By Yakubu Dogara

 It is my sincere pleasure to welcome you all to this event, which is the first since the creation of the Standing Committee on Internally Displaced Persons, (IDPs) Refugees, and Initiatives on the North – East by the 8th House of Representatives. This event underscores the wisdom in creating a specialized Committee on this issue, because the truth is that, if this new Committee had not been created, we may not be here today. I m delighted that today’s event vindicates our good intentions in constituting this Committee and the deliberate choice of its Chairman to lead this noble effort.

The journey towards creating a Standing Committee to handle exclusively , issues of IDPs, Refugees, Stateless persons and matters relating to rehabilitation, reconstruction, recovery, resettlement and development in the North East Geo – political Zone of Nigeria, started from the House Legislative Agenda and our commitment to make a difference in this sector. But the final decisive push came from the recent visit of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to the House and their persistent advocacy on legislative engagement on IDPs and related issues.

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We need to further explore the theme of this Handbook for Parliamentarians, which is ‘Internal Displacement: Responsibility and Action’. In a nutshell, who and what is responsible for internal displacement and what action is being taken by relevant authorities to address the problem? For our purposes, I think we should adopt the description of IDPs as “Persons or group of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or 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, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized state border”, (Article 1(k) of the Kampala Convention). Large scale development and environmental projects can also generate IDPs. What is clear from the above definition is that IDPs are citizens of our country. They are not refugees from another country. They are our constituents, some of who voted us into office. As legislators, we have a duty and responsibility to care for them, protect them, assist them, provide for their needs, their welfare and to advocate on their behalf. To be displaced or uprooted from one’s home is one of the most degrading and humiliating experiences that can befall any human being. They are very vulnerable and are exposed to all forms of exploitation and misery. Women and female children are sometimes subjected to sexual abuse, and trafficking. IDPs lack appropriate shelter, food, water, sanitation, healthcare, child protection and educational opportunities. Access to money and work is severely limited or non-existent. Statistics from the UNHCR show that 68% of IDPs in Nigeria are children and there are so far about 60, 000 births in the IDP camps.

The National Assembly has made its own contributions to the fight against terrorism and internal displacement, over the years.

On the fight against Terrorism, we should recall that the National Assembly speedily passed both the Terrorism Prevention and the amendment Acts to aid the executive in its anti terrorism measures. The House is also currently processing a Bill to consolidate the anti – terrorism legislations into one document for ease of use and reference. Stakeholders will be given an opportunity during the public Hearing of the Bill to make their input. The National Assembly has always supported all budgetary requests from the Executive to fight terrorism. The 8th House of Representatives and indeed the 8th National Assembly is also ready and willing to provide the legislative support that may be required of it in this regard.

On the issue of Internally Displaced Persons, apart from creating a Standing Committee by the House of Representatives, a Resolution, sponsored by me and many other members, was recently adopted by the House, which among other things; requested Mr President to set up the machinery for the establishment of the North East Development Commission and the convening of a Donor Conference or Summit for the North East region which will assist in solving the problem of IDPs.

Today’s event offers the opportunity to restate the fact that there is no adequate legal framework for handling issues of internal displacement. Even though Nigeria at the Executive level has ratified the African Union Convention for the Protection and assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa (Kampala Convention), it has not yet been domesticated by the Legislature. Therefore, permit me to call on Mr President to transmit to the National Assembly, an executive bill on this and indeed other relevant treaties for domestication.  However, as legislators, we have primary constitutional responsibility to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of Nigeria, and we shall in the exercise of this constitutional mandate soon be left with no option but to introduce a Bill to domesticate the all-important Kampala Convention, if for whatever reason the executive is unable to send the required Bill.

Apart from domesticating the Kampala Convention, all legal and institutional structures with respect to rehabilitation and assistance of IDPs needs to be reorganized for better coordination. In this regard, the National Commission for Refugees Act, which is now known as National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons, needs further amendment. Notwithstanding the fact that the Commission has been formally designated by the Federal Government to cover matters relating to Internally Displaced Persons and coordination of Migration and Development, this designation requires the backing of law in order to further strengthen the Commission to discharge its mandate.

Permit me to place on record, the appreciation of the House of Representatives of the efforts of President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, to end terrorism and return our IDPs back to their respective communities. In particular, the inclusion of Five Billion Naira (N5 billion) in the 2015 Supplementary Appropriation Bill just submitted to the National Assembly, for victims of terrorism for which IDPs, form a major part, shows responsiveness on the part of Mr. President. Of course, we will expect even more support in the 2016 Budget Proposal. In this regard, we solicit the continued cooperation and support of our development partners, UN Agencies, Multilateral and Bilateral Partners, international and National NGOs, International Foundations, International Funds, Development Banking Institutions and Agencies, such as World Bank, IMF, African Development Bank, etc. The private sector organizations and Companies in Nigeria cannot be left out in this effort. We know they are doing a lot already. We thank them for their commitment and efforts so far while hoping that they will do more.

The House appreciates the advocacy, support and effective collaboration and synergy provided by the UNHCR in Nigeria in keeping with their responsibilities and re-awakening legislators’ consciousness that the law is the beginning point of institutionalizing protection for IDPs, Refugees and Stateless persons in our society. The presentation and launch of this Handbook for Parliamentarians on the issues of Internal Displacement is highly welcome as a capacity building measure for Members of the House, the relevant House Committees and the National Assembly bureaucracy. Together we shall draw from this book in shaping an appropriate legislation for Nigeria in this area. Furthermore, we shall also seek the cooperation of the ECOWAS parliament to ensure that the legal framework for IDPs, Refugees and Stateless persons in the West African sub-region is fully established.

Finally, for the sake of our brothers and sisters in the IDP camps, and a large number of IDPs living with relations, friends and good Samaritans, Stateless persons and Refugees alike , I wish to assure that we are committed to placing the status of IDPs and resolution of the causes of displacement thereof in the forefront of our legislative activities.

May I therefore formally present this ‘UNCHR/Inter- Parliamentary Union Handbook for Parliamentarians: Internal Displacement: Responsibility and Action’, to you for the use of parliamentarians and stakeholders alike.

God bless you all and may God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

 

Remarks by Speaker of House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Dogara Yakubu at the Advocacy Workshop/launching of UNHCR – Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Handbook for Parliamentarians: Internal Displacement: Responsibility and Action; at the National Assembly, Abuja on 23rd November, 2015. 

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