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World Refugees’ Day: Fate of IDPs in North Eastern Nigeria

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Haruna Isa

Today being the 20th June which marks the World Refugees’ Day. It is the day that was set aside by the United Nations in order to know the plight of Refugees or Internally displaced persons.

In a world where violence forces thousands of families to flee for their lives each day, the time is now to show that the global public stands with refugees.
Around the world, communities, schools, businesses, faith groups and people from all walks of life are taking big and small steps in solidarity with refugees.

The humanitarian crisis in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states in Nigeria’s north-east, that has spilled over into the Lake Chad region, is among the most severe humanitarian crises in the world today. 7.1 million people in Nigeria are in need of urgent, life-saving humanitarian assistance in 2019 and 6.2 million are targeted to receive aid.

The crisis, largely triggered by a regionalized armed conflict, is first and foremost a protection crisis. Civilians continue to bear the brunt of a conflict that has led to widespread forced displacement and violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.

Since the start of the conflict in 2009, more than 27,000 people have been killed and thousands of women and girls abducted. Violence against women, girls and children, including sexual violence, exposure to trafficking, and other forms of gender-based violence, is all too common yet underreported. Women are often forced into survival sex in exchange for food, movement and items to meet their basic needs, while some vulnerable households have resorted to early marriage and child labour. Thousands of children swell in the ranks of armed actors and predominantly women and children are compelled by non-state armed groups to carry person-borne improvised explosive devices.

From the other side of the conflict, 167 individuals in 49 families were forcefully returned by the Cameroonian military from the border region of Kolofata, Cameroon into Banki, Borno State. UNHCR monitors on the ground reported that the new arrivals were screened by the Nigerian military. In mid-January, more than 300 individuals were also returned to Banki, Nigeria from Kolofata in Cameroon by the military. During that time, UNHCR High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi in a statement described the action as totally unexpected and expressed concerns about how the forced returns were putting the lives of thousands of refugees at further risk. He also appealed to Cameroon to continue its open door and hospitable policy and practices and to immediately halt more forced returns. The High Commissioner called upon the Government of Cameroon to ensure full compliance with its refugee protection obligations under its own national legislation, as well as international law.

UNHCR continues to urge the Cameroonian authorities to recognize that refugees can only return when the security situation allows, and their actions should be in line with the provisions of the Tripartite Agreement on the voluntary repatriation of refugees as well as commitments made at the recently concluded 2nd Regional Protection Dialogue on the Lake Chad Basin held in Abuja, Nigeria. On 30 January, 33 individuals in 12 families arrived voluntarily from Kolofata to reunite with family members who were forcefully returned to Banki on 28 January by the Cameroon military. UNHCR in Cameroon will verify the registration records.

As troops of the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) engaged Non-State Armed Groups (NSAGs) to re-establish control of Rann and Baga in Borno during which civilians fled to Maiduguri and other areas in the state for their safety. The growing number of internally displaced increased pressure on the receiving centres which already have limited or non-existent facilities and services. As of then, nearly 30,000 new arrivals had been recorded in camps near Maiduguri, the state capital, all in dire need of humanitarian assistance while more than 9,000 people were forced across the border to Cameroon as a result of the January Rann attacks.

Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States currently have the largest number of IDPs, who have been displaced as a result of the conflict, including approximately 528,000 IDPs in Maiduguri Metropolis, Borno State. Given the large scale of the displacement, and the ongoing instability in many Local Government Areas (LGAs) in the North East of Nigeria, the Federal and State Governments have been facing, and continue to face, a critical humanitarian situation that is not expected to end anytime soon.

As a State Party to the African Union Convention for the Assistance and Protection of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa (the “Kampala Convention”), the Nigerian Government has the primary duty and responsibility to assist and protect IDPs in its territory, with support from humanitarian organisations where needed. It is also obliged to incorporate the Convention into the domestic legal framework and promote conditions for voluntary, dignified and safe durable solutions to displacement.

In line with its obligations under the Kampala Convention, Federal and State Government Ministries,
Departments and Agencies have been responding to the needs of IDPs through various protection and assistance interventions, with the support of international and local humanitarian actors, including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

However, given the scale and complexity of the displacement, the ICRC has observed throughout 2015 and 2016 that the humanitarian response is far from meeting the assistance and protection needs of IDPs.

It is important therefore, that everybody should join hand and support the plight of IDPs for the purpose of peace, unity and progress of the society.

Isa is a seasoned journalist, feature/opinion writer and programmes’ producer at SAWABA FM Hadejia, Jigawa state. He can be reached at:

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