As at 2015, statistics showed that Nigeria has 981,416 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) forced into that unfortunate situation either by violence or natural disasters. That number has increased significantly in the last four years.
The country currently has about 2.2 million IDPs, which represents 5.2 per cent of the global population of IDPs and sixth among the top 10 countries with the largest IDPs population, according to estimates from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). This increase is not unconnected with the rise in herders/farmers clashes as well as climate change. The growing IDP population without corresponding resources to cater for their needs is a key issue of concern.
However, it is more worrisome that despite this high number of IDPs, Nigeria does not have a national legal framework that seeks to protect the rights of IDPs, especially the vulnerable groups among them – women and children who are easily subjected to dehumanising conditions and abuse. These set of unfortunate Nigerians forced to flee their homes continue to suffer deprivation, with lack of healthcare, access to quality education and public services.
While the government, through its relevant agencies, are working tirelessly to find solutions to the humanitarian challenges associated with refugee situations across the country, we, as a newspaper, lend our voice to the call on government for urgent passage of the National policy on IDPs, thereby domesticating the African Union Convention for the protection and assistance of IDPs also known as the Kampala convention.
It is our belief that the delay in adopting a framework for IDPs’ protection, in line with Nigeria’s obligations under the Kampala Convention, ratified in 2012, has created legal vacuum required for the protection of that group of persons. At the moment, without a legal framework, most activities around the IDPs are done on ad hoc basis. However, a national policy in line with the AU convention holds the key to the protection of IDPs
We acknowledge the effort the President Muhammadu Buhari administration is making by creating the ministry of Humanitarian Affairs. In our view, it shows that the government is committed to addressing issues of displacement that are becoming commonplace across the country. The creation of the ministry will not only coordinate but end the rivalry between relevant agencies such as the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and National Commission for Refugees, Migration and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRMI) which slowed down the process of the draft policy on IDPs
It is, however, our belief that much more needs to be done. Having voiced a commitment to protect and assist internally displaced persons, the federal government should go a step further and hasten the passage and implementation of the national policy on IDPs. This would ensure durable solutions to the problem of internal displacement at all levels of government.
The IDPs in the Nigerian context are citizens who, out of no choice of theirs, find themselves in conditions that deprive them of the right to their homes. They deserve better protection and their plight should be a source of concern to every Nigerian.
We are compelled by the plight of these Nigerians to join the campaign led by the Public Service International (PSI) as part of the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the Kampala convention and call on the Federal government to domesticate that piece of legislation that is designed to provide the thrust towards a synchronised approach to the issue of managing the problem of those displaced by any means.
The Kampala Convention, among other things, seeks to promote the dignity of IDPs irrespective of their status. The convention clearly stipulates that displaced persons are entitled to normal lives that enable them to access education, human development, medical facilities, social amenities, among other social services. The convention, which Nigeria is one of its key signatories, stipulates that an IDP has a right to employment and choice of when to return to their original homes.
It is from this perspective that we also feel obliged to advocate that the root causes of displacements in Nigeria should be tackled. Curbing internal displacements should be a collective effort on the part of the government and its agencies, nongovernmental organizations, non-state actors and individuals.
It is, therefore, our opinion that the right time to have a workable policy that will serve as effective guide for addressing all challenges relating to displacements is now.
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