Nigeria: No end to internal displacement

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Internal displacement caused by both communal violence and internal armed conflict is a recurrent phenomenon in Nigeria. Limited access makes it difficult to identify the numbers, locations and needs of IDPs.

Nigeria has been affected by recurrent internal conflicts and generalised violence since the end of military rule and the return to democracy in 1999. The parties to the fighting have sought political, economic and social advantages in a country with endemic poverty, low levels of education and a huge and alienated youth population.

According to an updated country profile from NRC=B4s Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), there are no clear figures of the current number of IDPs in the country. Ad-hoc local registration exercises have hinted at the scale of displacement, but many people have sought shelter and support from family and friends and so have not been counted.

In 2009, increasingly bloody clashes between the army and militia members in the Niger Delta led to the displacement of thousands of people. However, with access to the area limited, the numbers, location and needs of IDPs are unknown. Recent steps to resolve the conflict have given IDPs cause to hope for a return home, notably the disarmament of some militia members under an amnesty.

In several central and northern states, outbreaks of violence over election results or between communities divided along religious lines have triggered large-scale death, destruction and displacement. Most recorded IDPs have sought refuge in police or army barracks, hospitals, mosques and churches.

The government has not yet adopted a national IDP policy, and national, international and local agencies have assisted IDPs on an ad-hoc or selective basis. However, the signing of the African Union's IDP convention in October 2009 may indicate the government's intention to address internal displacement in a more consistent and coherent manner.