How govt can provide emergency shelter for Nigeria’s IDPs 

Stories by Maduka Nweke,

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Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) can be found all over the world and they are handled in different ways by the countries when domiciled.

Nigeria does not have refugee camps but countries where there are refugees employ the same method of handling them as those used in handling displaced persons, yet there have not been scandals as massive as those being recorded in Nigeria. A lot of Nigerians are today refugees in those countries and the government seems not to take note of the devastating effects of this condition on the mental behaviours of the people.

Fuelled by economic, social, political and environmental factors, the drivers of displacement in Nigeria are multi-faceted, complex and often overlapping. Violence perpetrated by the militant armed group, Boko Haram, and military operations against the group have caused the bulk of internal displacements but inter-communal clashes arising from ethnic and religious tensions also regularly force people from their homes, as do frequent floods and mass evictions in urban centres, and most recently, activities of herdsmen.

In 1998, a town called Igbakwu in Ayamelum Local Government Area of Anambra State had a communal clash with a neighbouring town called Omor. The Omor people burnt down the town of Igbakwu forcing them run to a neighbouring town, Enugu Otu, as refugees. In that small dimension, the people of Aguleri managed the population and supplied them both shelter and food without grudges. One expects that Nigeria, as richly endowed as it is, can handle the northeast displaced persons without any rancour.

The fact that there are no shelters for IDPs in the northeast is an indication that no strategy has been adopted in handling the population of the displaced. A low cost housing scheme, the one room and palour apartment in the camps, as well as puting in place solid security arrangements to care for the people may be a good bargain. The government should make arrangement for coordinating food supply to the people to ensure they are not shortchanged. There should be crèche, nursery, primary schools as well as secondary schools for the grown ups so that the people will not lose much as a result of crisis they didn’t cause.

Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country and its largest economy, which has experienced high levels of insecurity and inequality since its return to civilian rule in 1999. There are significant territorial, population-related and economic disparities between the country’s 36 states. Endemic corruption, political instability and weak governance mean that much of the population do not benefit from the country’s strong economic growth and its vast oil and mineral resources, resulting in low social and human development indicators. Of the 176 countries included in Transparency International’s corruption index for 2016, Nigeria ranked 136th.

At the same time, livelihoods and access to water and grazing pastures have also been under strain for decades, as the surface area of Lake Chad has shrunk by 90 per cent over the last 45 years. This is a result of climate change and anthropogenic factors, including the damming of tributaries, a lack of sustainable water management policies, and overgrazing. People have increasingly migrated southwards along the perimeter of the Lake Chad basin. Over time, this movement has caused some 70 ethnic groups to converge and has brought about resource competition, tension and conflicts.

At Agatu in Benue State, people were turned into refugees for no other reason than that they have fertile land with green vegetation. Herdsmen swooped on them and caused avoidable refugee population and till today, the people have not been rehabilitated completely nor any final arrangement made for the herdsmen to leave the abode. IDPs from the conflict caused by the terrorist group, Boko Haram, are dispersed in various locations across Borno State. Having been forcibly removed from their homes, the IDPs have walked miles to find safety and succour in the capital city of Maiduguri. Some walked for days from Monguno, Bama, Kukawa, Ngala, Damasak, Damboa, Jere and a host of other small villages from across Borno State. The number of individuals fleeing from Boko Haram is increasing daily. IDPs figures have issues of reliability in Nigeria hence exact numbers are in conclusive. But walking to Maiduguri has become the only option as more and more troop in.

But this mass relocation to Maiduguri has resulted in overpopulation in the already underdeveloped almost impoverished town haunted by years of bombings. Further compounding these issues is the minimal to almost non-existent electricity, closed down businesses, saturated hospitals and a wary populace. The fleeing communities have met a new set of problems in the host town they have moved to.

First, they are lodged in secondary schools or uncompleted buildings. There is no running water, no mosquito nets, no protection from the harsh elements in a town where the temperature can go up to 37 degrees Celsius, no electricity and no safety from more threats. The camps are overcrowded, run down and are struggling to accommodate more. The living conditions are atrocious, unhealthy and dangerous. Some IDPs are moving back to their villages out of frustration and the villages are the most dangerous.

Added to the terrors of seeing relatives, parents and whole communities killed, the camps they are currently lodged in expose them to the possibility of more exploitation as they are open to any kind of threat. Most camps are unguarded. The camp in Dalori is close to Konduga, a dangerous territory close to Sambisa Forest. The camp in the Government Girls Secondary School, Maiduguri, has better security as it is in the centre of town. Other camps aren’t faring well.

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Author: Uche Atuma