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Protecting Internally Displaced Persons

One of the tragedies of war, famine and natural disaster is the incidence of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who are trying to flee affected zones to safer areas. All through human civilisation, people have always been victims of man-made violence and even of nature. Therefore, it is expected that the society should treat such victims with respect, care and compassion through providing them with alternative accommodations and taking care of their immediate daily needs.
Unfortunately, Nigeria in the past five years has been caught in the vortex of violence resulting mainly from the raging Boko Haram insurgency and frequent inter communal clashes between Fulani herdsmen and their host communities. Recent United Nations report estimates that there are 3.3 million IDPs in Nigeria and 470,500 of these were displaced in 2013 alone. On a global scale, the country is only ranked behind Syria with 6.5 million and Colombia with 5.7 million IDPs.
Incidentally, majority of these victims are women and children who are also the most vulnerable. Sadly, most of these people are being housed in very inhuman conditions and even left to their fate by those with the responsibility of looking after them. For example, it has been established that most of the camps lack basic sanitary facilities such as toilets and bathrooms, thereby forcing these refugees to defecate in surrounding bushes with all the attendant hazards to their health.
Even at that, the inclement weather condition, especially during the harmattan season is another challenge the displaced persons have to face. Another are reports of frequent incidences of rape against women and young girls, including child trafficking which have become commonplace in these camps. Moreover, reports of corruption and financial regularities are also rife. Only recently, the Borno State Government said it spends more than N600 million per month on the internally displaced persons, even as the victims deny seeing any evidence of such huge expenditure.
Much as the federal and state governments of the affected areas have been making efforts to ameliorate the sufferings of IDPs, it is pertinent to remind the authorities that the affected persons are only victims of circumstances beyond their control and should therefore be treated with respect and dignity.
We make haste to add that as Nigerian citizens, there is every need to protect their fundamental human rights at all times. We are saying so because Nigeria was a signatory to the 2009 Kampala Convention that provides regional legal framework with regards to IDPs, as defined by the African Union.
Above all else, the only lasting reprieve for internally displaced persons is their eventual return to their homes to pick up the pieces of their lives. And, the quickest way to achieve this is the defeat and extirpation of Boko Haram from Nigeria and finding ways of ending the constant attacks by Fulani cattle herders on hapless communities.

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