the Niger river plains have resulted in improved protection for people and their property. As food inflation escalates in line with the crisis, President Goodluck Jonathan has promised to release additional funds for the procurement of medicine and seedlings for victims, particularly those in Benue state.
Violence causes death and displacement in central and northern Nigeria (21 March 2012)
Since January more than 2,000 people have fled from the north-eastern town of Maiduguri following attacks by the Boko Haram Islamist sect. In central and northern Nigeria since the beginning of the year, violent attacks against civilians, suspected to be perpetrated by Boko Haram, the ensuing police and military crackdowns, have occurred on an almost daily basis. These incidents have resulted in death, the destruction of property and the displacement of people from their homes. While large numbers of Nigerians have found refuge in the south of the country, thousands of migrants from Chad and Niger have headed back home.
Since February 26th, such incidents include two suicide attacks on churches in the central Nigerian city of Jos that killed at least 10 people and injured dozens, strikes on police stations in the northern localities of Konduga, Ashaka, Kano and Mandawari and the torching of at least ten schools. Attacks on schools represent a new development in an increasingly violent campaign that has previously targeted mainly Christians or government structures. Violence by Boko Haram, which means “Western education is forbidden”, has claimed more than 1,000 lives since 2010, according to Human Rights Watch.
In a separate development, renewed clashes over land access and ownership between Fulani herdsmen and Tiv peasants in Benue State, central Nigeria, have also left several people dead and forced thousands to flee. Fearing that the crisis would spill over several residents of neighbouring town in Nasarawa state have sought refuge in a primary school that has been used as a temporary shelter by IDPs for several months.
Brutal attacks by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram, including this month’s pre-dawn raid on a boarding school in which members of the group doused a student dormitory in fuel and set it ablaze as children slept, have focused attention on Nigeria’s embattled north-eastern region. Boko Haram’s violence and the heavy-handed counterinsurgency operations against it have triggered significant displacement in recent years, but they constitute only one of many crises that force people to flee their homes. Other causes include recurrent inter-communal conflicts, widespread and serious flooding, and forced evictions.
Most internally displaced people (IDPs) live with host families, and their needs are neither assessed nor addressed by government or international actors. Those who live in camps receive relief, but they still often lack access to sufficient food, essential household items and health facilities. Most camps and camp-like settings close after a few weeks after displacement takes place, and little is done to help IDPs find durable solutions to their displacement. Protection risks are widespread in areas that suffer conflict and violence, and many people are afraid to return home. Whether their property has been damaged or destroyed by conflict or flooding, many IDPs do not have a home to go back to. (...)
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23 July 2012
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Internal Displacement Profile
"Causes and Background","Background","Causes of displacement"
"IDP Population Figures","Overview of displaced populations","Number and locations of IDPs","disaggregated by age and sex where data are available"
"IDP Population Movements and Patterns","Population movements and patterns of displacement"
"Physical Security and Integrity","Physical security and integrity of IDPs"
"Basic Necessities of Life","Basic necessities of life"
"Property, Livelihoods, Education and Other Economic, Social and Cultural Rights","Property issues","Access to education and to livelihoods"
"Family Life, Participation, Access to Justice, Documentation, and Other Civil and Political Rights","Family life","Access to justice and political participation"
"Protection of Special Categories of IDPs (Age, Gender, Diversity)","Special categories of IDPs"
"Durable Solutions (Return, Local Integration, Settlement Elsewhere in the Country)","Durable solutions"
"National and International Response","Overview","International human rights and humanitarian law framework including references to the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement","National Response ","Humanitarian access and assistance","International Response","Recommendations by international human rights bodies"
Previous Profile updates
- Key Documents
- Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 2012, U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, 19 April 2013
- Consolidated Appeals Process (CAP): Mid-Year Review of the Appeal 2011 for West Africa, UN OCHA, 19 July 2011
- The Myth of the Abuja Master Plan: Forced evictions as urban planning in Abuja, Nigeria, COHRE, May 2008
- IDP Assessment in Nigeria, NCFR, March 2008
- Oil Induced Environmental Degradation And Internal Population Displacement In The Nigeria’s Niger Delta, JSDA, 2008
- Amnesty International Urges Protections for Civilians in Nigeria Gang Violence, AI, 22 August 2007
- Management of Internal Displacement in Nigeria, Brandeis University, October 2006