To improve the plight of internally displaced persons

It is a human tragedy that displaced people, who should enjoy the protection of government, have again been allegedly displaced by government officials without prior notice and without providing any place for their re-settlement.
Displaced women at the camp PHOTOS: JOKE FALAJU

Displaced women at the camp PHOTOS: JOKE FALAJU
It is a human tragedy that displaced people, who should enjoy the protection of government, have again been allegedly displaced by government officials without prior notice and without providing any place for their re-settlement. This is double jeopardy! According to media reports, about 3,000 people from Durumi Internally Displaced Persons’ (IDP) camp located at Durumi, Area 1 in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, and their children now sleep in open spaces since December 21, 2022 because government officials who did not give them any notification demolished their tents in the camp.
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Their plight has been worsened by the cold weather occasioned by lingering harmattan; and the women now make nylon tents and burn firewood to keep their children warm at nights. In addition, the unexpected demolition may result in shock and trauma for the IDP, particularly for women, children and elderly persons.

Forced from their homes, IDPs also experience specific forms of deprivation, such as loss of shelter, and often face heightened or particular protection risks. These risks may include: Armed attack and abuse while fleeing in search of safety; family separation, including an increase in the number of separated and unaccompanied children; heightened risk of sexual and gender-based violence, particularly affecting women and children; arbitrary deprivation of land, homes and other property; and displacement into inhospitable environments, where they suffer stigmas, marginalisation, discrimination or harassment.

The prevention of displacement and the protection of IDPs and other affected populations within their own country are the responsibility of national authorities. Particularly in situations of armed conflict, IDPs may find themselves in territories over which State authority is absent or difficult to enforce. In such situations, the prevention of displacement and the protection of IDPs are also the responsibility of non-state actors. In those situations where states require support or where national protection is not ensured, a critical protection role falls to the international community. So, globally, displaced persons are the liabilities of governments; as such under the care of the government. Therefore, why should the same government demolish their tents and camp without providing an alternative?

The Nigerian state should recognise that internally displaced persons are part of the broader civilian population that need protection and assistance because of conflict and human rights abuses or due to natural disasters. They are individuals uprooted from their homes and displaced as a result of conflict or human rights violations.

As such, it is curious that the IDPs have been staying in the camp since 2012 and the camp is well recognised by government officials, yet government made no plan for their resettlement; instead worsened their plight by demolishing their tents in the camp without notification.

Although, it was reported that the make shift tents accommodating the IDP tents were demolished following a security tip off that terrorists were using the camp as a hideout, the IDP should not suffer for the security failing of the Nigerian state. So, the question is, why not separate genuine IDPs from criminal elements and provide shelter for them in appropriate places? Government cannot visit the sins of terrorists on hapless displaced persons or throw away the baby with the bath water.

Surprisingly since the demolition, the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development (FMHDSD) mandated “to develop humanitarian policies and provide effective coordination of national and international humanitarian interventions; ensure strategic disaster mitigation, preparedness and response and manage the formulation and implementation of fair focused social inclusion and protection programmes in Nigeria,” has remained mute over the plight of the IDP.
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Indeed, the displacement of displaced persons by government official and the FMHDSD grave yard silence on the issue is at variance with its vision of having “social protection systems that are proactive, humane, inclusive and sustainable for the improvement and general welfare of the people.”

The state and other authorities, who are the duty-bearers, have responsibilities to respect and protect the rights of Nigerian IDPs and recognise them as rights-holders with legal entitlements to protection and assistance. This means that all the policies, programmes and activities of government are based on rights, as provided in international law; further the realisation of the rights of IDPs; and the need to strengthen the capacities of IDPs (women, men, girls and boys) to claim their rights and the capacities of duty-bearers (State and other authorities) to meet their obligations to respect, protect and fulfil those rights.

Again, experience has shown that for protection efforts to be effective and sustainable, they must be designed to recognise, support and strengthen the protection capacities of individuals and communities themselves. So, demolition without notice is not the way to go. Rather a community-based approach, which is hinged on individuals and communities as equal partners in the protection of IDPs is the way to. This co-opt strategy will reduce exposure of IDPs to, and mitigate the effects of, protection risks. Such coping mechanisms should be based on local knowledge and building upon existing capacities and resources within the displaced community, as well as the host communities.

The Nigerian state should recognise IDPs and their host communities as active participants in decision-making, a community-based approach reinforces the dignity and self-esteem of people and promotes their empowerment. People are empowered when they are able to become informed and active agents in addressing their own situation. Applying a community-based approach is widely recognised within the international humanitarian community as an essential element of humanitarian response, including in situations of internal displacement.
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Essentially, government should adopt collaborative response mechanisms as its guiding principle instead of working in silos; and FMHDSD and the relevant House Committee on humanitarian affairs, the line ministry should rise up to their responsibilities.

Internal displacement and humanitarian crises often occur in the context of complex emergencies, characterised by the partial or complete breakdown of state authority which affects its capacity and, in some cases, its willingness, to ensure the protection of civilians. Responding to such crises typically requires a multi-dimensional response – humanitarian, human rights, development, security, political – as well as the combined efforts of various actors at national and international levels.

Because the scale and scope of IDPs in Nigeria exceed the mandate or capacity of a single agency or organisation, and require action by a range of humanitarian, human rights and development actors, within and beyond the country. Activities in support of IDPs and other civilians at risk, thus, require a joint, collaborative effort for which coordination mechanisms should be put in place.

The Federal Government should adopt the collaborative response mechanisms and cluster approach, which ensures greater leadership and accountability in key sectors where gaps in humanitarian response have been identified, because collaboration enhances partnerships among humanitarian, human rights and development actors, including the United Nations, NGOs and other organisations. Usually, the outcome is more predictable and effective; and there is accountable inter-agency response to ensuring protection and assistance for IDPs.

Beyond this, camps for internally displaced persons constitute an aberration in Nigeria because it is a recent development, mostly caused by activities of terrorists and bandits, amid government failure to protect lives and property of Nigerians. The permanent solution therefore is for government to perform its responsibility and prevent criminal attacks on citizens wherever they may be in the country. Nigerian IDPs deserve to be treated with dignity and compassion by the Nigerian state!
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