Climate Change, Disaster And National Policy On Displaced Persons By Samuel Akpobome Orovwuje

By Samuel Akpobome Orovwuje

Parts of Nigeria recently witnessed unprecedented flooding as result of sea level rise and climate change. The immense destruction in term of human lives, property and environmental degradation is still very fresh in the minds of Nigerians.

 These natural disasters  question the preparedness of the Nigerian government in responding to crises of such magnitude. The Presidential Committee on Flood Relief and Rehabilitation inaugurated by the President, Good luck Ebele Jonathan, is ad hoc in nature and would not respond to the needs of displaced persons as required by the 1998 United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement to which Nigeria is a signatory and by extension the 2009 African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa. This is also known as the Kampala Convention. This convention has been ratified by Nigeria.

In International Customary law, the Nigerian state has the moral and constitutional responsibility to protect its citizens and at the moment there are no coherent and sustainable legislations, institutional and organisational framework that is dedicated to the plights of internally displaced persons (IDPs). The only constitutional provisions are the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the National Commission for Refugees (NCFR), and perhaps The Human Rights Commission. At present, however, there exists no clear mandate to responding to issues of displacement arising from conflicts  and natural disasters.

In the light of the emerging scenario from climate change and other violent conflicts in Nigeria, it is imperative for President Good luck Jonathan to quickly adopt the draft report on the National Policy on Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) which was prepared in 2003 and was recently presented to the federal government. The Presidential Committee on Flood Relief and Rehabilitation will not be in a position to respond to the projected natural disasters and provide the humanitarian intervention required by forced migration induced by climate change.

The proposed National Policy on IDPs is well articulated to provide assistance and protection in the broad areas of profiling and documentation of IDPs, allocation of clear responsibilities among agencies, however, one of the major challenges of the policy is that it lacks legal status from the national assembly and therefore its institutional mandate will be difficult to enforce under the law. Furthermore, the current provision in the National Commission for Refugees, which is the lead organisation is also inadequate to address the existing institutional and organisational gaps.

The policy should address core issues of the fundamental rights of the individuals as enshrined and guaranteed in the 1999 Nigerian constitution and taking into account the Kampala Convention on the protection mechanism  for IDPs, particularly the recent flood victims across the length and breadth of Nigeria. The humanitarian concept of Do No Harm is currently being abused by the Nigerian Government due to the ad hoc manner by which the matter has been handled so far. While the committee’s job to raise funds on behalf of the Government is a welcome development, the domestication of the Kampala Convention cannot be overemphasized at this point in time.

Therefore the federal government should urgently take adequate constitutional responsibility for IDPs through a sustained legal and institutional framework that will address relief, rehabilitation, resettlement and reintegration of victims of the recent flooding through legislative means.

Samuel Akpobome Orovwuje is the Founder of Humanitarian Care for Displaced Persons in Lagos, Nigeria.


The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters


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