Scare as UN alerts of 59,200 people displaced in 3 months.

The number of persons displaced in Nigeria as a result of crisis especially in the North-east region of the country is still on the increase. ELEOJO IDACHABA examines the statistics along with data from agency reports.

It is no longer news that the number of internally displaced persons has continued to rise in the country following renewed clashes especially in the North-east region ravaged by the activities of Boko Haram.

This is made so by renewed fears of attacks in places said to have been liberated by the military from the hands of insurgents.

While the military authorities in the country are quick to dismiss this claim with a wave of the hand, the situation gets more deplorable day-by-day especially as the general elections draw closer with its attendant food and health crisis.

One of the foreign groups which have been at the forefront of following this trend is the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). In its recent report, it says an upsurge in violent attacks in crisis-ravaged North-east Nigeria has displaced 59,200 people in the last three months.

The UN migration agency warned in Geneva that North-east Nigeria displacement crisis had continued unabated due to the increased sophistication of the attackers.

The agency noted that armed extremists, notably, Boko Haram militants, had contributed to a decade-long humanitarian crisis in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe which unfortunately had spilled over into the Lake Chad region and beyond.

“Since November, we have seen 59,200 displaced,” IOM Nigeria’s Chief of Mission, Frantz Celestin said, noting that in the last two years, “we have seen that many people are on the move.

“The last two months of 2018 were also marked by an increased sophistication of non-state armed groups accompanied by an increased number of attacks and success in taking towns,” Celestin explained.

According to him, civilians continue to bear the brunt of conflicts that have led to widespread forced displacement and violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.

Since the start of the crisis, more than 27,000 people have been killed in the three North-eastern states, according to UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), while thousands of women and girls have been abducted.

“Government efforts to drive back the non-state armed groups that operate in the North-east of the vast country have been hindered by the harmattan dust cloud, an annual phenomenon that sweeps across West Africa from approximately November to March.

“In the town of Rann, for example, which was attacked in January, nobody was spared in one assault.

“The MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières) clinic was burnt, the IOM hub was attacked, the UNICEF clinic was attacked, the WHO/ICRC’s compounds were attacked,” Celestin said.

He said amid ongoing insecurity, humanitarian access was limited, hampering the ability of aid agencies to assess needs comprehensively.

Tens of thousands of civilians have fled into already overcrowded camps, mainly in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno, the IOM official added.

“One of our biggest issues in north-east Nigeria in addition to the security issues is the access to land.

“We have a number of camps that are overcrowded, in fact, if we were to take all of the camps together, we would have more than 249,000 people in camps that are completely congested, with Monguno (Borno) being the largest one of them.”

According to him, rumours of imminent attack are enough to convince communities to flee as people have sought refuge in neighbouring countries of the Lake Chad region.

“There were a number of people who moved across a number of villages in Cameroon.

“Some of them were returned, they crossed the border and they were turned back. And for the recent displacement, I don’t have the specific numbers. I have heard 30,000, but I have not been able to prove it.”

In 2018, 7.7 million people in Nigeria were in need of humanitarian assistance and 1.7 million people were classified as ‘food insecure’ between October and December, according to the UN humanitarian wing.

Meanwhile, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has added its voice by lamenting the upsurge in the number of displaced persons especially in Borno state as well as the flight of thousands of refugees into Cameroon and Chad.

UNHCR regional representative for West Africa, Regional Refugee Coordinator for the Nigeria Situation, Liz Kpam Ahua, who made the disclosure recently at the opening of the 2nd Regional Protection Dialogue on the Lake Chad Basin in Abuja, said those currently displaced were about 320, 000.

According to UNHCR, the humanitarian crisis that rocked Cameroon resulted in over 35,000 refugees that flooded into three states of Benue, Taraba and Cross River states.

“Two-and-half years after the 1st Regional Protection Dialogue, a significant amount of work has been done to advance the commitments that we took here with delegations from Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria. Despite this progress, however, we are equally going to learn that the Lake Chad Basin continues to face a protection crisis across the four countries.

“While we acknowledge the deliberate and concerted efforts of the four countries of the LCB to bring the Boko Haram crisis to an end and while recognising the successes achieved by military operations that have led to the recovery of local government areas in North-eastern Nigeria that had been hitherto occupied by Boko Haram, we are dismayed to witness new displacement of people in Borno state and the flight of thousands more into Cameroon and Chad. All together, close to 320,000 persons have been displaced anew in the last three months of 2018 and this very month of January.

“As if the conflict in the North-east Nigeria was not enough, other conflicts emerged or escalated to the limelight. In Nigeria, the herder-farmer conflict in the Middle Belt of Nigeria led to many deaths and displacement, while in Cameroon, the South West crisis caused an equally dramatic impact with the displacement of thousands of refugees, asylum seekers, IDPs and host communities into Benue, Cross Rivers and Taraba states. Nigeria is now host to over 35,000 Cameroonians in these four states,” she noted.

This development Blueprint learnt is presently causing serious humanitarian crisis in the country.

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