Massive communal violence temporarily displaced approximately 100,000 Nigerians during 2002.

It is believed that 50,000 people were 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 30,000 Nigerians were refugees and asylum seekers at the end of 2002, including an estimated 15,000 in Cameroon, some 14,000 asylum applicants in Western countries, and several hundred in various other African nations. Up to 10,000 other Nigerians who fled the country during 2002 managed to return before the year ended.

Nigeria hosted more than 7,000 refugees at the end of 2002, including more than 3,000 from Chad, about 2,000 from Sierra Leone, and nearly 2,000 from Liberia.

Uprooted Nigerians

Localized violence linked to political, religious, and ethnic differences rocked Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, for the fourth consecutive year in 2002.

Decisions by state governments – primarily in the north – to adopt Muslim-based sharia laws 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 died in communal riots during 1999–2001. Some estimates suggested twice that number of deaths.

During 2002, violence and widespread riots claimed approximately 1,000 lives, destroyed thousands of homes and other buildings, damaged livestock herds and crops, and uprooted 85,000 to 125,000 people for weeks or months.

The violence primarily occurred in northern and central regions of the country, the main city of Lagos, in southwestern Nigeria, and in other areas of Nigeria that previously had avoided bloodshed.

The first wave of ethnic violence erupted over the local ownership of a fishpond in central Nigeria's Nasarawa State in January. The clashes, which spread across eight villages, left at least 100 people dead and displaced several thousand others from their homes.

Many uprooted families fled south to neighboring Benue State, joining approximately 50,000 civilians still displaced from ethnic violence that unfolded in Nasarawa State during 2001.

A dispute between Muslim ethnic Fulani herders and Christian farmers over traditional grazing lands in eastern Nigeria's Taraba State sparked violence that reportedly killed nearly 100 herdsmen and 50,000 head of cattle, and pushed an estimated 20,000 Fulani people into neighboring Cameroon.

Consecutive days of violence in February between ethnic Yoruba and ethnic Hausa street gangs in Lagos razed 1,000 homes, temporarily displaced an estimated 3,000 families, and left more than 100 people dead.

During April, renewed clashes between herders and farmers in Taraba State and similar violence in Plateau State left 50 people dead and forced several thousand ethnic Fulani residents to flee to Cameroon. An estimated 8,000 refugees spontaneously returned to Nigeria by year's end.

A newspaper article allegedly offensive to Muslims about an international beauty pageant triggered ethnic clashes in the city of Kaduna, in Nigeria's central Kaduna State, in November.

The violence killed at least 200 people, injured more than 1,000, and temporarily displaced an estimated 30,000 people. Hundreds of uprooted families sought refuge in police and military barracks until the violence subsided. Others fled to their areas of origin in neighboring states, where they permanently resettled.

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo gave the government's National Commission for Refugees responsibility for responding to the humanitarian needs of internally displaced Nigerians. State governments provided limited short-term assistance to small numbers of uprooted persons during the year.

The International Committee of the Red Cross and the Nigerian Red Cross occasionally distributed blankets, plastic sheeting, sleeping mats, buckets, soap, and cooking utensils. Most internally displaced Nigerians relied on friends and relatives for their basic needs.

The U.S. Committee for Refugees 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.

Refugees in Nigeria

The refugee population in Nigeria remained relatively stable during 2002.

The majority of refugees have lived in the country for many years and support themselves. Several thousand, however, received partial assistance from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). More than 3,500 refugees resided at Oru camp, in southwest Nigeria's Ogun State, about 250 miles (400 km) southwest of the capital, Abuja.

UNHCR provided uniforms and educational materials to approximately 250 children at Oru primary schools, and offered skills training and micro-credit programs to promote refugees' self-sufficiency.

Some 60 refugees in Nigeria permanently resettled abroad as part of an international resettlement program.

Refugees from Chad

Several thousand Chadians fled to Nigeria years ago to escape insurgencies and repression in Chad and have lived in Nigeria without humanitarian assistance.

Many were expected to repatriate during 2001–2002 because of improved conditions in their homeland, but administrative delays and some refugees' reluctance to leave Nigeria delayed their repatriation. More than 3,000 Chadians remained in Nigeria at year's end.

Refugees from Sierra Leone

Nearly 2,000 Sierra Leonean refugees lived at Oru camp. UNHCR continued to provide them with basic shelter and medical assistance.

UNHCR halted food assistance to nearly all Sierra Leonean refugees during 2002 after judging them to be capable of supporting themselves. Some 200 women and children deemed vulnerable by UNHCR continued to receive rice, beans, and cooking oil.

About 200 Sierra Leonean refugees repatriated from Nigeria during the year.

Refugees from Liberia

Most of the approximately 2,000 Liberian refugees in Nigeria lived at Oru camp, while others lived on their own in urban areas. Fewer than 200 Liberian refugees received food assistance.


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