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AN OVERVIEW OF INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS

The 1998 United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, which was endorsed at the 2005 UN world summit, provides the global definition of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). The Guiding Principles define IDPs as individuals or groups of people who were forced or compelled to flee or depart from their homes or habitual places of residence, especially due to armed conflict, widespread violence, human rights violations, natural or human-made disasters, and have not crossed an internationally recognized state boundary.

However, it has been emphasized that this definition is only descriptive and does not confer any special legal status. This is because these people are displaced within their own country and, as such, are still entitled to the same protection of their rights as the general populace. This peculiar identification as IDPs is intended to guard against exclusion from human rights protections in light of the specific and heightened vulnerabilities that displacement can cause.

Despite the non-binding nature of the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, its authority is recognized globally as it is drawn from international human rights law. The African Union codified the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement with the 2009 Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa(the so-called “Kampala Convention,” preceded by the 2006 Great Lakes Protocol on the Protection and Assistance to Internally Displaced Persons).

It is imperative to note that two elements are present in the description of who an IDP is. There must be an involuntary movement that must take place within the national borders. Because they have not crossed an internationally recognized border, they do not have any specialegal status and are still considered citizens entitled to all human rights as citizens.

However, it has been stated that according to the IDP definition, specific groups, such as indigenous communities or pastoralists displaced because conflict, landmines, or insecurity have blocked their routes of migration, may be considered IDPs. The homeless and poor urban communities, however, are not automatically considered to be IDPs, even though they often suffer marginalization, impoverishment, and human rights violations in their areas of residence.

The following, though not exhaustive, have been highlighted by the United Nations Refugee Agency as causes for internal displacement: armed conflict, generalized violence, human rights violations, natural or man-made disasters, etc.

Factors triggering internal displacement in Nigeria are complex and often overlap. Boko Haram and other Non-State Armed Groups (NSAGs) have initiated significant in the northeast of the country since 2014. Crime, cattle rustling, land disputes, armed violence, and tensions between pastoralists and farmers escalated in the central, north-central, and northwest regions in 2020, following the trend of the past three years. Communal violence was also reported in the country’s southern states, though data on displacement is scarcer.

Another major factor triggering internal displacement in Nigeria is a flood continuously displaces thousands of people yearly. About 2.7 million people were displaced as of the end of 2020, an increase from 2019. Flooding triggered most of the 279,000 new displacements recorded, many resulting in secondary movements of IDPs previously displaced by violence, especially in the north of the country. Conflict and violence led to 169,000 new displacements in 2020. Despite this figure, displaced persons were still increasing in 2021.

It has been stated that internally displaced people face specific and heightened vulnerabilities. Their main concerns are food, health, and shelter, which are usually inadequate, and they mainly depend on humanitarian assistance to meet their basic food needs.

Despite these hardships, IDPs camps are more prone to attack which often results in secondary and tertiary displacements of vulnerable populations.

The government must prevent displacement and protect and assist the IDPs by providing lasting solutions to their removal. This obligation is then complemented by humanitarian aid. It is rather unfortunate that since the ratification of the African Union Convention on the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa (The Kampala Convention on the Protection and assistance of IDPs) on 17th April 2012 as the 12th African country, eight years after, efforts to domesticate the Kampala Convention on the Protection and assistance of IDPs or enactment of a law for the protection and assistance of IDPs in Nigeria is still pending.

Although Nigeria has developed a national policy on IDPs that would enshrine the protections granted by the convention into domestic law, the procedure is still under discussion.
In conclusion, the status of IDPs requires more attention now than ever because of the rate of displacement in the country and the vulnerabilities IDPs face. While humanitarian aid, such as the aid provided by NGOs like Nnaedozie Thomas Foundation, is applaudable, there is a need for the protection and assistance of IDPs through domestic laws and policies.

[1] IDP definition available at https://emergency.unhcr.org/entry/44826/idp-definition#:~:text=Internally%20displaced%20persons%20(IDPs)%2C,avoid%20the%20effects%20of%20armed

[2] Session one handbook on IDPs available at https://www.internal-displacement.org/sites/default/files/inline-files/Session-1-handout.pdf

[3] https://www.unhcr.org/about-us/background/4ae9bede9/african-union-convention-protection-assistance-internally-displaced-persons.html

[4] IDP definition available at https://emergency.unhcr.org/entry/44826/idp-definition#:~:text=Internally%20displaced%20persons%20(IDPs)%2C,avoid%20the%20effects%20of%20armed

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Nigeria, available at https://www.internal-displacement.org/countries/nigeria

[8] Ibid.

[9] Humanitarian needs overview Nigeria, available at https://www.humanitarianresponse.info/sites/www.humanitarianresponse.info/files/documents/files/ocha_nga_humanitarian_needs_overview_march2021.pdf.pdf

[10] See Stock-taking meeting on the domestication of the kampala convention in Nigeria,

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