The recent call by Honourable Sanni Zorro, the member of the House of Representatives for the Gumel/Maigatari, Sule Tankar/Gagarawa Federal Constituency of Jigawa State for the domestication of the Kampala Convention on Internally Displaced Persons (IDP’s) is a worthy idea.
Zorro, who chairs the House Committee on Internally Displaced Persons, Refugees and Initiatives on the North East, believes this will lead to a permanent, holistic approach to the care of citizens displaced from their homes and communities as a result of wars, insurgencies, violence, natural disasters and other factors.
The Kampala Convention on IDP’s was established in 2012 by the African Union with 40 out of 54 countries (including Nigeria) as signatories, taking into account the large number of displaced persons all over Africa and the need to evolve a framework for their welfare and rehabilitation. Africa has the largest number of displaced persons in the world numbering more than 12 million people. Nigeria alone, in the past three years, contributed three million people to this number, mainly as a result of the Boko Haram insurgency and the rage of armed hoodlums referred to as “Fulani herdsmen”.
The Convention emphasises the need for governments to see themselves as primarily responsible for the care, protection and wellbeing of their countries’ IDP’s and commit to responding adequately to their needs.
Apart from man-made factors of armed violence, many Nigerians are routinely displaced from their roots as a result of natural disasters linked to climate change, such as flooding, desertification, dwindling natural water resources (such as the case with the Lake Chad region), coastal and gully erosion.
For now, there is no standard framework for tackling the needs of IDPs. Federal, state and local governments as well as public spirited individuals and groups respond haphazardly to emergency situations.
This will no longer do, as the incidence of IDPs is likely to remain high due to the fact that Nigeria is a hotbed of disenchantment. Yet the country is not ready to sit down and realistically address the root causes of discord. Rather, it responds to these challenges with force, which is a mere fire brigade approach.
The framework we expect should, as Honourable Zorro rightly put it, come in the form of a legal instrument to domesticate the Kampala Convention and provide the roadmap to guide the nation in responding the needs of IDPs in all parts of the country.
It will provide the institutional support required to cope with the needs of refugees and also pave the way for their rehabilitation and resettlement.
The care of the IDP’s must be taken with all seriousness because these are the most vulnerable of citizens, and their right to be catered for is inalienable.