|Population||UN Population Division (as of 2016)|
|Number of IDPs (Conflict and violence)||IDMC (as of 2016)|
|New displacements (Conflict and violence)||IDMC (as of 2016)|
|New displacements (Disasters)||IDMC (as of 2016)|
|Refugees||UNHCR (as of 2016)|
|Displacement type||New Displacement (Flow)||IDPs (Stock)|
|Geographical disaggregation||Subnational - admin 1||Subnational - admin 1|
|Frequency of reporting||Other||Other|
|Disaggregation on sex||Yes||Yes|
|Disaggregation on age||Yes||Yes|
|Data triangulation||Some local triangulation||Some local triangulation|
|Data on settlement elsewhere||No||No|
|Data on returns||Yes||Yes|
|Data on local integration||No||No|
|Data on deaths||No||No|
|Data on births||No||No|
IDMC’s estimates are based on data reported by IOM, which accounts for the northeast and middle belt regions. The IOM data primarily concerns people displaced by conflicts linked to Boko Haram as well as incidents of intercommunal violence.Download extended figures analysis (PDF, 35 KB)
Fuelled by economic, social, political and environmental factors, the drivers of displacement in Nigeria are multi-faceted, complex and often overlapping. Violence perpetrated by the militant armed group Boko Haram and military operations against the group have caused the bulk of internal displacement, but inter-communal clashes arising from ethnic and religious tensions also regularly force people from their homes, as do frequent floods and mass evictions in urban centres.
Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country and its largest economy, and the country has experienced high levels of insecurity and inequality since its return to civilian rule in 1999. There are significant territorial, population-related and economic disparities between the country’s 36 states. Endemic corruption, political instability and weak governance mean that many parts of the population do not benefit from the country’s strong economic growth and its vast oil and mineral resources, resulting in low social and human development indicators. Of the 176 countries included in Transparency International’s corruption index for 2016, Nigeria ranked 136th.
At the same time, livelihoods and access to water and grazing pastures have also been under strain for decades, as the surface area of Lake Chad has shrunk by 90 per cent over the last 45 years. This is a result of climate change and anthropogenic factors, including the damming of tributaries, a lack of sustainable water management policies, and overgrazing. People have increasingly migrated southwards along the perimeter of the Lake Chad basin. Over time, this movement has caused some 70 ethnic groups to converge and has brought about resource competition, tension and conflicts.
These political, social, economic and environmental factors created fertile ground for the emergence of militant armed groups such as Boko Haram in the marginalised north-eastern region. The group’s indiscriminate attacks against civilians, including bombings, mass shootings, suicide attacks, kidnappings and property destruction, have prompted millions to flee within Nigeria or across its northern and eastern borders to the neighbouring countries of Niger, Cameroon and Chad, which have also experienced insecurity and displacement by Boko Haram’s activities within their own territories. Founded in 2002, the group launched increasingly dramatic attacks from mid-2014 onwards, leading to an unprecedented protection and displacement crisis in north-eastern Nigeria and the wider Lake Chad basin.
In reaction to criticism of its limited security presence in the area, the Nigerian government stepped up the use of “heavy-handed tactics” in its counter-terrorism efforts, leading to allegations of extra-judicial killings, the razing of property in communities thought to be harbouring Boko Haram fighters, physical abuse and allegations of excessive force. These countermeasures have pushed both civilians and militants within and across Nigeria’s international borders.
International attention has tended to focus on Boko Haram’s brutality, but inter-communal clashes fuelled by ethnic and religious tensions flare regularly throughout the Middle Belt, the dividing line between the Muslim north and Christian south. Communal violence is triggered by myriad factors, including ethno-religious disputes, crime, cattle rustling, land disputes and tensions between pastoralists and farmers.
In urban centres, millions of slum dwellers and other marginalised people have been forcibly evicted from their homes, most notably in Abuja, Lagos and Port Harcourt. Evictions are sanctioned by state governments and carried out in the name of security and urban renewal. They have, however, taken place without adequate consultation, notice, compensation or offers of alternative accommodation, leading to intra-urban displacement and leaving thousands of people homeless.
Poor communities in mostly rural areas are highly exposed to natural hazards, most commonly floods in lowlands and river basins where vulnerable communities live in unplanned, informal settlements. Displacement is caused not only by rains and overflowing watercourses, but also by the mismanaged release of water from dam reservoirs in Nigeria and in upstream countries such as Cameroon.
In at least 11 northern Nigerian states, displacement has been linked to desertification triggered by increased pressure on the environment. Many of the same areas are also affected by inter-communal conflict, the activity of armed groups, and counterinsurgency operations.
People internally displaced by the insurgency in the north-east are spread across 13 states in north-east and central Nigeria, with the highest numbers in the state of Borno. Since 2014, the majority of people displaced by conflict or inter-communal violence have sought safety in their own states – Borno, Adamawa and Yobe – as well as the neighbouring states of Gombe, Bauchi and Taraba. Many of these areas are also affected by conflict, violence and increasing competition for resources between IDPs and host communities in flashpoint areas. Despite government efforts to eject Boko Haram, those states remain unstable and living conditions are difficult, as services are still largely unrestored. People tend to flee from rural to urban areas within their home states, increasing population stress on towns and cities and raising further security concerns.
Large numbers of people displaced within Nigeria or into neighbouring countries have returned to their regions of origin because the resources in their areas of displacement were exhausted. While many of these IDPs find themselves in urban areas closer to home, they remain displaced because their rural dwellings are outside of military control. The military runs temporary sites for IDPs, partly to control the movement of the population, in tightly or newly controlled areas that are largely beyond the reach of humanitarian organisations. IDPs who do not live in those sites or who have moved south live in overcrowded collective centres within host communities or in poor conditions with relatives.
In the short term, the primary protection concerns for people internally displaced by conflict in Nigeria are ongoing violence, particularly in displacement camps, and food insecurity. Attacks on IDP camps and violent retaliations by Boko Haram on areas under military control mean that the protection space for IDPs is minimal. Many IDPs and returning IDPs have taken shelter in insecure areas in those northern states and are in desperate need of emergency humanitarian assistance. IDPs also lack access to livelihoods and suffer from severe food insecurity. The poor standard of living in camps, collective centres and private shelters is critical in light of the recent outbreaks of cholera and polio. In this regard, health facilities, water and sanitation must be restored for IDPs in states affected by conflict. There is also a need for access to effective remedies, justice and psychological support for people who have suffered trauma and abuse during the conflict, such as the thousands of survivors of abductions and sexual violence.
The communities that host IDPs generally face depleted resources and thus struggle to accommodate and share livelihoods with the large numbers of displaced individuals seeking refuge. Host communities receive unequal assistance in some areas, which jeopardises the security of IDPs and may trigger new and/or secondary displacement as tensions and competition for resources increase.
Draft National Policy on Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Nigeria, (not adopted), July 2012
Nigeria 2017 Humanitarian Needs Overview, November 2016
UN Security Council Resolution 2349, March 2017