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IDPs in Nigeria: From insecurity to insecurity

IDPs in Nigeria: From insecurity to insecurity
December 19
13:27 2016

BY OLAWALE ROTIMI

The emergence and operation of the dreadful Boko Haram extremist group kept Nigeria in a state of political uncertainty and security catastrophe at some point; it became difficult for any security apparatus to topple or weaken their activities even as they took more territories in North East Nigeria, putting Nigeria on global spotlight for terrorism.

With intensive and severe attacks spanning for at least four years, the effects on Nigeria is largely depressing; ranging from displacement of persons, economic paralysis, loss of human lives and properties, infrastructural damage, tension to mention a few. Insecurity became intrinsic in this region, and the phenomenon played major role in degrading this region and the global reputation of Nigeria as a nation. Persistent assassination of civil servants, government, masses, journalists and security agents with institutional memories, notorious suicide bombings leaving scores dead and random kidnap and molestation of girls.

Insecurity is not new to Nigeria, at each point the nation is faced with one form of insecurity or the other. If not religious violence up in the north, it will be militancy in the Niger Delta or political clash in South West. Almost every state and geopolitical zones in Nigeria have experienced some levels of insecurity. However, none of them have been so challenging for Nigeria to overcome as Boko Haram, not even the Nigerian civil war. Unlike other forms of insecurity faced in Nigeria, the cause and agitation of the Boko Haram sect is persuasively unclear and confusing. Starting out as an “anti-western education” group, the group have metamorphosed into various phases. It recorded attack on former Emir of Kano, multiple attacks on Muslims praying in mosques, several attached on market men and women in areas where they are predominantly Muslims, these among others makes their mission unclear. Just as their mission is unclear, their sources of living, sponsorship and national origin are very unclear also. Some analysts traced their origin to aggrieved militants from crisis ridden African nations, some are of the view that they were sponsored by political elites e.t.c.

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A major outcome of the horrific activities of Boko Haram in North East Nigeria is high displacement of persons. Though the statistics differ, Boko Haram has driven more than 2 million of the pre-Boko Haram population from their homes. The conflict has forced millions to leave their homes, works, families and businesses to other states and communities “considered” to be more secured. The massive exodus of persons from various locations across North East places pressure on Nigerians, the government, the international organizations and the receiving communities. As of August 2016, Displacement Tracking Management (DTM) statistics shows that a total number of 2,093, 030 are displaced in thirteen states (Abuja, Adamawa, Bauchi, Benue, Borno, Gombe, Kaduna, Kano, Nasarawa, Plateau, Taraba, Yobe, and Zamfara). The displaced persons are made up of 370, 389 households. 53 per cent (602, 374) of the IDPs population are female children while 47 per cent (536,867) of the IDPs population are make children. In total, 54 per cent (1,139,241) of the IDPs population are children, 53 per cent (1,108,353) of the IDPs population are females. However, only 7 per cent (147,577) of the IDP population are above sixty years.
Following the same DTM report, 1, 446, 829 of these IDPs were identified in Borno followed by Adamawa with 163,559 IDPs and Yobe with 135,442 IDPs respectively. 89.74 per cent of the IDPs captured were displaced by Boko Haram insurgents while the rest were displaced by flood, communal clash e.t.c. IDPs camps in the above listed states spread across 224 LGAs and 1,495 wards. However, it is important to note the following:

i. IDPs camps exist outside the above mentioned states. IDPs camps have been identified in Benin, Bakassi and Oru-Ijebu Ode areas.
ii. Not all IDPs camps are recognized by the Nigerian government. A documentary featured on Channels TV by its presenter (Victor Matthias) shows IDPs camp in Adamawa state which is not recognized by the government.

Displaced persons face tough problems in their various camps. These underlining problems make it difficult to rehabilitate and resettle them to their pre-conflict locations: mismanagement among government authorities in charge, lack of comprehensive data, hunger and malnutrition, poor healthcare to mention a few.

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The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund made it known that children are dying daily in Nigeria’s IDPs camps due to acute malnutrition. In a similar trend, a report by Doctors without Borders revealed that six malnourished children die daily in IDP camp in Bama, Borno state. One eighty-eight of them died of diarrhoea and malnutrition in June 2016 alone, while 1,200 graves were counted of which above 500 were children. Reports of rape, prostitution and theft are predominant uprising from the camps; to tackle malnutrition, while Borno state switched from central feeding of IDPs to household feeding, the President has also ordered probe of corrupt officials at the IDP camps but nothing seem to have changed, except that the situation as gotten worse.

The rehabilitation and resettlement plans of the Nigerian government remains unclear; inferences deduced from interactions with the Director of IDPs at the National Commission for Refugees, IDPs and Migrants early this year show that resettling the IDPs remains an insurmountable task for the Nigerian government. International partners have been playing key roles in the welfarism, data collation, health and education of displaced persons. For example, International Organization for Migrants (IOM) has been conducting Biometric Registration of IDPs in camps, camp-like sites and host communities. This helps them create for each IDP through interview with household heads and data captured covers household members, education, displacement history, livelihood, assistance received, return intention and lot more.

Of the problems faced by IDPs in the camps, insecurity ranks among the highest being the origin of their displacement. Living in the camps has not made them immune to rape, shootings, suicide bombing and random attacks from Boko Haram. At close intervals, reports of attacks unleashed on IDPs were recorded. Some of them are as follow:

i. On 10th February 2016, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said 58 people were killed and 78 victims others injured after suicide bombers detonated explosives at the IDPs camp in Dikwa, Borno State.
ii. On 11th September 2015, news reported that suspected Boko Haram terrorists detonated a bomb at Maikohi camp located in Yola. According to NEMA, the attack killed 7 and left 20 injured.
iii. On 30th October 2016, news also reported that a suicide bomber was shot dead while sneaking into IDPs camp in Borno.

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Aside brutal attacks from Boko Haram faced by IDPs in the camps, Human Right Watch in a press statement titled “Nigeria: Officials Abusing Displaced Women, Girls” also reported Gender Based Violence unleashed on female IDPs by Nigerian security forces. It reads:

“In late July, 2016, Human Rights Watch documented sexual abuse, including rape and exploitation, of 43 women and girls living in seven internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital. The victims had been displaced from several Borno towns and villages, including Abadam, Bama, Baga, Damasak, Dikwa, Gamboru Ngala, Gwoza, Kukawa, and Walassa. In some cases, the victims had arrived in the under-served Maiduguri camps, where their movement is severely restricted after spending months in military screening camp.”

From all indications, IDPs are not secured in camps. They are faced with various forms of insecurity in the camps, from external aggression (Boko Haram) and internal forces (Nigerian Security Agents). They have moved from insecurity to insecurity. This does not stand as a challenge to the displaced persons alone; it stands as challenge to Nigeria as a nation. Due to trauma and harsh experiences had, displaced persons have the tendency of becoming wild if not rehabilitated and resettled at the shortest delay. The breakout of refugees from Syria into various parts of Europe has exposed Europe to security challenges as the refugees are compelled to survive by any means- robbery and killing inclusive.

Prolonging the stay of IDPs in camps under hostile environment with daunting security challenges exposes Nigeria to further security threats. Even though displacement is not new to Nigeria, however, for the first time the nation is witness the highest number of displaced person within a short period. Security challenges are not birthed suddenly, they come as a result of mismanagement, hostility, consistent abuse of human rights among others. Nigeria must be proactive and futuristic in her approach to ensuring safety and security in the nation.

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Olawale, a writer/developmental journalist, can be reached via [email protected] or +2348105508224)

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Views expressed by contributors are strictly personal and not of TheCable.

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