Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa with an estimated population of 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 bicameral legislative structure known as the Senate and the House of Representatives. There are 36 federated units known as states and each state has a Governor as Head of government and a Federal Capital Territory-Abuja which is administered by a Minister. The federated states have a unicameral legislative structure known as the Houses of Assembly. There is a third level of government known as Local Governments (774) administered by a President.


The objective of this article is to share a personal reflection related to the problem of social exclusion of a certain class of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) based fundamentally on the ethnic identity derived from the 2012 flood experienced in Nigeria. It is important to note that this reflection was based on my personal observation of problems while working in the field. Furthermore, it is an attempt to draw attention to this dimension of social exclusion and determine whether or not it is unique to Nigeria. In addition to this, it focuses on the need to adopt a national framework for the protection and assistance of internally displaced persons in Nigeria. Although there are ongoing problems causing displacement in Nigeria, especially Boko Haram, the scope of this article is limited to the 2012 flood.


As I started in my previous article (Migration and Internal Displacement: Nigeria Country Profile, January 2014), internal displacement in Nigeria had been caused primarily by overlapping inter-community events; ethnic-religious cum political; and forced eviction. Also highlighted was the fact that the floods experienced in 2012 changed the profile of internally displaced persons in the country and created a new trend in relation to the volume and geography of displacement. Available data estimates that 7.412 million people were affected in 28 States of the Federation. (NCFRMI, October 2012). Considering that, 442,329 people would have been displaced by the conflict in the same year in 17 States of the Federation.


Most of the people affected by the flood moved with their family and friends. There is a very strong family and cultural affinity in most African societies that helps overcome the burden of state displacement. However, around 2.2 million of the total displaced population (more than 7.4 million) lived in various camps for a period of at least three months. Incidentally, schools were on recess at the time the flooding peaked, so the school buildings were used primarily as camping facilities to accommodate IDPs.


In some camps, the provision of assistance (materials such as blankets, buckets, sleeping map/foam, mosquito nets, etc.) was not necessarily targeted at the most vulnerable. Rather, some of the camp administrators used it as a form of patronage or favor for some individuals and families with whom they had direct or indirect relationships. In some cases, food was distributed in a discriminatory manner; the best part reserved for girlfriends, family, neighbors, etc.


The concerns raised above were largely due to the deplored strategy. Because there was a large displaced population and many camping facilities spread across the country, it was difficult to deploy professionals to run the camps. Camp managers were drawn from the displaced population. There was also the issue of coordination because the Internally Displaced Persons Policy is still a draft


The durable solution options that were available to IDPs were:

1. Return: Most IDPs returned to their usual place of residence after the flooding ended.
2. Relocation: This was done in a few cases, especially in the South-South region where it became clear that some areas were prone to flooding.


The real challenge arose when the government began the reconstruction process. Some people were discriminated against based on their ethnic identity (by state and local government officials). But because our society is still segregated along ethnic-religious lines, there were cases where the indigent population acted to discriminate against some of the IDPs who were considered non-indigenous to a particular state.

Another way to explain this phenomenon is the dispute between paupers and settlers in which a particular session of a social group claims ownership of a certain benefice on the basis of ethnicity or religion. Sometimes government agents (especially at the state and local levels) help foster these divisions. Meanwhile, the Nigerian constitution guarantees the right of all Nigerians to move and reside in any part of the country.


As I said in my objective, this article arose from a personal reflection of my observations in the field during the flood. But it is safe to assume that due to the absence of a national IDP policy framework that assigns responsibilities to institutions and individuals, there may be a lack of sensitivity to concerns about social exclusion; even those in the field may not have had the necessary training to be able to discern and become sensitive to these types of issues. As such, I am not aware of any formal documentation of the problems other than my personal observation in the field.

In any event, professionals in the field have recognized the need to factor 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 arrangements put in place to fill the void created by the lack of approval of the Policy. It is instructive to note that the lack of approval of the policy document is not due to a lack of Government will, but is largely due to administrative procedures.


NCFRMI, Quarterly Report “The Profile of 2012 Flood-Induced Internal Displacement in Nigeria”

NCFRMI, Quarterly Report ” 2014

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