Insecurity, Resource Scarcity, and Migration to Camps of Internally Displaced Persons in Northeast Nigeria

Frederic Noel Kamta

Sustainability, Volume 12, Issue 17 (2020), Pages 1-15


Since 2009, more than two million people have been internally displaced in Nigeria due to the Boko Haram insurgency and counter-insurgency by Nigerian security forces. This paper investigates the effect of insecurity on decisions to flee to IDP camps in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state in northeast Nigeria, and the role that scarcity of water and fertile land play in these decisions.

The analysis is based on a survey of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the Bakassi IDP camp in Maiduguri, as well as interviews with experts in the capital city, Abuja. Maiduguri is the closest urban center to most rural areas of northeast Nigeria, and has received large numbers of IDPs since 2009. The Bakassi IDP camp is the largest in the region, and hosted approximately 39,000 IDPs when the research was undertaken in 2019. The author focuses on an individual’s resilience to conflict measured as the ‘time spent in conflict’, i.e. from the time the community became insecure until the individual fled to the IDP camp.

Main results:

  • Conflict was the main push factor for migration. Insecurity, created by the activities of Boko Haram or the counter insurgency by state military forces, was the main push factor for migration.
  • The ‘time spent in conflict’ before deciding to flee varied across communities of origin. Most respondents from Monguno, Guzamala, and Nganzai local government areas (LGAs) fled within one to seven days after the conflict began in their communities. 35 percent of respondents from Marte LGA migrated before conflict began in their community. In Gwoza, which is the furthest LGA from Lake Chad, people stayed longer in the community despite the insecurity generated by Boko Haram. 35 percent of respondents from Gwoza remained in their community for more than a year after it became insecure before leaving for the IDP camp. The author argues that these differences reflect other factors, besides insecurity, that influenced the decision to flee.
  • Income, land ownership, and water scarcity appear to affect the timing of the decision to flee. In Gwoza LGA, ‘time spent in conflict’ was positively associated with income, and to a lesser extent associated with land ownership, previous experiences of water scarcity and occupation. In Guzamala LGA, land ownership was associated with the time that people spent in conflict before migrating, while in Nganzai LGA, previous experiences of water scarcity were associated with the time spent in conflict before migrating. However, these factors did not considerably delay the decision to flee in either LGA; many of the IDPs from Guzamala and Nganzai fled before or within a week of Boko Haram becoming active in their communities. No significant associations were found in Marte and Monguno LGAs, since most respondents from these communities spent little or no time in their communities once the conflict started.
  • Interviews with IDPs and experts corroborated the statistical findings. Some IDPs indicated that they were willing to remain in their communities despite the presence of Boko Haram, but paid “taxes” or bribes to insurgents to ensure their safety.