Nigeria + 2 more

Northeast Nigeria: Operational Update, July 2021

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Almost 64,500 IDPs, returnees and other Nigerians reached with over 1,540 protection monitoring missions in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States.

UNHCR reached more than 2,200 people with over 70 awareness sessions on COVID19 and general security, at border entry points in Borno and Yobe States.

The UNHAS started flight operations between Maiduguri and Damaturu, which may ease the difficulties faced by humanitarian organizations in delivering humanitarian programmes.

Operational Highlights

  • In July, the Northeast Nigeria and Lake Chad Basin areas witnessed intensified security and political activities, which greatly hampered general humanitarian response. The none-state armed groups (NSAGs) continued to terrorise communities in different UNHCR operational locations in Northeast Nigeria, causing fear, panic, and inability to go to farms. They also attacked and killed Cameroonian soldiers several times at the Nigeria-Cameroon borders within a very short period. This forced the UN to temporarily suspend humanitarian activities in the area.

  • On 14 July, unidentified persons broke into the UNHCR protection desk at Agric camp of Dikwa local government area and stole solar batteries. Partners quickly reported the incident to the community elders, the civilian joint task force and the police. The police arrested two suspects and instituted investigations. The stolen items were recovered two days later. Solar panels and batteries are some of the most valuable and expensive items, particularly in Maiduguri and its vicinities where there is lack of electricity.

  • Economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continued to take its toll on the vulnerable civilian and displaced populations in Northeast Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin region. Most people still run the risk of getting infected because of non-compliance to prevention protocols, but prices of basic commodities continue to skyrocket, leaving many at the mercy of humanitarian assistance. The situation is worsened by the reluctance or refusal of most people to receive the COVID-19 vaccines as part of misconceptions. However, in its COVID-19 vaccination campaign, the Government in the Northeast have continued to target frontline workers in the region as a measure of curbing the spread of the virus.

  • UNHCR and GISCOR border protection monitors in Banki conducted 6 border visits, organized close to 10 awareness sessions on COVID-19 preventive and personal hygiene measures, reaching more than 50 people. Similarly, UNHCR and partners conducted awareness sessions on COVID-19 for more than 80 people at the Chunguliski border entry point. In Pulka, the border monitors reached more than 150 people with 5 awareness sessions on COVID-19 and peaceful co-existence.

  • Adamawa State was relatively calm and peaceful during most parts of July. However, NSAG members attacked Dabna community in Hong local government area, considered the food basket of the State, killing 18 people and injuring several others, who were referred for medical attention. The rate of kidnapping also reduced during the period under review, with 2 kidnaping cases recorded in Madanya community of Mubi South local government area and Yadium ward in Fufore local government area. NSAG also attacked Midul Primary Centre in Madagali local government area, carting away mattresses, solar panels, and medical supplies. To curtail these common criminal activities, the Adamawa State Government imposed a night curfew for tricycle riders from 2200hrs to 800hrs. The insecurity in the State was also reportedly compromised by cases of Cholera in Yola North and Girei local government areas. However, UNHCR partners and government actors have continued to intensify response to the outbreak.

  • In Yobe State, NSAG members attacked Gujba local government area and looted a large quantity of food items and fuel before retreating. Security forces drafted a reinforcement from Buni-Yadi to the scene, but the insurgents left before they arrive. Meanwhile, fighters also raided the residence of a local vigilante leader in Ngirbuwa village, killing 2 of his children and 5 other members of the community. The vigilante leader was not at home at the time of the raid. The fighters also raided a newly reconstructed health facility in the village but found no drugs, so, they retreated. These constant attacks have continued to instill constant fear and tension in most return communities and villages within Gujba local government area.

  • On 14 July, the UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) started flight operations between Maiduguri and Damaturu, flying for about 40 minutes. The helicopter took off from the Maiduguri International Airport at around 1145hrs and arrived Damaturu, the Yobe State capital, at 1225hrs. The start of UNHAS operations on this new route comes as a welcome relief to many because it will reduce the risk of exposure to NSAG attacks, abductions, for those commuters taking this important highway, and will ease the logistical difficulties faced by humanitarian organizations in programme delivery to Yobe State. In the immediate past, due to the risk associated with road movements on the Maiduguri-Damaturu highway, commuters were constrained to access Damaturu through alternative routes and by flights via Abuja, which was very costly, long and inconvenient.

  • Cross Border Movements: In July, UNHCR and partners continued to record movements across the borders between Nigeria and its neighbors. For instance, between the NigerNigeria border in the Damasak local government area, the movements were not as frequent when compared to previous months before the onset of the rains. There was a rise in the water level in the Ali Shuwa river, situated between Damasak and Niger, which made crossing difficult for many. However, GISCOR recorded the movement of more than 60 refugee returnees into Damasak from various locations in Niger Republic, including Awaridi, Toumour, Garin Wanzam, and Diffa. Reasons for their return to Nigeria included insecurity and poor living conditions in Niger. Although they were allocated shelters at Government Secondary School camp, where they are currently residing, most of the returnees urgently need food and none-food items (NFIs).

  • Internal Displacements: Internal movements leading to secondary displacements continued to be observed in the Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe (BAY) States as insecurity persistently forced newly displaced people, especially from inaccessible areas, into camps. The trend was observed in some villages and localities in Bama, Gwoza, Dikwa, and Pulka local government areas, among others. The movements in these areas were mainly linked to lack of access to basic amenities like food, shelters, and NFIs in the camps or areas of return. For instance, people recently returned by the Borno State Government from Muna Garage camp to Mafa were seen returning to Jere and the Maiduguri Metropolitan Centre (MMC) due to attacks in Mafa, particularly in Ajiri ward. On 17-18 July, almost 75 families arrived at Farm Centre camp in Maiduguri.

  • Refugee returnees: There was a sustained trend of spontaneous refugee returns at the borders across the BAY States in Northeast Nigeria, during July. For instance, UNHCR in partnership with the Nigeria Immigration Service captured close to 500 individual refugee returnees, from Cameroon and Niger, through Banki, Damasak, Gwoza and Pulka entry points.

  • The Borno State Government Return Plan: The Government continued to return internally displaced people (IDPs) to their places of origin. During July, the Borno State Government relocated more than 830 families of over 4,400 individuals from Muna and Farm centre camps to Ajiri, Majigine, Abbari, Maafa and Mafa wards in Mafa local government area. These movements happened amid security challenges and absence of assessment to determine the minimum standards to inform the return. To this end, there is need to continue to advocate on the implementation of the minimum standards outlined in the Borno State Government Return Strategy 2019. The implementation of these standards will ensure that returns are informed, planned, safe, dignified, and sustainable.

  • The Borno State Government continued to relocate internally displaced people to their original areas. According to INTERSOS, the government relocated almost 1,845 families from different camps and host communities in Monguno local government areas to various return locations in Kukawa local government area of the State, including Doro, which UNHCR fears remain insecure for beneficiaries, and out of the reach of any humanitarian response/assistance due to deadly activities by NSAG. The government has also announced it would continue the exercise in the weeks ahead, as per reports by UNHCR protection monitors in the field.

  • Consequences of population movements: During the return exercise, the government distributed food and gave out money to individual beneficiaries as well as families upon arrival at the return locations. But the humanitarian community, including the government’s protection agencies, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) remained shut out of any coordination or full involvement in the return process, despite the risks involved following a resurgence of attacks by NSAG in the Northeast. However, UNHCR and other protection actors continue to advocate for a principled return by the Borno Government in respect of its own return strategy and other international best practices in the face of the ongoing security risks.

  • Key Informant Interviews (KIIs) and observations equally revealed serious protection concerns such as limited access to food, livelihoods, protection safety nets, and NFIs among the returned people (IDPs and IDP returnees), especially in their return locations. Such limited access to basic services continued to negatively impact many families. Also, heavy rainfalls and windstorms caused disastrous flooding of camps and host communities, thereby destroying shelters, food and NFIs exacerbating further hardship on beneficiaries, amid the COVID-19 pandemic in places like Bama, Banki, Monguno, Pulka, Damasak, Damboa, Rann, and camps in the MMC and Jere local government areas in Borno State, as well as Gujba and Damaturu in Yobe State. The IDP returnees also faced limited access to cooking fuel, a concern that UNHCR resolved by advocating for fuel efficiency stove and briquettes as alternative sources of cooking fuel in the return areas. The connection between safe sources of energy and gender-based violence (GBV) unfortunately continues to be registered especially for women and girls as they go about fetching firewood for domestic purposes. After the return exercise, GBV cases were reported, including denial of resources, physical assaults, and sexual exploitation, some of which resulted in family separations in return locations, such as Bama, Gwoza, Monguno, and Ngala.