Unless the country’s security crisis de-escalates significantly, the cost of taking care of internally displaced persons (IDPs) will likely continue to soar. This cost is already incredibly high, going by the observation of the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Special Duties, Yusuf Yusuf, during his committee’s oversight visit to IDP camps.
“We cannot sustain spending about N5 billion a month to take care of these people,” the senator was reported saying, noting that there were “2.7 million people in the IDP camps across the northeastern states.”
Indeed, the information that the Federal Government spends so much on IDPs monthly is a cause for concern. It reflects the scale of the humanitarian crisis connected with the security crisis.
It is noteworthy that the government’s high spending on IDPs is supplemented by contributions from external sympathisers. For instance, about 87, 000 malnourished Nigerians in the troubled north-east region are targeted in a three-year programme funded by the United Kingdom to the tune of 22 million pounds.
This intervention, from April 2019 to March 2022, is expected to considerably reduce the large number of malnourished persons in the region, particularly children and women. This means that the government’s spending would have been higher but for the assistance provided by others on humanitarian grounds.
Apart from insurgency in the north-east, there are other causes of internal displacement listed by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. These include violence arising from “competition between pastoralists and farmers” in the Middle Belt region, banditry and flooding.
However, there is no doubt that the Boko Haram insurgency in the north-east is responsible for the majority of displacements recorded. As the number of IDPs swells, the challenge of providing their basic needs also escalates. This is why the authorities must address not only the conditions in IDP camps, but also the factors that create IDPs.
IDPs are not supposed to be perpetually displaced. So the authorities must pursue the goal of getting them to return to their home communities, and rehabilitating them.
The IDP problem, which is caused by insecurity, is compounded by insecurity. For instance, in August, insurgents abducted 80 IDPs from Kukawa town in Borno State, shortly after they were resettled by the state government. Resettling IDPs depends on restoring normalcy. IDPs cannot safely return to their home communities if insecurity persists.
Sadly, efforts by the Buhari administration to strengthen the country’s internal security architecture have not de-escalated the security crisis. Apart from creating the Ministry of Police Affairs, the Federal Government expanded the National Command and Control Centre to 19 states of the federation, resuscitated the National Public Security Communication System, and commenced the implementation of the Community Policing Strategy. But a high degree of insecurity persists.
The authorities need to rethink the approach to security. Adverse socio-economic conditions, including poverty and unemployment, also contribute to the security crisis. It is disturbing that more than 83 million Nigerians are living below the national poverty line, according to the 2019 Poverty and Inequality in Nigeria report released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) this year. Nigeria’s population is about 206 million. Also, NBS figures show that the number of unemployed Nigerians rose to 21.77 million in the second quarter of this year.
It is reassuring that President Buhari recently inaugurated a national steering committee to oversee the development of the ‘Nigeria Agenda 2050 and Medium-Term National Development Plan (MTNDP),’ which succeeds ‘Vision 20:2020 and the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) 2017 – 2020.’
A long-term plan is useful. But it is important to have a short-term plan as well, and to ensure that it works. Improving socio-economic conditions is crucial. Socio-economic development is a weapon against insecurity and its attendant costs.