John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

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Nigeria’s Internally Displaced Population a Humanitarian Disaster Waiting to Happen

by John Campbell
June 12, 2014

A girl cries at an internally displaced persons camp in Nigeria's central city of Jos, January 20, 2010. (Akintunde Akinleye/Courtesy Reuters)


In a recently published report, the Norwegian Refugee Council and its Internal Displacement Monitoring Center estimate that there are 3.3 million displaced persons in Nigeria. It says that Nigeria’s displaced population is the third largest in the world, following Syria and Colombia, and the largest in Africa.

Boko Haram, and the efforts by the government to defeat it, account for 254,816 displaced in Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa states, where a state of emergency is in place. The population displaced by ethnic, religious, and land-use conflicts in the Middle Belt may be larger. The report also notes road building projects in Lagos in February 2014 made some nine thousand homeless.

The Nigerian federal agency directly involved with the internally displaced, the National Emergency Management Agency, notes that little is known about the protection and assistance needs of Nigeria’s displaced population. Neither the government nor international organizations have systematically assessed the situation. Parts of the northeast are inaccessible to humanitarian workers because of security issues. Most of the displaced live with extended families or hosts of the same ethnic group. The government has established camps in the Middle Belt and also in Bauchi state to accommodate those fleeing the northeast. Conditions within the camps are said to be poor.

In the coming year, there will be concerns about food security. In the three states under a state of emergency, the Norwegian Refugee Council estimates that over 60 percent of the region’s farmers were displaced before the planting season began.

The international community needs to pay more attention to this pending humanitarian disaster, which risks destabilizing not only Nigeria but also its immediate neighbors. A systematic survey needs to be conducted, insofar as the security situation allows. Then there needs to be a coherent strategy for meeting the humanitarian needs of a region which, even in the best of times, is one of the poorest in the world. These are not the best of times.

Post a Comment 2 Comments

  • Posted by Michael Nwanna

    what a tragedy and twist of faith

  • Posted by Florence Foster

    Dear Mr. Campbell,

    Thank you for highlighting these important issues and echoing the important messages we mention in our recent Briefing Note: Nigeria: Fleeing Boko Haram’s relentless terror (
    As a point of clarification regarding the evictions in Lagos, this data is based on 2013 in our Global Overview (, not 2014.

    Once more – we appreciate the interest and remain at your disposal for any further information,
    All the best,

    Florence Foster
    Associate Regional Analyst, West Africa
    Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC)

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