JFC: Making case for managing internal displacement crisis in Nigeria

By Funmi Falobi-

Nations of the world face one crisis or the other which have left many people to flee their homes. While some of these crises could be as a result of conflict, ethnic clash, terrorism, insurgencies, political and religion cconflict, others could be as a result of natural disasters like flooding, volcanic eruption, tsunami and the like; all these have adverse effect on the people and many have been displaced within their countries while others have become refugees in another land. While the West faces the challenge of migration, Africa on the other hand faces the challenge of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees.

In Africa, more than 24 million people were forced to flee their communities, as at Deember 2017. This includes 6.3 million refugees and 14.5 million IDPs. The numbers increased, with some 170,000 new refugees and over two million new IDPs, in the first half of 2018, mainly from the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Somalia and South Sudan.

According to the Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) assessment by the International Organisation for Migration )IOM), over1.9 million individuals have been displaced in Nigeria between 20 October 2018  to 20 January, 2019 as a result of Boko Haram insurgency and related violent crisis across six states –  Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe.

In Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the displaced population tracked by DTM as of November 2018 puts the figure at 451,118 while Kenya had an estimation of 158,637 as displaced population as at December 2017.

Across Africa, people displaced, mostly women and children have had to resort to taking refuge in concentrated camps which are mainly un-used/abandoned facilities or open grounds with tents as shelter. There are few basic amenities, with concerns on social/health related issues. Welfare; food, proper shelter and health needs are a significant concern. Sanitary conditions are generally poor.

Unfortunately, these shortcomings are not often reported in the media, and so needed actions on the plight of IDPs are not brought to the front burner for stakeholders’ intervention or policy formulation.

In order to ensure global best practices in guaranteeing the rights of IDPs through the media, Journalists for Christ (JFC) International Outreach has launched a report titled “Managing Internal Displacement Crisis in Nigeria” – Making a case for IDPs through advocacy. The research report presented at a media roundtable in Abuja was with the support of the World Association for Christian Communication (WACC) and Waldensian Church’s Otto Per Mille (OPM), Italy.

In his address, JFC President, Mr. Lekan Otufodunrin explained that the organisation had carried out a study on the media portrayal of Internally Displaced People in Africa. The monitoring covered Nigeria, Kenya and The Democratic Republic of Congo.

Represented by Mr. Gbenga Osinaike ,a JFC Board Trustee,  Otufodunrin said that  at the end of the monitoring, the organisation, came up with a publication titled, Muffled Voices adding that the latest research report is a follow up on it.

“From that report, it dawned on us that the issue of internal displacement is no longer what we can take with a pinch of salt.

We have been able to put together a report on how to manage internal displacement crisis in Nigeria. We are here today to brainstorm on the outcome of the presentation and create a working template for officials that are directly concerned with the issues of IDPs in Nigeria and also sensitize the media the more on how they can help in projecting IDP issues to the public,” he said.

Consequently, the research Consultant, Mr. Francis Abayomi declared that the study reveals the depth to which violent conflicts have contributed overwhelmingly to a huge number of IDPs in Nigeria.

According to him, this also points to the possibility of worsening humanitarian crisis in future if the menace of violent conflicts and proliferation of small arms and light weapons is not addressed.

The study shows that there is no proper legislative framework to guide the management of IDPs in Nigeria. There is inadequate capacity of the media to properly interrogate issues related to the management of IDPs in Nigeria. There is no formidable network for stakeholders’ collaboration to demand improved legislative and institutional frameworks reflecting concerns about IDPs situation. There is inadequate responsiveness on the part of State institutions to the plight of IDPs. There is no holistic national database on displacement and resettlement of IDPs in (camps, host communities, and other non-governmental resettlement camps. There is no guarantee for the safety of journalists and press freedom to perform constitutional roles in line with relevant international instruments relating to management of IDPs. Hunger remained one of the biggest challenges in most IDP camps. Many resettlement camps are set up by philanthropists, NGOs and faith-based organizations who are not officially acknowledged, and so do not receive any form of government assistance.

Abayomi said, “There is need for strengthened legislative and institutional frameworks with commitment to enforcing global best practices in line with international standards to ensure greater sense of responsibility and accountability amongst actors concerned with the management of IDPs in Nigeria. The welfare and security of IDPs depend on the extent to which legislative and institutional frameworks are strengthened and enforced in response to the prevailing inhumane situation.”

In his review, Dr. Theophilus Abbah, Director, Daily Trust Foundation maintained that the research has brought out the fact that the inadequate or poor reporting of the plight of IDPs is directly related to the lack of clear legislative framework which should have provided the road map for relevant institutions, civil society organisations and citizens on how to treat IDPs.

While emphasizing that laws and policy documents, though not an end in themselves, are however needed to chart a path that everyone must follow in dealing with every phenomenon in the society.

“Central to the objective of this research is the need for the media to engage in the kind advocacy that could influence government policies and lead to an improved living condition for IDPs. This kind of advocacy has the egg and chicken dimension in which advocacy could facilitate the development of a legislative framework and legislative framework could facilitate better journalism.

While encouraging journalists to focus on development journalism that would lead to better society, development journalist, Ene Osang, said that there is need to bring out gender issues while covering IDPs camps in the country.

On her part, the Executive Director, Participatory Communication for Gender Development (PAGED), Bilikisu Irama enjoined journalists to work with civil societies in order to be well enlightened on issues to look out for while reporting IDPs. she disclosed that such organizations have data that would help journalists in their reporting.

In her submission, the Executive Director, Centre for Children’s Health Education Orientation and Protection (CEE HOPE),  Betty Abah, charged journalists to report more of the challenges being faced by the IDPs in order to bring about positive change .

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