1.1m Nigerians displaced by Boko Haram, natural disasters in 2018

At least 1.1 million Nigerians were displaced by natural disasters as well as conflict and violence between January and December 2018.

According to a new report by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), the total number of Nigerians living in internally displaced person (IDP) camps stood at 2.2 million at the end of 2018.

Of the total number of people that were displaced in 2018, 613,000 Nigerians were displaced by disasters while 541,000 were displaced by conflict and violence.

The report read, “Ongoing conflict in north-eastern states and new conflict between herders and farmers over scarce resources in the Middle Belt led to 341,000 and 200,000 new displacements, respectively.

“Thirty-four of Nigeria’s thirty-six states were also affected by flooding as the banks of the Benue and Niger rivers burst, triggering 600,000 new displacements and submerging thousands of homes.”

The report noted that about 90% of the total 2.2 million displaced people were living in the northeast, with an estimated 832,000 people still living in areas under the control of armed groups in the troubled region.

The northeast region has endured ten years of an insurgency by terrorist group, Boko Haram, which is estimated to have killed 30,000 people and displaced millions. The Boko Haram insurgency continues to be the biggest driver of displacement in Nigeria according to the IDMC report.

“Despite official insistence that Boko Haram is close to defeat, attacks by armed opposition groups continued last year, particularly in the north-eastern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe,” the report noted.

The conflict between herders and farmers, especially in the Middle Belt region, is also credited with a large chunk of the displacements that resulted from conflict and violence.

The struggle for economic resources like land and water between farmers and nomadic cattle herders, usually of the Fulani extraction but not exclusively, has led to a lot of bloodshed in the country in the past year.

Nearly 1,700 violent deaths were attributed to Fulani herdsmen in attacks carried out between January and September 2018, according to the 2018 Global Terrorism Index.

The IDMC report noted that majority of the new displacements associated with the Middle Belt conflict were recorded in BenueNasarawa and Plateau states.

The report further noted that the under-reporting of the crisis and the lack of humanitarian presence in the area means reported displacement figures are likely to be underestimates.

The report read, “In the Middle Belt, tensions that had been brewing for four years between pastoralists from the north of the region and farmers from the south erupted into armed conflict in 2018, leading to significant violence and destruction. 

“Desertification associated with climate change was a factor, degrading already overstretched pasture and forcing herders to move south in search of grazing land. 

“The conflict in the north-east has also driven herders south. These factors combined with others in 2018 to inflame tensions.”

More than 60% of those displaced in the Middle Belt region are reported to be children, but, unlike the significant international response to the displacement situation in the northeast, no significant international presence is engaged with the unfolding Middle Belt crisis.

Flooding was a recurring disaster in the country in 2018 with 80% of the country affected at some point during the year.

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) disclosed that a total of 108 people were killed due to flood incidents that happened in 50 local government areas across the country around September.

The report read, “Hundreds of thousands of hectares of agricultural land were flooded, harming the livelihoods of farmers who lost crops.

“69 In urban areas, poor planning and zoning means many residential areas have been built on exposed river banks and flood plains. 

“This combined with poor drainage systems makes homes highly vulnerable to regular flooding.”

The report also noted the Federal Government has failed to implement a draft national policy on internal displacement eight years after it was presented.

The IDMC advised the government to consider it a priority to design and implement policies that will reduce people’s vulnerability and exposure to displacement and address the needs of those already displaced.