Policy Weekly Vol.3 Issue 29, August 14 - 21, 2020: Solving Displacement Dilemma

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The world is currently enmeshed in a displacement crisis. Over 79.5 million persons are displaced worldwide due to several factors, such as violent conflicts and persecution. With 3.4 million displaced persons, Nigeria contributes 4.3% of the global figures, making her one of the top 10 countries with the highest risk of a humanitarian disaster in 2019.

The key drivers of displacements in Nigeria include overflow of rivers, the decade-long Boko Haram insurgency, inter-communal clashes, clashes between crop farmers and nomadic herdsmen and armed banditry. The alarming level of displacement generates concerns and commitments. The Nigerian governments, her international development partners and sympathetic Nigerians have worked to address this displacement challenge in the country. Despite their efforts, the challenges are unabated. This edition of Nextier SPD Policy Weekly highlights the realities and consequences of the displacement crisis in the country, with particular reference to the displacement occasioned by the protracted Boko Haram insurgency in the North East, and proffers ways to solve the problem.

The Boko Haram crisis has produced one of the most significant displacement figures in modern history. The sect is responsible for the displacement of over 2.7 million in the North East and more than 680,000 into Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. These figures represent 99.4% of the total displacement figures (3.4 million) in Nigeria. An estimated 40% of the displaced persons reside in overcrowded camps and live in appalling conditions. Cases abound of poor access to basic amenities such as drinkable water, healthcare, and education in the various camps (Amina and Ibrahim, 2019). The displaced persons have been vulnerable to insecurity, hunger, malnutrition, diseases, and human rights violations (Osumah, 2019). There are cases of exploitation for cheap labour, sexual assaults, predatory and transactional sex for food, shelter and other assistance, and rape with associated incidents of unwanted pregnancies in several camps and transitional settlements. Many of the displaced persons have been deliberately targeted and subjected to violence, intimidation, and extortion by insurgents, criminal elements, camp managers, civilian militia, and unscrupulous security agents. They have suffered personal, emotional, social and material losses, including continuing insecurity, further displacement through attacks on camps and settlements, loss of livelihoods, houses, and dignity (Olarenwaju, Olarenwaju, Omotoso, Alabi, Amoo, Loromeke and Ajayi, 2019). Individuals and families are dependent on others for survival and, on account of these experiences, have become traumatised.

As a signatory to the Kampala Convention and other instruments, the Nigerian government has taken various efforts to assist and protect displaced persons as well as find durable solutions to displacement. Many organisations such as the presidential initiatives and committees, Inter-ministerial Taskforce, and North East Development Commission (NEDC) are working in tandem with the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) and National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). Also, the U.N. agencies and development partners have been assisting.
However, both the Nigerian government and international aid agencies are becoming stressed. Despite the military presence and its reassurances of return of normalcy, the region's security situation remains mostly fluid and unpredictable. This situation has been a source of concern to aid workers assisting the displaced persons. As of 2019, the decade-long insurgency resulted in 37 humanitarian workers killed and several others kidnapped. In July 2020, there were cases of insurgents' ambush of soldiers, attack on Borno State Governor's convoy and death of five aid workers. This situation frustrates access to displaced persons by humanitarian workers. Added to this lack of access, there are visible fragmentation and non-coordination in the collective response of humanitarian organisations working in the region (Mohammed, 2017). Humanitarian funding also lags, with a 2019 United Nations Appeal only garnering 43 per cent of the funds needed. Meanwhile, there has been an allegation of corruption, misappropriation and mismanagement of funds for displaced persons.