North East Speakers discuss how to formulate laws to protect IDPs

Rebecca Mu’azu, Gombe

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The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, has held a roundtable discussion for speakers and Clerks, as well as other members of the North East States Houses of Assembly on the Domestication of the Kampala Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs.

According to the UNHCR, the roundtable discussion seeks to examine existing state laws and policies on internal displacement to gauge success and outstanding gaps in meeting the assistance and protection needs of IDPs and launch a participatory process outlining an advocacy paper and action plan for the domestication of the Kampala Convention.

It says the roundtable is aimed at establishing a dialogue between various levels of Federal and state governments, humanitarian and development actors on ways forward for domesticating the Kampala Convention.

Consequently during the two-day programme, the legislators, international partners and the representatives of the IDPs, explored ways to domesticate the convention in the zone, because of the challenges displaced persons face in the Boko Haram conflict, as well as other natural disasters, like flooding, which has displaced a lot of people in recent times, so as to provide more predictable response on the protection needs of the displaced population.

A session took them through the provisions in the Kampala Convention, where they familiarized themselves with the content of the convention, while it provided the opportunity for them to share experiences and good advocacy practices, formulate suggestions as to how UNHCR could support the domestication process and on the role of other key stakeholders in supporting such efforts.

The Senior Protection Officer, UNHCR Maiduguri Sub-Office, Mrs. Michele Apala Donfak, said there were about 1. 8 million IDPs in the North East, facing various kinds of violations and abuses in their displacement, which was being triggered by the Boko Haram insurgency, especially in the front-line states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states.

Mrs. Donfak said the crisis also lowered the development of the zone and that because of the development; it became imperative for the enactment of a Federal Law to prevent and address the root causes of displacement and also strengthen the protection and assistance of IDPs, while achieving durable solutions.

“This Roundtable is an opportunity to establish a frank and sincere constructive dialogue between various levels of state governments humanitarian actors, development actors, legal experts, academia and the civil society on ways and concrete actions to undertake to make the domestication a reality,” said Mrs. Donfak.

The Governor of Adamawa State, Alhaji Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri, who was represented by the Deputy Governor, Mr. Crowther Seth, said the Nigerian Senate had in 2018 passed the Bill for the second reading in the National Assembly, which had reawaken North Eastern States, who were being affected by conflicts and natural disasters, to take steps to ensure that displaced populations live in safety and dignity with the smooth passage of the Bill.

He said the Adamawa State Government also replicated President Muhammadu Buhari’s creation of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs Disaster Management and Social Development, hence the need for states to have a document for the effective support of the displaced persons.

“..which is a referendum for effective support for displaced persons, including having mechanism in place to avert displacement and contingency plan in places where the crisis occurred. This forum should encourage all speakers to event the bill in respective, houses of assembly, so as to domesticate the Kampala Convention into state law. I also called on the international community to support relevant government agencies towards domestication and implementation process. I believe the time is now,” said Governor Fintiri.

At the end of the roundtable discussion, the six speakers or their representatives, as well as their clerks all pledged their readiness to start the process of enacting laws that will protect and assist IDPs, by examining existing state laws and policies on internal displacement, as well as outstanding gaps in meeting the assistance and protection needs of IDPs.

The Speaker of the Bauchi State House of Assembly, Mr. Abubakar Y. Suleiman, who is the Chairman of the North East Speakers Forum, said the move to get the law enacted in the North East became necessary, due to the plight of the IDPs in the zone.

“Considering the plight of the IDPs, particularly in the North East, we felt that this group of people need our assistance, they need our protection, because if you see how they are basterdised,  or mismanaged, we felt that there is a need for a law. Ut, for us to domesticate the Kampala Convention, it will be difficult then we resolved that we are going to, kind of come up with a bill that will serve the purpose that we think that the Kampala Convention issue will serve,” said the Chairman of orth East Speakers Forum.

For the Speaker of the Borno State House of Assembly, Mr. Adulkarim Lawan, who was represented by Mr. Ali Kotoko, a member Representing Maiduguri Metropolitan Council, the roundtable discussion is a huge favour to the people of Borno State.

“All the participants and the organisers here are doing a favour to us. If you look at the total number of the IDPs in Nigeria as at today are 2.2 million. Out of it, 90% are from my own state. Inside Maiduguri Metropolitan council, we have 23 IDP Camps with a total number of over 200 thousand…… So, all what we are doing here in Adamawa State, the attendants and the participants and the organisers are doing a favour to us.

The UNHCR commended the six states in the North East for the show of commitment to ensure that law is drafted and eventually enacted to protect and assist the internally displaced persons get back to their feet.

Omolayo. A