Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 January 2018, 20:36 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2002 - Nigeria

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 10 June 2002
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2002 - Nigeria , 10 June 2002, available at: [accessed 18 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Massive communal violence temporarily displaced approximately a half-million Nigerians during 2001. An estimated 50,000 people were believed to be still internally displaced at year's end, but accurate information was unavailable and the actual number might have been substantially more, or significantly less.

Nearly 10,000 Nigerians applied for asylum in Western countries during 2001, primarily in Europe. Several hundred Nigerian refugees continued to live in other African countries.

Nigeria hosted about 7,000 refugees at the end of 2001, including some 3,000 from Chad, about 2,000 from Sierra Leone, more than 1,000 from Liberia, and nearly 1,000 from other countries.

Uprooted Nigerians

Localized violence linked to political, religious, and ethnic differences rocked Nigeria for the third consecutive year in 2001.

Decisions by northern state governments to adopt Muslim-based sharia laws aggravated simmering religious tensions. In other areas, disagreements among ethnic groups over land use or local political power triggered violence. An estimated 1,000 or more people died in communal riots during 1999, while some 2,000 people were killed the following year.

During 2001, riots claimed at least 1,500 lives, destroyed thousands of houses and other buildings, and forced 400,000 to 800,000 people to flee their homes for weeks or months. The violence primarily occurred in northern and central regions of the country, including some areas that previously had avoided bloodshed.

The first wave of ethnic and religious violence erupted in central Nigeria's Nasarawa State during June and July, temporarily displacing an estimated 50,000 people. Similar violence also occurred in the north-central states of Taraba and Bauchi in mid-year, pushing 20,000 people from their homes in each state. The central state of Kaduna also suffered violence.

The U.S. Committee for Refugees (USCR) published an update on Nigeria's crisis in August, noting that violence was occurring "in Nigeria's prime agricultural land" and that "local police struggled to restore order."

New and deadlier waves of violence erupted during the second half of the year. Civilians clashed in Bauchi State in August, reportedly leaving 400 persons dead. Violence between Christians and Muslims in the previously peaceful town of Jos, in Plateau State, killed between 500 and 1,000 people and uprooted as many as 50,000 in September.

In October, 19 government soldiers were slain in central Nigeria while trying to restore order, and government troops retaliated by allegedly killing some 300 people in central Benue State. The state government estimated that a half-million people fled their homes. "The whole of Benue State is now a displaced people's camp," a local official reported.

Violence erupted in several other northern and central areas during October and November, causing more than 100 deaths and uprooting thousands of additional families.

Most displaced families found temporary shelter in the homes of friends and relatives in other villages. Tens of thousands, however, pushed into crowded school buildings, police compounds, and temporary camps for refuge. Some children and women reportedly arrived in poor health as a result of the ordeal.

Although state governments provided short-term food aid, food shortages developed. The International Committee of the Red Cross and the Nigerian Red Cross distributed blankets, plastic sheeting, sleeping mats, buckets, soap, and cooking utensils.

Most displaced families voluntarily returned to their homes when violence subsided. Local police in Nasarawa State used force to disband one displacement camp. USCR estimated that 50,000 persons remained uprooted at year's end, but the actual number was unknown because the affected population was dispersed and authorities did not record information systematically.

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo called the bloodshed "a national disgrace" and established a government commission to recommend ways to avert future violence.

Refugees in Nigeria

The refugee population in Nigeria remained relatively stable during 2001. No major new refugee influxes occurred, and few refugees officially departed Nigeria to return to their home countries.

The majority of refugees in Nigeria have lived in the country for many years and support themselves. Nearly 3,000 refugees, however, received at least partial assistance from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Up to 2,000 refugees resided at Oru camp, in southwest Nigeria's Osun State, about 75 miles (120 km) west of the capital. Refugees at the camp received food, health care, and other services, while 200 children attended primary school.

UNHCR continued to promote self-sufficiency among refugee families by offering training in chicken farming, fish-breeding, and tailoring.

Refugees from Chad

Several thousand Chadians fled to Nigeria years ago to escape insurgencies and repression in Chad, and have lived in Nigeria without assistance. Many were expected to repatriate during 2000-2001 because of improved conditions in their homeland, but administrative delays and some refugees' reluctance to leave Nigeria delayed their repatriation.

Refugees from Sierra Leone and Liberia

About two-thirds of the 2,000 Sierra Leonean refugees in Nigeria lived at Oru camp, where they received beans, rice, cooking oil, cooking pots, blankets, mattresses, and personal sanitary items. Sierra Leoneans continued to register for eventual repatriation, tentatively planned for 2002.

About 500 Liberian refugees lived at Oru camp; others lived on their own in urban areas. In June, Nigerian authorities allowed a ship carrying about 150 Liberians, including some asylum seekers, to enter a Nigerian port and off load its passengers after several neighboring countries denied entry to the vessel. UNHCR provided food, water, blankets, and medical exams to the asylum seekers and transported them to Oru camp.

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