Chapter 2e - Forced Migration and Internal Displacement in Nigeria

Chapter 2e - Forced Migration and Internal Displacement in Nigeria

49 million people were internally displaced in Nigeria in 2019. Many factors lead to forced migration. Its large size makes it very difficult to govern. Many people suffer poverty in rural areas and the impacts of climate change, including desertification and floods leads to environmental refugees. The biggest cause of forced migration is political instability. Some regions are affected by extremist groups and others fall under the control of local armed groups. Clashes over resource access between nomadic and sedentary farmers also forces people to migrate. 


The causes and consequences of forced migration and internal displacement

  • Detailed examples of two or more forced movements, to include environmental and political push factors, and consequences for people and places - Nigeria

1.0 - Types of Migration

ATL - Thinking: Transfer

Consider the following types of migration. How many of them have you experienced at different points in your life?

Migration can be classified normally into three different criteria

  1. Length of stay
  2. Distance travelled
  3. Reason for migration

1. Length of Stay

  • Temporary - when the migrant intends to return to their place of origin
  • Permanent - when the migrant intends to stay in their destination

2. Distance travelled

  • Internal - within a country
  • External - across more than one country (immigration and emigration)

3. Reason for Migration

  • Forced - when the migrant has no choice to migrate. This may be due to racial, religious, political reasons or environmental factors
  • Voluntary - when the migrant chooses to migrate normally for social or economic reasons

1.1 - Forced Migration and Internal Displacement

Forced migration, as stated above is when a person has no choice but to migrate. They are forced leave by some external factor beyond their control. The most common form of forced migration is internal displacement. This refers to people forced to migrate from their home region to another region in their country. The UNHCR estimate that over 49 million people were internally displaced in 2019. If a person is forced to leave their country then they would be considered a refugee. A refugee is defined as someone who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion. An asylum seeker is someone who has fled their country of origin and claiming international protection in another country. Amnesty International states, that 'not every asylum seeker will ultimately be recognised as a refugee, but every refugee is initially an asylum seeker'.

The following UNHCR infographic gives the broadest overview of forced migration in 2019.

ATL - Research: Media Literacy

Study the infographic below and discuss how effective it is for providing the public with information on forced migration.

  1. To what extent would you agree with the statement, that the burden of forced migration falls mainly on developing countries?
  2. Why is it that so many children become displaced people?

1.2 - Internal Displacement in Nigeria

Nigeria has a significant problem with forced migration and internally displaced people. The scale is huge. In 2019 there were more than 2.5 million internally displaced people. There are 2 million displaced people in the states of the North East Region alone. An additional 500,000 people are internally displaced from elsewhere, especially from states in the Northwest region. In addition, to internally displaced people there are a further 250,000 registered refugees in neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

ATL - Research: Information Literacy

Study the map below and examine the pattern of internal displacement. Where is most internal displacement occurring in Nigeria and where do they go?


1.3 - The Causes of Internal Displacement in Nigeria

Political Insecurity

The main cause of internal displacement in Nigeria is due to lack of security. The UNHCR states that Nigeria faces immense humanitarian and protection challenges due to the ongoing insurgency in the Northeast. The conflict has caused grave human rights violations, impacting particularly on the most vulnerable civilians. The main conflict there, stems from the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram. The conflict there has been ongoing since 2014. Boko Haram's main objective is to establish an Islamic State under Shariah law in Nigeria. It also wants the wider imposition of Islamic rule beyond Nigeria. To achieve these goals Boko Haram has engaged in terrorist attacks and kidnappings against a wide range of targets in Nigeria and neighbouring countries. Recent attacks for which Boko Haram can be reliably held responsible include:

  • 9 February 2020: Boko Haram killed at least 30 people in an armed attack in Auno.
  • 16 June 2019: Boko Haram killed at least 30 people in three suicide bombings in Konduga.
  • 14 January 2019: Boko Haram killed 14 people in an armed attack in Rann.
  • 1 May 2018: Boko Haram killed at least 86 people in two suicide bombings in Mubi.

Boko Haram's most notorious act of terror was the kidnapping of 276 Christian school girls in 2014. Many of whom remain missing to this day.

Environmental Stresses

Outside of the Northeast, an estimated 540,049 people are internally displaced. There are great challenges facing rural regions of Nigeria and significant socio-economic fragility, with communities facing chronic poverty and harsh climatic conditions exacerbated by climate change. This places tremendous stress on water and land resources, with increasing food insecurity a growing problem.

Land disputes between groups competing for access to land and water are also on the increase. This is especially evident between nomadic herders and sedentary farmers. Nigeria’s northwest is experiencing ongoing activities of armed groups referred to locally as ‘bandits’ in six states, namely Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto, Kaduna, Niger and Kebbi. According to the independent information organisation ACEPS, attacks have included shooting and killing, cattle rustling, kidnapping, rape, torching of entire villages, and looting of valuables, and the numbers of fatalities and displaced people have continued to rise. While more than 1,100 people were killed in 2018 in the six states, over 2,200 were killed in 2019, and more than 1,600 fatalities were recorded between January to  June 2020.


Environmental factors linked to climate change are also leading to internal displacement. Land degradation, erosion and desertification as a result of climate change, population pressure and land misuse have driven people out of their normal places to other locations. Nigeria is also experiencing more frequent and severe floods. A catastrophic flood hit Nigeria in 2012 which led to more than 2 million people being internally displaced.  The scale of this flood affected many states in the country and was declared a national disaster that required an international aid response. More recently in 2020, the River Niger flooded and displaced over 50,000 people in the state of Kogi in central Nigeria. In total the flood affected 66 communities in the state. Some people found temporary accommodation in schools and other public buildings, while others were forced to sleep on roadsides and in other open spaces. Many people lost their livelihoods after crops and livestock were washed away.

1.4 - Consequences for People

No refugee or internally displaced person wants to leave their home. If they could return they would happily do so. Most internally displaced people in Nigeria take refuge in formal or informal camps and refugee camps. Life in these camps is difficult and people face a day-to-day challenge. The government and aid agencies struggle to provide basic health and education services. Housing and tents are inadequate and access to water and reliable food is also difficult. There are often tensions between internally displaced people and locals who compete over the same scarce resources.

An IDP Camp - TRT World

1.5 - Conditions in the Camps

Teachers Camp - Northeast Nigeria 2019

Built for 10,000 people it was well over capacity at the time of IMDC filming (see film below). In January 2019 it housed 22,000 people in basic corrugated iron huts. 80% of the inhabitants were women and children. The majority of children were under five. There were very few facilities in the camp, only 12 classrooms and very few health services.

Bakassi Camp

Home to 43,000 people in corrugated iron huts, no different to the most basic of shanty settlements. High density housing with very limited access to health and education services. Massive challenges exist with sanitation, clean water and adequate food distribution. A complete lack of a coherent policy for measuring community's needs, pressures as well as policies for helping integrate the community either back in society or to support their return if they so wish. The following video shows the camps.

The following Photo Essay by the IDMC provides an excellent insight into everyday life in the IDP Camps in Nigeria

Revision Quiz

Complete the following sentences

    refers to involuntary movement of people

    is when people are forced to move from their home region to another region in the country for non-determined period of time



Identify the factors leading internal displacement in Nigeria




Identify the factors leading to forced migration from Eritrea



Complete the paragraph

Consequences are most likely to be based around the issues of overcrowded     camps in Nigeria and challenges of    agencies such as UNHCR to respond to the scale of the problem. Pressures also include the high rates of    to urban migration that exacerbate the challenges of providing adequate services and infrastructure. Rapid slum development is a growing problem with issues of poor    , disease and inseceure tenure.



Complete the paragraph

In regards to the European migration, the dangers of the     itself may be developed. These include crossing the   desert, encountering    traffickers, kidnappings, areas of conflict and finally the perils of crossing the    . Other consequences of under    European     camps, local hostility, poor European policy, uncertainty over     to remain and possibly being returned.



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