The overall humanitarian situation in Nigeria has deteriorated rapidly as a result of increasing conflict, particularly in the north east of the country due to the Boko Haram insurgency. Community clashes, mostly between the semi-nomadic cattle-herders and settled farmers, particularly in Middle Belt states are also responsible for continued instability. The dynamic of insurgency and counter-insurgency activities, combined with community clashes is increasing displacement and humanitarian needs. The humanitarian conditions in Nigeria are fluid and chaotic. As the vast majority of IDPs are scattered in the host communities, it has proven challenging for partners to gain an in-depth understanding of their needs due to unorganized, very limited and poor management of information on the Internally Displaced persons.
There is also very limited information on IDPs needs in many parts of the country, particularly communities living in protracted displacement in urban centers due to flooding and evictions, those affected ethnic, religious, and political conflicts in Nigeria’s Middle Belt region. The continuing shortage of accurate and reliable data on internal displacement across Nigeria has resulted in a distorted of displacement and assistance needs in Nigeria and an alarming lack of understanding of the country’s displacement dynamics by national actors and the international community. In an interview with Brigittie Eno, Deputy Representative for the UN Refugee Agency in Nigeria lamented the poor state of data management on IDP in Nigeria.
According to her, while UNHCR is a reliable source of data on refugee movements in West Africa, collecting even basic data on internally displaced persons (IDPs) is a challenge— particularly when looking at those displaced by natural disasters and development projects. Even finding basic information on the number of people displaced by a particular conflict or disaster is difficult. This is due in part to the fact that most IDPs in the country (and globally) do not live in camps, but are dispersed within host communities. In some cases, governments have established IDP registration systems, but these rarely include all IDPs and are rarely publicly reported.
Highlighting on the challenges to achieving durable solutions to lack of information on IDPs, including information on their numbers, profile, needs and vulnerabilities, the Director General of National Emergency Management Agency, Mohammed Sani Sidi, in an interview revealed that the Internal displacement figures in Nigeria have had various limitations and issues of reliability. According to him, different government agencies use different approaches to gathering figures, therefore, resulting to conflicting figures without devoid of accuracy and objectivity. Also, Data collection is inconsistent and unreliable, leading to an alarming lack of understanding of displacement dynamics, and fragmented and inadequate responses.
Disclosing further, a disaster relief and humanitarian NGO, the Christian Broadcasting Network reveals that there are not adequate mechanisms in place to track multiple displacements or to determine whether or not durable solutions have been attained. In an interview with the Humanitarian Director of the NGO, Rev. John Kalma, he reveals that in some cases much of the information about the particular needs and vulnerabilities of IDPs is anecdotal in nature. According to him, Figures on internal displacement have additional limitations. Because figures published outside of the displacement management agency’s processes are often only available after larger-scale crises, information is anecdotal and primarily about the minority of IDPs who live in camps.
In a recent interview with the Federal Commissioner of National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons, Hadiza Sani Kangiwa reveals that another IDP data management challenge is lack of official mechanism to standardize the methodologies of the agencies collecting data on IDPs or the presentation of their findings. There is still a lack of coordination among humanitarian agencies for the collation and analysis of independent data. Lamenting further, she reveals that Insecurity, poor condition of roads, and limited communication infrastructure in the northeast also continues to hamper the collection of data on displacement, which is only occasionally disaggregated by age, sex and location.
What are the ways out…?
The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) area offices use a standardized form to collect data in camps, but its presence and resources are limited and it relies heavily on information provided by other organizations. Against this, the Federal Commissioner of National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons, (NCFRMI) Hadiza Sani Kangiwa counseled that the standardized forms be distributed across to partnering governmental and non-governmental agencies for collection of information on the Internally Displaced Persons across the nation. Admonishing further, she called on NEMA to further work with the “Harmonization Committee on Displacement Statistics” a body established in 2014 to regularly organize periodic harmonization meetings to improve reporting coherence among government agencies, particularly NEMA, the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) and non-governmental agencies like UNCHR, Red Cross, UNICEF, and other related partnering agencies.
Similarly, the Director General of National Emergency Management Agency, Mohammed Sani Sidi, reveals that the Nigerian Red Cross Society (NRCS) collects data through its local branches and volunteers across the country. It registers IDPs when it provides relief, but maintains no centralized database. He however, counsels the Red Cross to create a centralized database for optimum information gathering on IDP, and requested to submit its collected data to the Harmonization Committee on Displacement Statistics in order to triangulate data.
Suggesting further, Brigittie Eno, Deputy Representative for the UN Refugee Agency in Nigeria counseled that credible information is needed on the numbers, location and conditions of IDPs in order to design effective policies and programmes. Therefore, data should be disaggregated by age, gender and other key indicators so that the specific needs of particular groups are taken into account. Attention must also be given to whether IDPs are uprooted by armed conflict and violence or by natural disaster or by development projects. Information is needed not only on emergency situations but also on protracted situations of displacement, which often are neglected and forgotten.
On a more sophisticated ground, the recently provided Computerized Displacement Tracking Matrix with the aid of satellite technologies by USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) to NEMA should be fully embraced by relevant authorities on IDP. According to USAID, the project will regularly provide updated information on the overall number of internally displaced people in Nigeria’s north east. It will also capture information on gaps in service provision and the need for urgent humanitarian assistance in such areas as food shortages, shelter, health, education, and protection challenges. It will also provide alternative online database on comprehensive information and analysis on internal displacement
On a final note, strengthening the IDP data management framework through expansion of relationship with local communities in collaboration with the National Emergency Management Agency, remain urgent priorities in ensuring efficient delivery of information management. This is because data collection efforts focus on camps and camp-like settings, but most IDPs find refuge with host families and communities. Providing shelter for people in need is part of Nigerian culture. Many are loath to allow relatives to stay in camps, where large households lack space and privacy. There is almost no publicly available data or information on these IDPs or their hosts, despite a significant increase in data collection, profiling and registration recently.
Written by: Oyeduntan Adewunmi Enoch.