The 2019 World Refugee Day celebration provided UNHCR, the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced (NCFRMI), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Refugees, IDPs and other partners the opportunity to amplify and engage the public across operations in Nigeria, on the strength, courage and resilience of refugees, IDPs and returnees. Drawing on the 2019 theme #StepWithRefugees, the commemoration and activities told the refugee story and highlighted the centrality of protection aimed at ensuring equal enjoyment and access to rights of all individuals forced to flee their homes, particularly the most vulnerable women, men, children and the elderly. In Abuja (FCT), Yola (Adamawa State), Adikpo (Benue State), Maiduguri (Borno State), Ogoja and Calabar (Cross Rivers State) Damaturu (Yobe State), Yola (Adamawa State) the voices of refugees, IDP, returnees were amplified through the week long activities implemented to commemorate the WRD. Significantly, the Cross Rivers State Government signed on #WithRefugees, formally committing to inclusion and support for refugees.
The African Union’s designation of 2019 as the Year of Refugees, Returnees and IDPs also comes at a time when forced displacement remains a major issue confronting Nigeria, with an estimated 2,001,083 displaced persons (IDPs, refugees, and returnees). The 2019 WRD provided the platform to reiterate the values of the 1969 OAU (now African Union) Refugee Convention on its 50th anniversary, as well as a call for the domestication of 2009 African Union Convention on the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons (Kampala Convention), on its 10th anniversary.
Thirty-three years after Nigeria ratified the 1969 OAU Convention in 1986, which was domesticated by incorporation into the National Commission for Refugees Act; Nigeria, consistent with the positive obligation to make the best efforts to grant asylum under the complementary provisions, has continued to receive and extend effective international protection to thousands of refugees in line with the traditional African hospitality.
As the humanitarian crisis in the North East of Nigeria enters its second decade, with more than 1.9 million IDPs, relevant institutions of Government were called on to end the legal vacuum by adopting a framework for IDP protection, in line with Nigeria’s obligations under the Kampala Convention, ratified in 2012. UNHCR will continue to support/call on the Ministry of Justice to finalise the draft IDP Bill; adoption of the Bill by the Federal Executive Council and transmission to the National Assembly; and prompt passage of the Bill into law by the National Assembly. This action by the Government of Nigeria will effectively respond to incidences of violations of rights of IDPs, including sexual and gender-based violence and exploitation, and encourages responsibility and accountability where the rights of IDPs are deprived.
With UNHCR-Nigeria being 22% funded, as of July 2019, leaving funding gaps which are far below expectations ($100.748 million), it is hoped that the participation of the donors in the WRD activities will also bring increased funding support to sustain a protection-centred humanitarian response in North East Nigeria and support protection and assistance operations for Cameroon refugees in Benue, Cross Rivers, Taraba and Akwa Ibom States.
UNHCR Nigeria organized series of events from 17 June, leading to the official commemoration of the World Refugee Day (WRD) on 20 June 2019. Throughout the country, these events were being supported by the various Nigerian government entities, ECOWAS Commission, donors and other stakeholders.