The ranking of Nigeria along with war-torn Somalia, Yemen, and South Sudan, among others by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) as leading countries with the highest numbers of displaced persons on earth is not only worrisome but also a sad commentary for us as the leading and most populous black nation.
The UNOCHA’s grim statistics have revealed that as many as 20m persons face severe devastation arising from fratricidal war, terrorism and natural disasters, across the African continent alone.
Of this figure, Nigeria’s Northeast and the Lake Chad region harboured 8.5m persons in need of humanitarian assistance as at last year alone, with the states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, which had been tormented by the Boko Haram insurgency, being the worst affected.
The three states are home to some 1.8m victims of the Boko Haram madness who, in spite of the harrowing experiences of being displaced, are happy to be alive as the scourge has claimed no fewer than 20,000 lives. At the height of the conflict, up to 2.1m people reportedly fled their homes.
So far, insurgency has led to massive destruction of private and public properties including farmlands, houses, and other socio-economic institutions running into billions of naira. The destruction visited on the hitherto bustling communities led to the forceful displacement of persons from their ancestral homes across the beleaguered axis.
The UNOCHA also disclosed that about 1.7m persons are accommodated in Internally Displaced Persons’ camps spread across the three states, besides millions of others taking refuge in other states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Further painting the picture of suffering and deprivation, the UNOCHA statistics indicated that some 6.1m people within the three most affected states are in dire need of protection, while no fewer than 4,000 women and girls abducted by the insurgents since 2009 have been subjected to sexual abuse and forced marriage.
“Civilians continue to bear the brunt of a conflict that has resulted in widespread forced displacement, violations of international humanitarian and human laws, severe protection concerns and a food and nutrition crisis of massive proportions,” the UNOCHA also noted.
Regrettably and in spite of the Federal Government’s proclamation in 2016 that the Boko Haram insurgency had been degraded, the conflict has continued to generate humanitarian crisis as pockets of persons are displaced especially as the group has sustained its terror attacks on soft targets in the affected areas.
Before the Boko Haram insurgency, Nigeria was grappling with the Niger Delta militancy which had dealt massive economic blows to oil and gas installations, provoking huge economic consequences that almost brought the country to its knees.
While the Federal Government was working assiduously to contain the humanitarian challenges thrown up by the insurgents, communal clashes between farmers and herdsmen over grazing lands in states such as Benue, Taraba, Zamfara, Plateau and parts of Kaduna have left thousands displaced. In fact, the herdsmen and farmers’ killings and destruction of farmlands, settlements and communities have created another category of displaced persons in dire need of socio-economic succour.
We have consistently advised the federal government to ignore the political dimension being introduced to the crisis. This is the time for the government to think out of the box. For, it seems everyone including the government at all levels had been at sea as to how to permanently nip the crisis in the bud until lately when the scale of hostilities reduced. At first, the Federal Government came up with the idea of importing grasses. Then, it toyed with the idea of setting up ranches, followed by the establishment of cattle colonies. However, all these innovations have not gone down well with some state governors and community leaders in the affected areas.
We believe Nigeria could learn one or two things from Botswana whose population of 2m persons harbours 3m cows but has never experienced communal clashes on account of grazing. There are other countries Nigeria could learn from in its quest to find a lasting solution to the protracted problem.
Above all, we urge the Federal Government to address the factors that fuel insecurity and criminalities across the country. They include systemic corruption, unemployment, injustice, bad governance, marginalisation, poverty and hunger, among others. The security challenges bedeviling the country are mere symptoms. Nevertheless, we commend the federal government and stakeholders’ efforts at curtailing the crises, rebuilding damaged communities and resettling victims of the terror war, especially in the Northeast zone.