Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 February 2018, 13:11 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2004 - Nigeria

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 25 May 2004
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2004 - Nigeria , 25 May 2004, available at: [accessed 21 February 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 displaced some 100,000 Nigerians during 2003. An estimated 57,000 people were still internally displaced at year's end, but accurate information was unavailable.

At least 39,000 Nigerians were refugees and asylum seekers at the end of 2003, including an estimated 17,000 in Cameroon, some 22,000 asylum applicants in industrialized countries and South Africa, and several hundred in various other African nations.

Nigeria hosted more than 10,000 refugees at the end of 2003, including about 6,000 from Liberia, more than 3,000 from Chad, and about 1,000 from other African countries. Fewer than 1,000 refugees lived in urban areas.

Uprooted Nigerians

Localized violence linked to political, religious, and ethnic differences rocked Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, for the fifth consecutive year in 2003. More than one million people have been displaced since 1999, 750,000 in central Nigeria from 2001-2003 alone, according to Nigerian government estimates. More than 57,000 Nigerians were internally displaced at year's end.

Decisions by state governments – primarily in the north – to adopt Islamic shari'a law have aggravated simmering religious tensions. In other areas, disagreements among ethnic groups over land use or local political power have triggered violence. An estimated 5,000 or more people have died in communal riots since the return to democratic, civilian rule in 1999.

During 2003, clashes and riots in northern states and oil-rich southern states destroyed thousands of homes, depleted livestock and crops, and uprooted over 100,000 people. Plateau and Benue States in central Nigeria, Yobe State in the northeast, Cross River State in the southeast, and the oil-rich Niger Delta had the greatest concentrations of displaced people in 2003. The worst violence began in March and peaked during elections in April and May.

In northeastern Adamawa State, fighting between herding and farming communities displaced 30,000 people and resulted in 120 deaths and 500 injuries. About 11,000 people awaited return to their homes at year's end, according to the Nigerian Red Cross.

Fighting between Urhobo and Itsekiri ethnic groups and clashes with soldiers in the southern oil town of Warri left dozens dead, more than 100 injured, and over 6,000 uprooted, most of whom camped in the open and in churches without any assistance for several months. Displaced populations described soldiers and ethnic gangs burning down dozens of villages and shooting civilians indiscriminately.

In the northeastern town of Gombe, Bauchi State, violence between Fulani nomads and farmers left 24 dead, 200 injured, and 40,000 displaced. Most of the displaced people sought shelter in temporary accommodation in schools and public buildings.

In late 2003, at least 10,000 people fled their homes in Yobe State, northeastern Nigeria, following clashes between security forces and members of Al Sunna Wal Jamma, a militant Islamic group which sought to make Yobe a fundamentalist Islamic state.

A dispute between Muslim ethnic Fulani herders and Christian ethnic Mambila farmers in 2002 over grazing lands in eastern Nigeria sparked violence that reportedly killed nearly 100 herdsmen and 50,000 head of cattle, and pushed an estimated 20,000 Fulani into neighboring Cameroon. More than 17,000 residents of Taraba State uprooted by the conflict remained in Cameroon at the end of 2003. Most resided near the Nigerian boarder, where they received emergency food aid, education, health care, and assistance with income-generating projects.

The Moroccan government forcibly repatriated more than 1,000 Nigerian asylum seekers and economic migrants who had been living clandestinely in Moroccan forests during 2003. In three repatriation operations, Morocco flew the Nigerians from the central town of Fez, and from the northern towns of Oujda and Nador to Lagos.

The U.S. Committee for Refugees estimated that 60,000 Nigerians remained internally displaced at year's end, but the actual number was unknown because the affected population was dispersed and accurate data was unavailable.

Refugees in Nigeria

The majority of refugees in Nigeria have lived in the country for many years and support themselves. Some 7,000 refugees resided at Oru camp, in southwest Nigeria's Ogun State, about 250 miles (400 km) southwest of the capital, Abuja. Oru camp has hosted refugees for 20 years. The 7,000 current residents primarily from Liberia live in cramped conditions in the camp originally meant to house only 1,200people.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) cited high levels of teenage pregnancy in the camp. UNHCR provided uniforms and educational materials to refugee students at Oru primary schools, and offered skills training and micro-credit programs to promote refugees' self-sufficiency.

Some 6,000 Liberian refugees lived in camp Oru. Nearly 2,000 Sierra Leonean refugees residing in Oru camp voluntarily repatriated in November 2003 with UNHCR assistance.

Several thousand Chadians fled to Nigeria years ago to escape insurgencies and repression in Chad and have lived in Nigeria without humanitarian assistance. Chadian refugees reluctance to repatriate and administrative delays slowed their return. More than 3,000 Chadians remained in Nigeria at year's end.

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