Disaster and Risk Management Project Topics

The Role of NEMA in Disaster Management in Nigeria; A Case Study of IDP Abuja

The Role of NEMA in Disaster Management in Nigeria; A Case Study of IDP Abuja

The Role of NEMA in Disaster Management in Nigeria; A Case Study of IDP Abuja

Chapter One

Aim and Objectives of the Research

The main objective of this research is to examine the role of NEMA in disaster management in Nigeria. a case study of IDP Abuja.

Specifically, the study sought to;

  1. Examine the challenges of internal displacements and the role of the National Emergency Management Agency in addressing these challenges.
  2. Promote effective response to the needs and rights of internally displaced persons in Nigeria through the use of existing legal instruments.
  3. Address the gaps and inadequacies in the National Emergency Management Agency Act, and the need for a reasonable expansion of the Act.
  4. Examine internal displacement caused by violence and conflicts as a violation of human rights as provided under national and international law, and to make recommendations as to how the abuse of these laws can be effectively curtailed.




This chapter provides the meaning and nature of the concept of internal displacement. It further provides the types of internal population movement, categories of internally displaced groups and their specific needs. The chapter also explains the meaning and nature of conflicts in Nigeria, meaning and nature of disasters and the impact of disasters on Individuals, Communities and the State.

Meaning and Nature of the Concept of Internal Displacement

Despite being firmly embedded in the international lexicon, there is a question as to whether “internal displacement” has become a term of art. In fact there exists, different ideas as to what is meant by “internal displacement and “internally displaced persons”.

For some time, the term “internally displaced persons” referred only to people uprooted by conflict, violence and persecution; that is, people who would be considered refugees if they crossed a border. Global statistics on internally displaced persons generally reinforce this view by counting only those displaced by conflict. Others however consider internal displacement to be a much broader concept and to encompass the thousands of persons uprooted by natural disasters and development projects. Still, others question whether it is useful to single out internally displaced persons who commonly are referred to as “IDPs” as a category at all.

There is also no consensus on “when internal displacement ends”, that is, when an internally displaced person should no longer be considered as such. Compounding matters further is that in common parlance the internally displaced often are referred to as “refugees”, which tend to be catch-all phrase to describe all uprooted people without regard to whether they have left the country as the legal definition of “refugee” requires. In short, there is a need for clarity on a number of conceptual issues. Some of which are as follows;

  1. Internal Displacement: According to African Union Convention for Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa “internal displacement” means “the voluntary or forced movement, evacuation or relocation of persons or groups of persons within internationally recognized state borders”.
  2. Forced Displacement: this refers to the involuntary movement of refugees and internally displaced persons from their place of residence. Those displaced by conflicts (generalized violence) as well as by natural hazards (floods, landslides, droughts) or environmental disasters, chemical or nuclear disasters, famine, or development projects. There are two Categories of Forced Displacement as follows:
  3. Refugee – a refugee is a person who “owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, membership of a particular group or political opinion is outside his country of nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country‟.3
  4. Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) – “persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violation of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized State border”.
  5. Comparism of Internally Displaced Persons and Refugee definitions- It is important to understand the difference highlighted as follows:
  6. The requirements to become a refugee according to the 1951 Convention are precise and limited- there has to be a “well founded fear of persecution” and this fear must be linked to one of the enumerated grounds. The definition of internally displaced persons is much broader and includes natural and human-made disasters.
  7. A person becomes a refugee only when he or she crosses an international border where as an internally displaced person remains within his or her country.





This chapter discusses the existing National Laws, policies, activities and Institutions put in place by the Federal Government to manage disasters and emergency situations and to mitigate its impact on people in the affected communities (internally displaced persons) and the effect of displacement on the society in general.

 Brief Background Information on Nigeria

Nigeria is a country with land area of about 936,768 sq km (356,669 sq miles). It has diverse climate and terrain which ranges from the equatorial climate of the southern lowlands, through the tropical central hills and plateau, to the arid northern plains which mark the southernmost extent of the Sahara desert.

Two major rivers run through Nigeria – Niger and Benue. The River Niger flows from the northwest through the country to its vast delta in the south, while River Benue has its source from the Cameroon Mountains and flows into the country from the east joining River Niger at Lokoja in Kogi State. Nigeria has borders with Niger to the North, Chad (across Lake Chad) to the Northeast, Cameroon to the East and Benin to the West. It is indented in the South by the Gulf of Guinea. Nigeria has rich natural resources that include oil and gas and solid minerals, with about 70% of the population engage in agriculture.

 History of Disaster Management in Nigeria

Organized Disaster Management in Nigeria can be dated back to 1906 when the Fire Brigade was established with functions that went beyond fire fighting to the saving of lives and property, and provisions of humanitarian services during emergencies. In the 1960‟s and 70‟s, this noble and systematic approach was replaced with ad-hoc arrangements domiciled in the offices of the Head of State and the State Governors. During this period, disaster response was considered as mere security issues.




Since the end of the cold war, the United Nations has facilitated domestic responses to internal displacement through the humanitarian assistance provided by its specialized agencies, and also through the identification of the rules of international law that govern all states’ responses to displacement.  The result was the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. These principles reflect and are consistent with International Human Rights law and International Humanitarian Law and other bodies of law. It goes without saying that the observance of human rights is a tribute to the rule of law. Also, according to Denning L.J, „International Law is known as the sum of rules or usage which civilized States have agreed shall be binding upon them in their dealings with one another‟.




This study examined the role of NEMA in disaster management in Nigeria. A case study of IDP Abuja. This work is divided into five chapters summarized below;

It begins with a general introduction on the problem of internal displacement, plights of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and the background of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) which is the focal Agency established by the Federal

Government to provide relief materials and rehabilitation to victims of disasters. The statement of the problem is focused on analyzing the challenges of the Agency vis-a-vis the need to provide comprehensive protection and assistance for the Internally Displaced Persons. The aim of the study is to proffer solutions to adequately address the plights of the displaced persons, as well as durable solutions after the crises ends.

Conceptual clarifications of key terms were provided as used in the research work. More light was shed on the tragic situation of internally displaced persons who are forced to flee their homes, communities and even states, to other parts of the country in search for safety with little or nothing to support them. Displaced persons are categorized into various groups based on various categories such as gender and age which determines their level of vulnerability and special needs for purposes of relief interventions. Causes of displacement, natural factors and human induced displacement are also discussed.

A review of the National Emergency Management Agency Act, Policies, and Systems and how effective they are in addressing the plight of Internally Displaced Persons in Nigeria. It identifies the gaps in the National Emergency Management Agency Act which when addressed would empower the Agency legally, financially and more adequately to be better equipped to address the problem of Internally Displaced Persons. It also discusses the roles of other stakeholders which are very important in achieving the desired goal based on collective efforts.

The work further discusses the International Covenants, Policies and Instruments which are directly or indirectly relevant or applicable in the protection and assistance of displaced persons when adequately implemented by the authorities. These laws include International

Human Rights Law and Humanitarian Law and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, these laws may be implemented in cases of conflict induced displacement where there is abuse of human rights provisions. The other two key Instruments discussed are the United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement and The African Union Convention (The Kampala Convention) on Internally Displaced Persons  Further provides an empirical data in a table form used to analyze disaster incidences, the number of displacement which occurred as a result of the disaster, the interventions made by the Government and an assessment of the activities.


In the light of these above, the following observations have been made: 

  1. Gaps in the existing system: One of the enabling factors for any organization to function effectively is the existence of a comprehensive Law governing its activities. Some gaps have been identified in the National Emergency Management Agency Act which is affecting the Agency‟s capacity to function effectively. For instance, the Act is silent with regards to internal displacement and the provision of durable solutions for internally displaced persons which is the final phase. The Agency also has a limited scope of interpretation of some its mandates, for instance, the Agency being the coordinating body should be able to chair rehabilitation efforts of all Federal Government partners and stakeholders, their role as a coordinating Agency should not only be restricted to camp coordination and management activities. There are also no enforcements strategies in place by the Agency compelling stakeholders or even individuals to comply with disaster management laws and policies for efficient and effective response to disasters especially in flood or aircraft incidents.
  2. It is also worrisome that the country ratified the African Union “Kampala Convention” on the Protection and Assistance Internally Displaced Persons in Africa, in May, 2012 and made a draft National Policy on the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Nigeria to incorporate its provisions, neither of which have been adopted.  Apparently the increasing number of displaced persons both natural and man-made induced displacement informed the humanitarian actors to consider putting together the policy which was tabled for consideration in 2007, but it was not adopted. The draft was revised thrice between 2009 and 2011 it however remained a draft yet to be adopted. It was further revised by a team of consultants and Multi-Stakeholders Forum between 30 May and August 2012. This revised draft is also awaiting adoption by the federal government.. Three years on, however, the National Assembly and the Federal Executive Council are yet to adopt the policy, or a domestic law to implement the Kampala Convention. The absence of such framework as a means of clearly defining roles and responsibilities has, and will continue to hamper humanitarian and development efforts to mitigate the effects of internal displacement. They are very essential to a holistic approach to providing for durable solutions, and in preparing for and preventing future displacement.4
  1. The use of spontaneous approach instead and Ad-hoc committees rather than legal institutions to address the problems of internal displacement undermines the capacity of the National Emergency Management Agency in carry out its mandates. Setting up committees during major disasters such as the flood in 2012, the violent attacks by insurgents in 2014 majorly to raise funds and carry out relief interventions more often than not, create duplication of efforts by the agency and in other cases creates confusion for the affected population. These committees are usually set up for a limited period of time after which they are dissolved. This leaves the victims with a bigger problem of who to run to for continued assistance or who to hold accountable in cases where their needs where not adequately met particularly in cases where the agency was not funded with regards to the incident. This practice to a large extent lacks accountability and transparency and has led to more complications at the end of the day.
  2. There is also the problem of poor synergy among the humanitarian agencies and stakeholders in disaster management. As the saying goes „the baby that belongs to all, Office of the UN Secretary-General on Human Rights of IDPs and the Brookings Institution – University of BernProject on Internal Displacement. One of the recommendations of the conference was that ECOWAS Member States should undertake measures to address the root causes of internal displacement including developing laws and policies on IDPs consistent with States’ obligations under International Human Rights and Humanitarian Laws. Olagunju .O., Field Research Documenting the Challenges Faced by the Nigerian Government and Ngo’s In Addressing the Problems of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP’S), Published by University of Ibadan, Ibadan, October, 2006, Page 35. belongs to no one‟. This unhealthy rivalry and competition for who should be doing what only results in uncoordinated and isolated efforts rather than the desired progress that should have been achieved by collective efforts towards one primary goal. There is also poor responsiveness of some State Government towards disaster management and humanitarian activities. Some States are yet to comply with their obligation of establishing State Emergency Management Agencies (SEMAs) as first responders to disaster incidences in the state. This to a large extent creates additional pressure on the Federal Agency which is ideally meant to compliment the efforts of first responders and the State where it exceeds their capacity to handle.
  1. The loss of civil rights or abuse of human rights is one of the fundamental issues of displacement. The condition which some of the displaced persons are put in as a result of the hideous acts by perpetrators of these violent attacks and other forms of disasters, contravenes the fundamental human rights to life, dignity, liberty, freedom of movement and security of those affected. There are also issues of discrimination, false imprisonment, missing persons in the course of displacement,which are not adequately addressed by the government. This is also in contravention of the duty provided in the Guiding Principle (s) to the effect that all authorities and international actors shall respect and ensure respect for their obligation under international law including Human Rights Law and Humanitarian Law in all circumstances so as to prevent and avoid conditions that might lead to displacement.


However, the proposed recommendations to these observations are as follows;

  1. There is an urgent need to review the National Emergency Management Agency Act to adequately address the problem of internal displacement especially with regards to providing durable solutions for internally displaced persons and to be in tune with recent trends of disasters. The Agency could generally adopt a broader outlook and interpretation of some of its legal mandates particularly in its operational capacity. For instance, section 6 (1) (i) with regards to providing not just relief for victims of disasters but very importantly- rehabilitation, the Agency could expand this to practically include harnessing of the necessary resources and man-power to be charge of a well coordinated national effort in providing durable solutions. Also, section 6 (1) © and (g) with regards to monitoring the state of preparedness of all organizations and agencies and coordination, the Agency could consider a firmer level of enforcement measures. Under section 6 (1) (f) with regards to disaster curtailment activities, the agency could better empower its Search and Rescue department by obtaining more sophisticated equipment and facilities needed to prevent and minimize the effects of disasters such as sensor machines to detect pending disasters such as timed bombs, surveillance cameras, intensive mobile clinics for disaster victims in remote areas with restricted access to hospitals and proper health facilities, it can also explore the provisions on technical aid from international and strategic partners to achieve more.
  2. The Stakeholders must take the necessary steps to ensure the adoption of the National Policy Framework on the Protection and Assistance on Internally displaced persons in Nigeria. This national policy framework is necessary to promote the implementation and enforcement of the responsibilities therein. The endorsement of the national policy by the Federal Government will serve as an indication of political will to adequately address the sufferings and helplessness of the displaced population and an acceptance of its responsibility provided under the United Nations Guiding Principle on Internal Displacement which states that the protection and assistance of internally displaced persons, lies primarily with national authorities mandated to protect and care for them.    Policy makers should also be adamant in achieving their goals and continue to encourage and adopt concepts and practices that promote social development, equity, economic growth and environmental quality to minimize the impact of hazards, reduce vulnerability and enhance coping and adaptive capacity. The draft on the National Policy on the Protection and assistance of internally displaced persons should be given a more serious attention and made to see the light of day without any more unnecessary delays as this is the number one key towards addressing the existing problems and controversy on the legal authorities and the roles of these authorities in the protection and assistance of internally displaced persons.
  1. The National Emergency Management Agency Act mandates the Agency to provide relief and rehabilitation of disaster victims hence the practice of setting up committee to carry out relief interventions only brings about the problem of duplication of efforts. The government should channel resources and efforts to better empower the Agency to carry out its responsibilities. People usually have more confidence in the Government and in the institution established with the key mandate of providing relief to the affected population and who is accountable at the end of the day not only to the government but the people as well. Well meaning Nigerians are indeed encouraged to assist and compliment the activities and efforts of humanitarian agencies by engaging in emergency relief operations, but it should not be done with a view to gaining undue political advantage or for selfish interest.
  1. It is the responsibility of the National Emergency Management Agency as a coordinating body to foster synergy among stakeholders, State government and non state actors. The Agency should device enforcement strategies, especially through the full implementation of its existing policies such as the National Disaster Management Framework (NDMF) and other plans and programmes, and monitor the activities of other government establishment and State Emergency Management Agencies to ensure adequate compliance with the law. The challenges faced by displaced persons calls for serious commitment and a collective effort, not isolated activities of different stakeholders with each one trying to take the glory.  It is very important to have a unified front so as to ensure effective and timely response to disasters and interventions.
  2. Prevention is paramount, but is probably the most difficult measure to take by government. Yet the best prevention against displacement is ensuring the respect for the fundamental human rights of civilians and populations in all situations and circumstances consistent with government constitutional and treaty obligations; this will to a large extent reduce the threats to the security and welfare of the citizens. This approach accords with constitutional obligations imposed on all levels of government as articulated by chapter two of the Nigerian Constitutionwhich provides for the security and welfare of the people as the primary purpose of government, and to ensure the progressive realization of fundamental, foreign policy and environmental objectives and directive principles of state policy for the common good of all citizens.

In conclusion, for Nigeria to meet the desired expectations in the control and management of disasters and emergencies, the legal institutions and National legal frameworks in relation to disaster management should be coherent, transparent, implementable and enforceable. We cannot afford to continue relying on the “Adhoc committee” systems of looking into, and managing disasters through unconventional means when they occur. The protection and assistance of internally displaced persons requires multi-sectoral and multi-dimensional approach; it is not a task for one Institution due to its complex nature. The standard management model for assistance and protection in situations of internal displacement, rather than a single agency approach, is one that involves government officials, United Nations agencies, international organizations, Civil Society Organizations and Non-Governmental Organizations. The protection role of other actors, including international agencies and Non-Governmental Organizations, involves reinforcing national responsibility and supporting, not substituting, and must be recognized and accepted as a necessary aspect in theprotection responsibilities of competent authorities.

It is important to enhance the operational capacity of national and international humanitarian responders and support existing states, local and community coping mechanisms. All agencies providing humanitarian assistance to internally displaced persons have a responsibility to consider how the design and implementation of their assistance activities might best contribute to promoting protection of the internally displaced. Efforts must be intensified most especially in the aspect of proffering durable solutions in a pro-active manner rather than a re-active manner. The National Emergency Management Agency needs to prepare standard protocols based on International best practices in order to change the face of disaster management completely from what it is today, to what it should be, and based on International standards.



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