INTRODUCTION: BRIEF FACTS ABOUT NIGERIA
Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa with a population estimated at 160 million people. The system of government practiced in Nigeria is the presidential system with a federal structure. The Head of Government is the President and Commander in Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and a bi-camera legislative structure known as the Senate and the House of representatives. There are 36 federating units known as states and each state has a Governor as the Head of government and a Federal Capital Territory-Abuja who is administer by a Minister. The Federating states have uni-camera legislative structure know as Houses of Assembly. There is a third tier of government known as Local Governments (774) administered by a Chairman.
The aim of this article is to share a personal reflection relating to issues of social exclusion of certain class of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) fundamentally based on ethnic identity arising from the 2012 flood experienced in Nigeria. It is important to note that this reflection was based on my personal observation of the issues while working on the field. Also, it is an attempt to draw attention to this dimension of social exclusion and determine whether or not it is peculiar to Nigeria only. Further to this, it focuses on the need to adopt a national framework for the protection and assistance of internally displaced persons in Nigeria.Even though there are on-going issues causing displacement in Nigeria especially Boko Haram, the scope of this article is limited to the 2012 flood.
DISPLACEMENT PROFILE IN NIGERIA
As started in my earlier article (Migration and Internal Displacement: Nigeria Country Profile,Jan., 2014) internal displacement in Nigeria had been mostly caused by overlapping occurrences of inter-communal; ethno-religious cum political; and forced eviction. Also noted was the fact that the flooding experienced in 2012 changed the IDPs profile in the country and created a new trend in relation to the volume and geography of displacement. Available data estimated that 7.412 million people were affected in 28 States of the Federation. (NCFRMI, Oct. 2012). Whereas, 442,329 people were reportedly displaced by conflict within the same year in 17 States of the Federation.
CARE AND MAINTENANCE FOR THE FLOOD DISPLACED POPULATION
Most of the people affected by the flood moved in with their families & friends. There is a very strong cultural and family affinity in most African societies that helps to absolve the burden of displacement from the State.Yet about 2.2 Million of the entire displaced population (over 7.4 Million) lived in various camps for a period of at least three months. Incidentally schools were on break at the time the flood peaked, so the school buildings were mostly used as camping facilities for accommodating IDPs
PROTECTION CONCERNS FOR THE IDPs: A PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
In some camps, provision of assistance (materials like blankets, buckets, sleeping map/foam, mosquito’s nets etc) was not necessary targeted at the most vulnerable. Rather, some of the camp managers used it as a form of patronage or favour for some individuals and households they had direct or indirect relationships with. In some instances, food items were distributed discriminatory; the best part reserved for girlfriends, family members, neighbors, etc.
THE CHALLENGE OF STRATEGY
The concerns raised above were largely due to the strategy deplored. Because there was a huge displaced population, and many camping facilities spread across the whole Country, it was difficult to deploy professionals to manage the camps. Camp managers were drawn from among the displaced population. There was also the issue of coordination because the IDPs Policy is still a draft
DURABLE SOLUTION: A SELECTIVE APPROACH
The durable solution options that were available for the IDPs were:
1. Return: Most IDPs returned to their usual place of residence after the flood rescinded
2. Relocation: This was done in a few cases, especially in the South-South region were it became clear that some areas were flood prone.
The real challenge arose when government began the process of reconstruction. Some people were discriminated against on the basis of their ethnic identity (by State and Local Government Officials). But because our society is still segregated along ethnic-religious line, there were instances were the indigent population acted discriminating against some of the IDPs who were regarded as non-indigenes of a particular State.
Another way to explain this phenomenon is the indigent-settler squabble were a particular session of a social group claim ownership of certain benefit on the basis of ethnicity or religion. Sometimes, government agents (especially at the state and local level) help to foster these divides. Meanwhile, the Nigeria constitution guarantees the right of every Nigerian to move and reside in any part of the Country.
INSTITUTIONAL RESPONSE TO THE CHALLENGE OF SOCIAL EXCLUSION
As stated in my objective, this article arose from a personal reflection of my observations on the field during the flood. But it is safe to assume that because there is the absence of a national IDPs policy framework that places responsibilities on institutions and individuals, there may have been the lack of sensitivity to the concern of social exclusion; even those in the field may not have had the requisite training to be able to discern and be sensitize to these kind of issues. As such, I am not aware of any formal documentation of the issues apart from my personal observation on the field.
In any case, practitioners in the field have recognized the need to factor in protection into any form of intervention strategy that may be activated in the future. This has led to the formation of:
1. The protection Sector Working Group
2. Camp Coordination and Management Committee
These are ad hoc arrangement put in place to fill the gap created by the non-endorsement of the Policy. It is instructive to note that the non-endorsement of the policy document is not a function of the unwillingness of Government, but rather, it is largely due to administrative procedures.
NCFRMI, Quarterly Report ” The profile of Internal Displacement induced by the 2012 Flooding in Nigeria”
NCFRMI, Quarterly Report ” 2014