Resettling The IDPs | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Resettling The IDPs

Posted: Apr 13, 2016 at 8:55 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

Recently, the Senate mandated its Committee on Appropriation to allocate the sum of N10billion for the relocation and settlement of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) returning to Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states. The Upper House of the Federal Legislature also urged  the National Emergency Management Agency ( NEMA), and the Refugees Commission to make special arrangement for repatriation and resettlement of Nigerian refugees in Cameroon, Niger and Chad. But it asked the committee to include IDPs in Taraba, Plateau, Benue and Nasarawa states as beneficiaries in the allocated amount.

The Senate action was sequel to a motion, tagged: “Interim financial and material support/assistance to Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, returnees in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states”, presented for consideration during plenary by the Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, Borno South and eight others from Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states.

While we consider this move a welcome development, there is, nevertheless, still an urgent need to recognise and accommodate victims of the deadly Boko Haram attacks in the North east of Nigeria. Indeed the conditions of the IDPs require a lot more money than has been approved. Since the insurgency began in the country in 2008, there has been a surge of IDPs  in the Northeast region. An analysis carried out by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) stated that as of April 2015, an estimated 1,538,982 people forced to flee their homes were still living in internally displaced camps. According to the report,” While most were displaced in 2014, up to a third fled violence in the first four months of 2015 alone. The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) recorded an additional 47,276 IDPs in Plateau, Nasarawa, Abuja (Federal Capital Territory), Kano and Kaduna in February. This would bring the total number of registered IDPs to 1,538,982 in these northern states and parts of the Middle Belt.”

The International Organisation Migration (IOU), which set up a Displacement Zoning Matrix, noted that as of April 2015 it identified 1,491,706 IDPs in Adamawa Bauchi, Borno, Gombe Taraba and Yobe states. It is instructive that in most cases these IDPs were forced to relocate to other parts of the country with no belongings except their shirts on their backs.

It is to be expected that the effect of the displacement on the IDPs would be psychologically devastating, having lost homes, lands, livelihoods, personal documentation, family members, and social networks. Indeed since they have been displaced the IDPs have become very vulnerable. Only recently a middle-age drug peddler in IDP camp in Dikwa, Borno state was arrested by agents of  National Drug Law Enforcement Agency  (NDLEA), while selling illicit drugs including cocaine. That is why the government must give more attention to the plight of the IDPs. Perhaps government needs to address all the issues that have made them vulnerable by giving the specific protection and assistance that would afford them human dignity. Ensuring their right should not be seen as charity, because according to one of the guiding principles given by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on the treatment of internally displaced persons, it is not the international community but national authorities that “have the primary duty and responsibility to provide protection and humanitarian assistance to internally displaced persons within their jurisdiction” without discrimination, and with every IDP being entitled to equality before the law.

We hope that the Senate will bear in mind that while putting IDPs in Camps may suffice to assist in facilitating their accessibility for the purpose of information dissemination, consultation and distribution of aids, addressing and preventing a re-occurrence of the root cause is better desired.  Structures must be put in place to ensure judicious use of the N10 billion; and anyone who diverts any part of it must be punished severely.

We advocate that while some money goes towards rehabilitation of infrastructure, some should also be expended towards providing empowerment and employment till the IDPs return to their original homes.  The government and its agencies must give them comfort, and every attempt should be made to allay their fears, ensuring that their security is guaranteed when they finally return to their homelands.