Recovering Nigeria’s Refugees and IDPs: A Fight Worth Fighting

Nigeria has been ranked among nations with high number of displaced persons and refugees; this record is solely linked to insecurity challenges faced by the country in the recent past, where thousands were killed by the dreadful terrorist group-Boko Haram and millions displaced across the country and beyond.

At the peak of Boko Haram attacks in North East Nigeria, the figures of displaced persons rose speedily; currently, well more than 2 million persons are displaced within Nigeria. As of June 11, 2014, the International Rescue Committee estimates that as many as 1,000 refugees a week are crossing the border into the Republic of Niger’s Diffa region. Four out of five are women and girls.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in a publication on her website stated that violence in northern Nigeria is pushing people from their homes and across borders; nearly 200,000 people are seeking refuge in Niger, Cameroon and Chad. The number of internally displaced people (IDPs) is on the rise as cross-border insecurity forces families to flee their homes and livelihoods. Cameroon alone hosts more than 100,000 displaced people. There are over 60,000 Nigerian refugees in the Minawao camp, Maruoa in far North Region of Cameroon only.

In 2015, the figure of global displacement stands at 40.8 million which is the highest figure ever reported ever reported The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre; Nigeria has higher number of displacement over Afghanistan, DRC, Congo, Columbia and South Sudan respectively.

Even though Nigerian Army in the last one year has recorded remarkable fits in the war against terror in North East Nigeria, the effect of terrorists attacks unleashed over the years is far reaching on Nigerians- in economy, education, environment, psychology and social unity. The totality of the local people’s livelihoods has been seriously affected; closed borders have disrupted trade, halted access to farmland and prevented herders reaching grazing lands, schools have been closed for several months, while infrastructures worth millions of dollars have been damaged, hence the need to rebuild north east Nigeria.

Recovering Nigeria’s displaced persons and refugees is a long term plan that requires synthetic road-map from stakeholders in government, international organizations, NGOs, journalists, academics and social workers. Faced with insecurity in camps, malnutrition, domestic violence, and psychological trauma, a workable and sustainable plan for recovering IDPs and Nigerian refugees should be presented. The Federal Government has continuously promised to take the rehabilitation process seriously. In a similar development, the Speaker of the House of Representatives is sponsoring a bill for the establishment of North East Commission, simply to rebuild North East Nigeria. UNHCR among other international organizations have continued to intensify efforts towards the welfare of displaced persons.

Amidst these brilliant ideas and efforts from various bodies, synergy is salient. As committees are formed on other national matters, Nigerian government/international organizations working in Nigeria should unite and engage stakeholders from various fields in the rehabilitation process.

Delaying or politicizing the recovery of displaced persons and Nigerian refugees is a threat to Nigeria’s future, because victims living under frustration are potential object of violence. Thus, recovering displaced persons and Nigerian refugees is a fight worth fighting. The following should synergize and work together in the rehabilitation process.

1. Government: The Federal Government should provide the framework for the rehabilitation and recovery to thrive. Its agencies committed to the rehabilitation must be governed by professionals/experts with delivery agenda; hence it must not be politicized. The Federal Government should also canvas for support from the international community.

Furthermore, the national assembly should provide quality legislation to enhance the recovery process. Such include the domestication of the Kampala convention and other treaties that will strengthen rehabilitation of displaced persons.

Lastly, state and local government of affected states should ensure it gives necessary ground support such as land, security information e.t.c. for rehabilitation agents to function.

2. International Organizations and NGOs: UNHCR’s commitment is highly commendable in rehabilitating Nigeria’s displaced persons. More international organizations and donors should join effort; a challenge against a people is a challenge against the globe. More humanitarian support from international organizations is needed to accelerate the process.

3. Developmental Journalists: On-going interventions must be known and well scripted for the global community; advocacy key must be played on high notes for more interventions from local and international levels. Developmental Journalists must be engaged write the stories of rebuilding north east Nigeria in a systematic manner.

4. Academics and social workers: Psychologists, peace scholars and social workers should also be engaged in giving emotional comfort to the displaced persons. They will also be instrumental in forming a long term framework that will strengthen the rehabilitation of north east Nigeria.

Recovering displaced persons and returning the refugees back to Nigeria is a task which must be taken seriously; Nigeria cannot afford to politicize the rehabilitation and recovery of displaced persons and refugees.

Happy International Refugees Day!
Olawale Rotimi Opeyemi can be reached via [email protected] or +2348105508224 .

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Articles by Rotimi Olawale