Fig.1

Just a few days before the world paid tribute to the resilience, industry and resourcefulness of women, members of a non-state armed group (NSAG) allegedly abducted an unverified number of women, girls and boys – IDPs from the ISS, Zulum, Kaigama, and Arabic IDP camps who were out in the bush in search of firewood. Some days later –  March 7 to be precise 7th of March, 2024, bandits attacked the Kuriga community in Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State and kidnapped about 286 students including some teachers at the LEA Primary School Kuriga. The bandits are reportedly demanding one billion naira as ransom for the victims.

 

An unhealthy Spike

From 2011 to 2023, Nigeria experienced a dramatic increase in kidnapping incidents, with various reports and databases documenting the alarming trend. The Nigeria Security Tracker (NST) recorded about 19,800 incidents of kidnapping across the country within the past decade . While The Global Terrorism Database (GTD) identified Nigeria as the country with the highest number of reported kidnappings globally in 2019, underscoring the severity of the situation. Topping the list of most kidnapped persons are women, children, and internally displaced persons (IDPs), who are particularly vulnerable to kidnapping due to their perceived lack of protection and resources. Women and children, often targeted for ransom, sexual exploitation, forced marriage, and recruitment into armed groups, while IDPs face additional challenges stemming from their displacement and precarious living conditions.

 

Children, in particular girls, have been subjected to mass abductions from schools, such as the infamous incidents in Chibok and Dapchi, the recent kidnapping of over 280 school children in Kuriga town in Kaduna State and another 15 children in Gidan Bakuso in Sokoto State all between the ages of eight and fourteen. While some of the abducted children from the Chibok and Dapchi incidences of 2014 have been rescued or released, many including the recent victims of Kuriga and Gidan Bakuso remain missing, enduring unimaginable suffering at the hands of their captors while the search for them by the Nigerian government continues. Women are abducted for ransom or as part of broader criminal activities, including human trafficking, baby making machines and forced labour. The psychological and emotional toll on survivors of kidnapping, especially women and children, is profound and long-lasting, with many struggling to reintegrate into society even after their release.

 

Internally Displaced Persons

Targeting IDPs for kidnap and violations adds an ironic twist to official assurances on the security situation in Nigeria and the state of government’s preparedness to tackle kidnapping for ransom. Displaced by insurgency, tribal and inter-tribal conflicts, violence, and natural disasters, IDPs make up the most vulnerable populations in Nigeria.

The recent abductions of women and girls in three IDP camps in Borno State Nigeria highlights the vulnerability and lack of protection faced by these vulnerable groups, shedding light on the dire situation internally displaced persons, most especially women and children in Northern Nigeria are subjected to and the critical need to address their rights.

It is worth noting that these abductions not only underscores the vulnerability of internally displaced women to various forms of violence, including sexual assault, death, abduction and exploitation but also undermines the efforts of government and human rights organizations in securing the rights of internally displaced women and children.

Secondly, the incident exposes the failure of authorities to adequately protect and support internally displaced populations, particularly women and girls. Despite numerous reports of insecurity and threats within IDP camps, there appears to be a lack of effective measures to prevent such abductions and to ensure the safety of residents.

While the issue regarding the abductions of women from IDP camps remain a security concern, it is further intriguing to note that some of these women have been reported to have willingly returned to the bushes rather than remain at the camps. According to Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State in a Statement on the 8th of March 2024, over 500 women living in IDP camps had demonstrated their interest in leaving the camp. Were these latest victims really in search of firewood or wandering away from abandonment?

 

Relevant Laws and Frameworks on The Rights of Internally Displaced Persons

In Nigeria, the rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs), especially women and children, are protected by various international and domestic laws, as well as policies and guidelines established by the government. Below are some of the key legal instruments and frameworks relevant to the rights of IDPs in Nigeria:

 

Nigerian Constitution: The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) under Chapter IV guarantees the fundamental rights of all citizens, including IDPs. These rights include the right to life (Section 33) , dignity of the human person (Section 34), and freedom from discrimination (Section 42), among others.

 

Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement: Nigeria, as a member of the United Nations, is bound by the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, which provides a comprehensive framework for the protection and assistance of IDPs. These principles emphasizes on the rights of IDPs to protection, non-discrimination, access to humanitarian assistance, and durable solutions to displacement.

 

National Policy on Internally Displaced Persons: In 2012, Nigeria adopted the National Policy on Internally Displaced Persons to provide a framework for addressing the needs and rights of IDPs. The policy emphasizes on the protection of vulnerable groups, including women and children, and outlines measures for their assistance and support.

 

Humanitarian Assistance Framework: Nigeria has established a framework for coordinating humanitarian assistance to IDPs, which includes guidelines for the protection of vulnerable groups, such as women and children. This framework outlines the roles and responsibilities of government agencies, humanitarian organizations, and other stakeholders in providing assistance and support to IDPs.

 

Fig.2

Fig.2

 

Rights of Internally Displaced Persons

Regardless of how wide the legislation and laws for the protection of the rights of Internally Displaced persons are, there are certain fundamental rights which encompasses a broad spectrum of rights, these are;

 

  1. Right to Safety and Security:
    • The United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement (UNGP) outlines the right of IDPs to protection and security during displacement. It emphasizes the responsibility of the government to ensure the safety of all displaced persons, including women and children.
    • The Nigerian Constitution, particularly Chapter IV, Section 33, guarantees the right to life and security of all citizens, including IDPs.
  1. Right to Non-Discrimination:
    • The UNGP prohibits discrimination against IDPs on the basis of gender, age, ethnicity, or any other grounds. It emphasizes the need for equal treatment and non-discrimination in the provision of assistance and protection.
    • The Nigerian Constitution, specifically Chapter IV, Section 42, prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, ethnic group, or social origin. This provision applies to all citizens, including IDPs.

 

  1. Right to Access to Basic Services:
    • The UNGP recognizes the right of IDPs to access basic services such as healthcare, education, and shelter. It calls for the provision of essential services to meet the needs of displaced persons.
    • The National Policy on Internally Displaced Persons in Nigeria provides a framework for the provision of basic services to IDPs, including women and children.

 

  1. Right to Freedom from Violence and Exploitation:
    • The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) both emphasize the right of children and women to be protected from violence, exploitation, and abuse.
    • The Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act 2015 in Nigeria criminalizes various forms of violence, including domestic violence, sexual violence, and harmful traditional practices. This law provides protection for women and children, including those who are internally displaced.
  1. Right to Dignity and Respect:
    • The UNGP recognizes the right of IDPs to be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their displacement status. It emphasizes the importance of upholding the human rights and dignity of all displaced persons.
    • The National Policy on Internally Displaced Persons in Nigeria emphasizes the need to respect the rights and dignity of IDPs, including women and children, in all aspects of their displacement.

 

Recommendation and Conclusion

In light of these issues, it is imperative for the Nigerian government, as well as international organizations and civil society groups, to take immediate action to protect the rights of internally displaced women and children in Northern Nigeria, through the implementing of adequate security measures within IDP camps, providing psychosocial support and assistance to survivors of violence, and addressing the root causes of displacement and conflict in the region.

We also need to revamp the security approach to take account of convergence between criminals and the present day terror gangs. The financing of terror groups or Non state armed groups or bandits through direct or laundered proceeds of such crimes like kidnapping, trafficking, cattle rustling drugs and counterfeiting signifies the need for enforcement and security agencies to adopt integrated or collaborative investigation instead of working in silos and in segmented patchworks.

Finally, efforts should be made to empower internally displaced women by ensuring their meaningful participation in decision-making processes and by addressing the structural inequalities that contribute to their marginalization. This may involve providing access to education and vocational training, promoting economic opportunities, and challenging harmful gender norms and stereotypes within the camps.

 

 


NOTE: The section on legal Briefs is a forum for frank and open scholarly notes by research staff and guest contributors. Views expressed in these notes are personal to the authors and are not to be attributed to the Centre.

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