By Aaron Ossai
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara, has urged the executive to adopt a workable policy for internally displaced persons in Nigeria.
This is just as he condemned the lack of inter-agency cooperation among government ministries, departments and agencies and disclosed that the House is in the process of amending existing laws to coordinate issues affecting displacement of persons, refugees and migrants in Nigeria.
Speaking while declaring a public hearing on a bill to establish a National Commission for Internally Displaced Persons, Refugees and Migrants open at the National Assembly, the Speaker said the least the government owes its citizens who are displaced due to no fault of theirs is to organise government’s response to their needs in a competent and accountable manner.
“This Bill creates a focal point to give policy direction, and aid faithful execution of government policies and programmes. It will further help to coordinate all issues affecting displacement of persons, refugees and migrants in Nigeria.
“The era when multiple agencies and government departments working at cross purposes without coordination should be over, internal displacement and refugee situations destroy the lives of people and subject persons to dehumanising situation of helplessness.
“The least we owe to our citizens who are displaced due to no fault of theirs is to organise government response to their needs in a competent and accountable manner.
“The Executive Arm of government should make a deliberate effort to adopt a workable IDP Policy of Nigeria which was drafted since 2012 but has not been adopted by the Federal Executive Council,” he stated.
He also noted that the problem of internal displacement is a nationwide phenomenon, resulting from conflicts of various nature; the farmers and cattle-rearers’ conflict; Bakassi returnees and ethno-religious disturbances, which is why the House of Representatives is taking steps to address rising issues from the conflicts.
“As legislature, we are poised to finding lasting solutions to the issues relating to internal displacement, migration and statelessness. This is the more reason we are putting in place measures that would pave way to achieving this. And this Bill is obviously one of these measures.
“The Act that set up the National Commission for Refugees (CAP N23 Laws of the Federation), which this Bill seeks to amend, does not capture the issues of IDPs, migrants, statelessness and other related humanitarian challenges the country is currently facing; it restricts the operations of the Commission to only the affairs of refugees. The Bill, if passed into law, would give the Commission an enlarged mandate and more powers to effectively deal with all the challenges earlier mentioned. The National Assembly has constitutional power to enact this Bill into law. It is the responsibility of a sovereign state to take care of persons within its borders, such as IDPs. Indeed a combination of item 9 – citizenship, naturalization and aliens; item 18- Deportation of persons who are not citizens of Nigeria; item 30 – immigration into and emigration from Nigeria in the Exclusive Legislative List afford the National Assembly ample powers. Indeed every individual, including IDPs is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person, and accordingly no person shall be subjected to … inhuman or degrading treatment – See S. 34(1)(a) and (b) of the 1999 Constitution.
“The Boko Haram crisis alone has resulted in the loss of over 100,000 lives and the displacement of over 2 million people, according to a statement by the Borno State Government. More than 200,000 Nigerians are still in Cameroon, Chad and Niger Republic. This figure, however, does not include recent displacement in Mambila Plateau.
“In the three states most affected by Boko Haram terrorism namely, Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, almost 7 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, more than 50 per cent of whom are children. In newly accessible areas vulnerable host populations are in critical need of humanitarian interventions including food, water, sanitation, protection, education, shelter and health services.
“The House of Representatives has risen to the occasion in addressing the crisis in many fronts, through various proactive measures. These include the setting up of the Committee on IDPs, Refugees and North East Initiatives that has the oversight mandate to supervise government MDAs responsible for managing the affairs of IDPs and all persons of concern; the passage of the Bill for the establishment of the North East Development Commission, and also moves to domesticate the Kampala Convention.
“In the 2017 Appropriation, the National Assembly approved 51 billion Naira as the combined allocations for the three Federal Government agencies spearheading humanitaria interventions and reconstruction of the North East – namely, the National Commission for Refugees (NCR), National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the Presidential Committee for North-East Initiative – as submitted by the executive arm,” he explained.