Last Updated: Thursday, 18 January 2018, 16:17 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2001 - Nigeria

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 20 June 2001
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2001 - Nigeria , 20 June 2001, available at: [accessed 19 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.

Nigeria hosted almost 10,000 refugees at year's end, including about 4,000 from Sierra Leone, some 3,000 from Chad, nearly 3,000 from Liberia, and several hundred from at least five other countries.

Significant population displacement occurred in Nigeria during 2000 because of communal violence. Nearly 7,000 Nigerians applied for asylum in Europe during the year. An estimated 70,000 Nigerians became internally displaced during the year, but many returned to their homes before year's end.

Uprooted Nigerians

The election of President Olusegun Obasanjo in February 1999 brought an end to more than 15 years of military rule in Nigeria.

Repression by state security forces diminished after the election, but politically motivated ethnic and religious conflicts increased. An estimated 1,000 or more people died in violent conflicts during 1999, and clashes killed as many as 1,500 people in 2000.

A decision by seven of Nigeria's 36 states to impose Muslim religious sharia law triggered much of the violence in 2000. The worst violence occurred in the northern city of Kaduna, where an estimated 50,000 or more people temporarily fled their homes as dwellings, churches, and mosques burned. Clashes spread to several other towns as ethnic vigilante groups formed. Observers described it as the worst violence since Nigeria's civil war in 1967-1970.

Many displaced families found shelter in army barracks and police stations, where they received assistance from the government, Muslim and Christian charitable groups, and the Nigerian Red Cross Society. Assistance included food, medicine, blankets, clothing, and plastic sheeting. Other displaced families found shelter with friends and relatives.

Ethnic violence linked to political tensions erupted in the largest Nigerian city, Lagos, between ethnic Hausa and ethnic Yoruba citizens in October. More than 100 people were killed and up to 20,000 temporarily displaced. Rioters torched houses. Communal violence also occurred during the year in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, as well as in Osun State and two eastern states.

At year's end, the number of internally displaced Nigerians was unknown. It is believed that most uprooted people returned to their homes or moved permanently to new locations within the country.

Refugees from Sierra Leone and Liberia

Several thousand refugees fled to Nigeria from Sierra Leone and Liberia during the 1990s because of war in their own countries.

Most refugees in Nigeria lived on their own, integrated into villages or in Nigeria's large cities. About 1,500 refugees, primarily Sierra Leoneans, lived in Oru camp, in southwest Nigeria's Osun State. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) provided food, health care, and other services to Oru camp residents.

As UNHCR began to reduce its services in Oru camp to encourage refugees' self-sufficiency, some camp residents complained of shortages of food and a need for housing repairs. Refugee children in Oru camp continued to attend a primary school, but refugees complained that secondary schooling was inadequate. Nigerians posing as refugees to attain food rations and other benefits put an additional strain on resources within the camp, according to reports.

UNHCR has encouraged Liberian refugees to repatriate in recent years, but several thousand Liberians have chosen to remain in Nigeria until conditions for repatriation improve. UNHCR ended its organized repatriation program from Nigeria to Liberia in June 2000. Some 3,000 Liberians remained in Nigeria at year's end with minimal assistance.

Refugees from Chad

Several thousand Chadians fled to Nigeria years ago to escape insurgencies and repression in their own country. Many expected to repatriate during 2000 because of improved conditions in Chad. However, civil unrest in Nigeria forced UNHCR to postpone repatriation activities until 2001. Some 3,000 Chadian refugees continued to live in Nigeria without assistance at year's end.

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