How the Federal Government’s resettlement plans for those displaced by Boko Haram may not be so different from IDP camps
Last year, the Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari, said his administration would do whatever it took to facilitate the return and resettlement of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to their towns and villages. As of the end of 2015, the number of people forced to flee their homes due to the violence perpetrated by Boko Haram stood at over 2 million.
In Northern Nigeria since 2009 Boko Haram has claimed over 10,000 lives, and as families have been torn apart by re-current episodes of kidnapping and massacres, the ISIS-affiliated terrorist group has shown that it will not stop until the northern Nigeria becomes a carcass of its former self.
While the details of the government’s plan to resettle over 2 million displaced Nigerians in the North are still murky, their decision may be premature considering the following:
The mystery of the re-captured Boko Haram territory
During its campaign, the present administration promised that by the 31st of December, 2015, Boko Haram would be defeated.
Between June and December of 2015, the Nigerian military recorded about 40 victories against the insurgent group.
However, despite the numerous triumphant claims by the army, the terrorist group has continued to launch attacks in the north, killing and displacing thousands of civilians. On the 24th of December, 2015, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said that the Nigerian military “[has] so degraded the capacity of Boko Haram that the terrorists can no longer hold on to any territory just as they can no longer carry out any spectacular attack.”
Perhaps not coincidentally, Boko Haram launched an attack on Gwoza, Borno State, one of the territories the military reclaimed earlier. In this attack in the Izge area of Gwoza, a male suicide bomber detonated himself killing at least five people.
If, at this point, the Nigerian government cannot authoritatively say that it has ended the Boko Haram insurgence, then moving the people back to their homes is putting them at risk.
The challenges of starting afresh
In areas where terrorist attacks have taken place there is always a loss of property, buildings and infrastructure and northern Nigeria is not an exception. Therefore, if the federal government wants to successfully resettle the IDPs, then affected infrastructure and social amenities have to be restored. The returning IDPs should have access to basic needs such as food, water and shelter in order to feel at home again.
Resettling the IDPs will be futile if there is no assurance of an effective security system in place. There is no doubt that Boko Haram utilises sophisticated weaponry and with a shrouded mode of operation, the army has struggled to anticipate their next line of action.
With this in mind, the federal government needs to layout their plans to secure the ‘recaptured towns.’ How can the government assure the IDPs that they will be safe in their towns when the camps they currently reside in are unsafe?
In September 2015, a bomb detonated at one of the camps in Yola, killing at least seven people out of the 200 residents. If the camp, which was under surveillance, was infiltrated, how sure can we be of the safety of the millions of people who will be moving back?
According to Chitra Nagarajam, a Peace builder, who recently conducted research at an IDP camp in Maiduguri, “given the current situation, which is the security threat in northern Nigeria, what is really important is ensuring that the IDPs are safe. The government should ensure that they feel happy and they should focus on providing what they need to settle and have a normal life.”