Nigeria: New National Policy On IDPs

4 January 2019

The Federal Government recently announced its intention to adopt a national policy on internal displacement. President Muhammadu Buhari announced this at the 2018 National Migration Dialogue on "Realising the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for all including migrants, refugees and internally-displaced persons." He said the new policy will help regulate the internal displacement crisis and complement the fight against insurgency.

He said, "The Federal Government through its relevant institutions has also embarked on sensitisation of citizens to the dangers of irregular migration. This is complementary to other institutional frameworks put in place to combat irregular migration, such as the Acts establishing NAPTIP and NIS and sectoral policies such as the National Labour Migration Policy." He also said it ispart of efforts aimed at eradicating the drivers of irregular migration such as poverty, unemployment, climate change, conflicts and social inequalities. According to him, a National Policy on Internal Displacement is in the works.

He said, "Migration governance in Nigeria has seen continuous improvement since the expansion of NCFRMI mandate to include the coordination of all migration-related matters in the country as well as the resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons.This is evidenced by various government interventions and programmes aiming to provide IDPs, refugees and migrants with the best tools to become self-reliant." He cited examples of the evacuation of hundreds of Nigerian migrants from Libya; the protection-based activities being offered to asylum seekers and refugees in Nigeria, as well as the planned safe and voluntary return of thousands of Nigerians currently living as asylum seekers in Cameroun through a tripartite agreement between Nigeria, Cameroun and UNHCR.

The president also said his administration embarked on enlightening citizens to the dangers of irregular migration, in addition to government interventions and programmes aiming to provide IDPs, refugees and migrants with the best tools to become self-reliant.

The decision to have a national policy on IDPs might not be unconnected with the multifarious challenges confronting Nigeria with attendant consequences on the welfare of the people.In the past decade, this country had witnessed different crises that forced millions of people from their homes.The Boko Haram crisis in the North East alone displaced more than three million persons from their homes. Hundreds of thousands of others have become refugees in Chad, Cameroon and Niger Republic.

Despite the effort of government at federal and state levels as well as support by international donor agencies toward supporting IDPs, their existence remains precarious as tens of thousands live in appalling conditions of lack of food, poor housing, poor health services, poor sanitation facilities and lack of schools.

Farmers/herders clashes, kidnappings and banditry that afflict many parts of the country also contribute to the problem and have driven many people from their homes into IDP camps. Besides, many people are displaced by natural disasters such as flooding. They become IDPs for years because there is no clear plan on how to resettle them in their homes. No Nigerian should live permanently in an IDP camp with all the stress and psychological trauma that it entails. This is therefore the right time to have a workable policy that will serve as effective guide for addressing all challenges relating to displacements.

We advise President Buhari to walk the talk by immediately giving the mandate to competent people who would work out the policy template for immediate use.However, it is one thing to produce the policy and quite another thing to summon the serious political will to implement it. The North East Development Commission [NEDC] is one example of an institution created to ameliorate the problems of a disaster-ravaged area but which failed to take off over a year after the bill was passed into law by the National Assembly and the president assented to it.Hopefully, the new national policy will correct such lapses.

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