Following reports of influx of Nigerian refugees from Sokoto, Zamfara and Katsina States into Niger Republic, a joint UNHCR/NCFRMI protection assessment mission was deployed from 25 July to 4 August 2019.
The struggle for control of water resources and pasture pitting the cattle-keepers against the agriculturist in the three states of North-West Nigeria dates back to 2011. The continuing attacks and counter-attacks between herdsmen and a vigilante group known as "Yan sa kai" in Zamfara State, quickly spilled-over into neighboring Sokoto and Katsina states, metamorphosing into a low-intensity conflict in 2018. Armed Fulani bandits operate camps around Rayya and Dan Sadau Forests stretching through Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina and Kaduna states. The assessment took place against the backdrop that the situation in these states has led to the deaths of 436 person; and both internal displacement and the influx of Nigerian refugees into Niger Republic. The living conditions of condition of the IDPs were reported to be appalling, with serious protection issues compromised by the absence of humanitarian actors in most of the LGAs. Attacks on rural communities also persists with atrocious human rights violations on civilians and violent reprisal attacks against the civilian population within the vicinity of the attack once the security forces leave.
Farmers were increasingly threatened by the bandits to pay large amounts of money, or leave their farmlands, and as a result, many farmers have abandoned their farms, resulting in disruption of farming activities in the affected areas. Therefore, it is expected that farming will be severely hampered this year, leading to food insecurity and desperation. Many Nigerians have abandoned their homes and villages due to the incessant attacks, to find refuge in urban towns in the states, and across the borders into Niger republic. The Nigerian refugee population in Niger, is scattered in nearly 40 villages along the border, in Guidam Roumji and Madarounfa.
To assess the current situation of internal displacement and reasons for flight of refugees to Republic of Niger; conditions of IDPs and ongoing activities of government and partners to inform decision making on support to addressing protection gaps; identify urgent protection concerns requiring advocacy/response of protection actors including by NCFRMI, UNHCR and other humanitarian actors; and make recommendations on humanitarian and protection challenges.
The assessment targeted Local Governments (LGA) severely affected by the activities of bandits including: five LGAs in Katsina; four LGAs in Sokoto; five LGAs in Zamfara.