U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 1998 - Nigeria

  Nigeria hosted about 9,000 refugees at the end of 1997, including some 5,000 from Liberia, about 1,000 from each of Cameroon, Chad, and Sierra Leone, and about 1,000 from other countries. Several thousand Nigerians were refugees or asylum seekers at year's end, including about 1,000 in Benin. At least 50,000 Nigerians were internally displaced. Uprooted Nigerians The human rights record of Nigeria's military authorities has been widely criticized. The U.S. Department of State called Nigeria's human rights record in 1997 "dismal." Even Nigerians not actively involved in politics "faced a consistent pattern of human rights violations," Human Rights Watch reported. Inter-ethnic conflict and confrontation with government security forces have persisted in Nigeria in recent years. Largely inter-ethnic conflict struck at least 9 of Nigeria's 30 states during 1997, the U.S. State Department reported. Some critics charged that Nigeria's military regime encouraged inter-ethnic conflict in order to maintain power. Conflict in Nigeria has reportedly displaced at least 50,000 people. A governmental review of state and local boundaries contributed to some inter-communal clashes. Beginning in March, ethnic Ijaws and ethnic Itsekiris, apparently prompted by the relocation of a local government headquarters, fought in Delta State. Clashes between ethnic Kuteps and ethnic Jukun-Chambas, sparked by changes in local government boundaries, began in October and reportedly displaced thousands of people by year's end. Fighting between ethnic Ifes and ethnic Modakekes in Osun State displaced some 20,000 people. Conflict between ethnic Bassas and ethnic Ebiras in Nassarawa State also flared, according to press reports. Members of several of the country's 250 ethnic groups have criticized government practices, especially in three southern, oil-rich states. They claimed that the government was indifferent to their economic development and exploited their land for its natural resources, degrading the natural environment in the process. Many ethnic Ogonis, from eastern Nigeria's Rivers State, advocated autonomy for their home area, and maintained that the government systematically attempted to deprive them of their land and its oil reserves. Confrontation between Ogonis and government forces reportedly displaced 30,000 Ogonis by the end of 1996, and prompted smaller scale refugee flight, particularly to Benin. Many Ogonis continued to allege governmental harassment or persecution in 1997. Refugees from Liberia Nigeria hosted about 5,000 Liberian refugees at year's end. Many lived at a camp in Oru, in Osun State. Some Liberians seemed ready to repatriate at year's end, given the apparent conclusion of Liberia's long conflict and its peacefully completed election. About 500 Liberian refugees repatriated from Nigeria with UNHCR assistance during 1997. Returnees received transportation, household items, a one-month food ration, and a small cash allowance, UNHCR reported. Other Refugees In addition to Liberians, Nigeria hosted about 4,000 other refugees, including about 1,000 from each of Chad, Cameroon, and Sierra Leone. UNHCR reported that about 1,000 refugees arrived in Nigeria during 1997, many of them from Sierra Leone.

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