Civil society groups have expressed optimism that the Nigerian government would soon adopt the draft policy on Internally Displaced Persons in the country.
At the South West consultation on the draft national IDP policy in Lagos, Wednesday, the groups identified election violence, insecurity, and extreme poverty as some of the causes of displacement in the country.
“We are very optimistic,” said Okeke Anya, Senior Program Officer, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre. “We keep on hoping that government will do the right thing. We are hopeful, we are trying to talk to even the minister for special duties, because it falls under his portfolio to see that this policy is adopted,”
Mr. Anya said that his group had embarked on a mission to create awareness that Nigeria has a draft policy on IDPs which is yet to be adopted.
“We have been able to go round the geo-political zones – this is the sixth, the South West – to intimate both the civil society and other people working in the humanitarian area and even the media that Nigeria has a draft national policy on IDP and the IDP situation in Nigeria is getting alarming and unfortunately that policy is not yet adopted by government,” he said. “We are intimating Nigerians to look at that policy; see where there are gaps and also call on government to adopt the policy to enable them to implement issues around IDPs.”
Currently, there is no reliable database providing a comprehensive profile of the large number of IDPs in Nigeria.
In July, 2011, the First Ministerial Conference on Humanitarian Assistance and Internal Displacement in West Africa organized by the Economic Community of West African States, in Abuja, led by Nigeria underscored the importance of every member state signing, ratifying, domesticating, and implementing the Kampala Convention.
The Kampala Convention is an African Union convention that provides for the protection and assistance of IDPs in Africa.
Nigeria ratified the convention in December, 2012. However, two years later, the country is yet to have a national policy on internal displacement, despite preparing a draft policy on IDPs in July of the same year.
In 2014, a global report on IDPs by the Internal Displaced Monitoring Centre and the Norwegian Refugee Council stated that Nigeria had 3.3 million IDPs, the highest in Africa.
However, in January, the Nigerian government said there were currently 981,416 IDPs in the country, discrediting groups “circulating false figures for their own selfish reasons.” Still, the management of the IDPs in the country has remained uncoordinated and haphazard, according to Mr. Anya.
“Government set up an inter-ministerial agency including CISLAC between 2011 and 2012,” Mr. Anya said. “So they worked on this policy and came out with this draft. After it had been worked on and validated by other groups and international organizations that are working on IDPs, they found this policy to be okay and now ask government to adopt it as part of policies of government. At the moment, there is a very uncoordinated way of managing IDP situations in Nigeria, making the internally displaced people to suffer so much.
“When the flood happened, government was quick in trying to say let us come up fast with this policy. But as things went down, they went to sleep again.
“So we are calling on government, we cannot be waiting for things to get wrong before we start working on issues. We should always be pre-emptive. And this policy has also put up measures to look at those pre-emptive measures that cause in internal displacement and find a way of stopping them.”