Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 December 2017, 07:52 GMT

Global Overview 2011: People internally displaced by conflict and violence - Nigeria

Publisher Norwegian Refugee Council/Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (NRC/IDMC)
Publication Date 19 April 2012
Cite as Norwegian Refugee Council/Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (NRC/IDMC), Global Overview 2011: People internally displaced by conflict and violence - Nigeria, 19 April 2012, available at: [accessed 13 December 2017]
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.
Quick facts
Number of IDPsUndetermined
Percentage of total populationUndetermined
Start of current displacement situation1999
Peak number of IDPs (Year)Undetermined
New displacementAt least 65,000
Causes of displacementArmed conflict, generalised violence, human rights violations
Human development index142

During 2011, thousands of people were displaced by post-election violence, clashes between the Boko Haram sect and security forces in the north and continuing inter-communal clashes across Nigeria. The country has experienced recurring conflicts since its return to democracy in 1999 after military rule, which have led to fluctuating but consistently large numbers of IDPs. Among recent examples, violence in Plateau State in 2010 and clashes between government forces and militants in the Niger Delta in 2009 each displaced thousands of people.

Following a year-long survey between October 2010 and October 2011, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) reported that there were some 370,000 IDPs in the country, including some 74,000 in camps. Further details were not available as the full survey results were not made public. Previous estimates by government and other agencies only included people who had sought shelter at temporary IDP camps, and did not reflect the many who had taken refuge with family and friends. Numbers were not usually disaggregated by age and sex and only referred to localised displacement situations. In the absence of mechanisms to monitor IDPs' ongoing situations, it has been impossible to determine how many may have recovered and achieved a durable solution.

In April 2011, Nigeria held presidential elections won by incumbent Goodluck Jonathan of the ruling People's Democratic Party. Widespread protests by supporters of the main opposition candidate broke out after the official results were released, which quickly degenerated into violent riots and sectarian killings and led to the displacement of some 65,000 people across the northern states. There was no monitoring of whether these IDPs were prevented from voting in the subsequent elections of state governors, but many of them were reportedly not planning to go back to the villages where they were registered to vote, for fear of further violence.

In northern Nigeria, civilians were killed and others displaced and their property destroyed in increasingly violent attacks which were reportedly linked to members of the Boko Haram or other armed groups. According to Amnesty International, the security forces were also responsible for indiscriminate and excessive use of force in response to the attacks. Ongoing sporadic bombings, killings and violent threats by Boko Haram members prevented many of the people displaced from returning to their homes in the year.

Meanwhile, inter-communal violence fuelled by widespread poverty and disputes over resources continued across the country. After the violence which displaced thousands of people in early 2010 in Plateau State, new clashes broke out in the state's capital Jos, killing 20 people and causing the displacement of a further 4,000 according to the Nigerian Red Cross Society. A resettlement programme was initiated by NEMA and the Bauchi State government in 2010 for the IDPs who were unwilling to return to Jos; by January 2011, NEMA reported that about 5,000 IDPs had been resettled in Bauchi.

Elsewhere in Bauchi and Akwa Ibom States, long-standing land disputes degenerated at the beginning of 2011 into intercommunal clashes, forcing many residents, especially women and children, to flee.

Natural disasters such as flooding have also regularly caused internal displacement in Nigeria. In conflict-affected states, these natural disasters have complicated displacement and return patterns.

In 2011, Nigeria ratified the Kampala Convention, but the instruments of ratification were not deposited at the AU before the end of the year. Meanwhile, the government still had not formally adopted the national IDP policy which it had drafted in 2003 and revised in 2009.

The response to internal displacement, including both assistance and protection measures, has been generally included under disaster management mechanisms. In the absence of national policy and legal frameworks, local authorities have taken responsibility to respond to displacement. Some states have state emergency management agencies, which step in where local authorities are unable to respond. At the federal level, NEMA coordinates emergency relief operations and victim assistance, and may intervene upon the president's decision. The National Commission for Refugees has taken on the role of providing longer-term support measures enabling durable solutions for IDPs and refugees. However, the Commission lacks resources and its role and mandate to assist IDPs is unclear. There has been no consistent drive to promote durable solutions for IDPs.

The UN Country Team has established the Emergency Preparedness and Response Working Group to implement interagency disaster preparedness and response activities more effectively. Responses to internal displacement follow roles and responsibilities under the cluster system, even though this has not been formally adopted.

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