31 December 2013 |

Nigeria: Internal displacement in brief

As of December 2013

 

The Islamist armed group Boko Haram carried out an increasing number of brutal attacks during 2013, which triggered significant new displacement in north-eastern Nigeria. The attacks, as well as heavy-handed counterinsurgency operations, also compounded ongoing inter-communal conflict in the country’s central Middle Belt region. There are concerns that the violence may increase as the 2015 elections draw nearer and political allegiances shift.

According to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), at least 470,500 people were newly displaced during 2013 by such violence, but there is very little information about their protection and assistance needs. Neither was much known about the estimated 3.3 million people living in displacement across the country, some since 2010, as estimated by the National Commission for Refugees. Most IDPs live with host families, and neither the government nor international organisations have systematically assessed or addressed their situation.

Boko Haram has been fighting to create an independent state in northern Nigeria since the early 1990s. It concentrated its attacks during 2013 in the north-east of the country, with fighters increasingly targeting civilians in roadside attacks or assaults on sites they consider sacrilegious to Islam. The government’s counterinsurgency tactics and its excessive use of force against civilians have also forced residents to flee their homes, and its use of self-defence groups known as “civilian joint task forces” puts non-combatants at greater risk of becoming targets for reprisals.

Limited access and poor communications make it difficult to assess the scope of displacement in the north-east. However, NEMA reported that during 2013 nearly 300,000 people were forced to flee violence within the north-eastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa alone, three states in which the government has maintained a state of emergency since June 2013.

Inter-communal violence continued to cause displacement in northern areas and the Middle Belt region, the latter being the rough dividing line between the Muslim north and the Christian south. Cattle rustling raids and clashes between herders and farmers over land use caused deaths and the destruction of property and crops, and led to the displacement of thousands of people in Zamfara, Benue and Plateau states during 2013.

Evictions to make way for road-building projects in the Lagos area left at least 9,000 people homeless in February, with few reports of victims receiving compensation.

Little had been done to help IDPs, many of whom do not have a home to go back to, in their search for durable solutions. The continuing shortage of data on internal displacement has resulted in an alarming lack of understanding of the country’s displacement dynamics, which in turn has led to fragmented and generally inadequate response efforts.

The government’s response to IDPs’ needs continued to be limited largely to short-term emergency assistance in 2013. NEMA signaled its intent to close several displacement camps in central and northern areas of the country, but established new camps in Bauchi state to host IDPs who fled insecurity in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa in September. Those living in camps received some relief, but were still often left without enough food, essential household items or health facilities.

The Humanitarian Country Team sought to increase its capacity to respond to IDPs’ protection needs in 2013, and the wider humanitarian community was increasingly vocal about security concerns. UNHCR warned against IDPs and refugees returning to northern parts of the country. Only a handful of organisations responded to the humanitarian needs arising from the displacement Boko Haram caused, limited in part by access restrictions as a result of insecurity and also by their own lack of capacity.

Nigeria ratified the Kampala Convention in 2012 and took steps to draft a national policy on IDPs in line with the convention’s provisions. However, by the end of 2013, the policy had still not been adopted by the Federal Executive Council.