Recent mixed methods research by the University of Lagos has spotlighted a gap in data to inform effective protection and assistance for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) living in urban settings. With over two million people affected by displacement in Nigeria, the causes of displacement are diverse ranging from conflict to environmental disasters and forced evictions. The North-Eastern region of Nigeria is particularly affected by conflict and violence. Recent reports suggest that many IDPs faced poor living conditions in humanitarian camps and thus re-settled in urban areas. This has led to a rapid population increase in many cities across Nigeria, including Lagos. While there is limited information on the presence of IDPs in Lagos, the research by the University of Lagos indicates that IDPs struggle to sustainably integrate into urban life due to discrimination and stigmatisation, contributing to an increase in homelessness in the city, expansion of slums, and fragmentation of the social structures.
In this context, the University of Lagos, the Center for Housing and Sustainable Development, and the Pro-Poor Development Research Cluster, together with the Technical University of Berlin, requested support by JIPS for a proposed profiling exercise in Lagos city to better understand, advocate for, and respond to the needs of IDPs. In January 2023, our Senior Profiling Advisor, Margharita Lundkvist-Houndouadi, and our East Africa Regional Advisor, Mirjam Kuschnitzki, travelled to Nigeria to consult relevant stakeholders and assess the interest and feasibility of a Durable Solutions analysis. The results of the mission showed a strong interest from all stakeholders in the proposed data collection exercise and its potential to foster a long-term view addressing broader displacement dynamics. With displacement towards urban centres expected to not only continue but increase, the centrality of cities to Durable Solutions for IDPs in Nigeria must be recognized and prioritised.
A highlight and important step to kick-off the scoping mission was a community session conducted in Lekki with 20 community members from 8 different IDP hosting settlements across Lagos. The objective was to gain an initial understanding of the situation of IDPs living in settlements across Lagos city to inform the focus of the profiling exercise, to explore how the results could benefit IDPs, and to identify avenues to involve communities throughout the data process.
Jointly organised with civil society and community representatives, the session revealed the issues of access to housing and land, employment, and basic services as major challenges, with financial extortion being a risk multiplier, in line with previous findings by the University of Lagos. The large majority of IDPs expressed their intention to stay in Lagos in the hope of integrating locally, but that this is being impeded by the above-mentioned challenges. The session ensured the first information sharing around the planned profiling and identified possible focal persons and communication channels for follow-up when the profiling moves ahead.
Our mission together with the University of Lagos continued with a series of bilateral meetings in Lagos and Abuja, introducing and exploring interest in the proposed data collection exercise. Specifically, we met with UN agencies (UNHCR, UNDP, IOM, UNFPA, UNICEF, UN-Habitat), the Resident Coordinator’s Office, civil society actors (LOTS foundations and the Shantitown Empowerment Foundation), the INGO forum, as well as the Danish Refugee Council. Stakeholders in Lagos showed significant interest in the proposed profiling and identified possible ways in which the results could inform their programming, such as projects on trafficking (UNHCR, IOM), youth employment (UNICEF), GBV, maternal health and family planning (UNFPA), as well as work with communities more broadly in areas such as environment, health, advocacy, and housing and community upgrades (SHEF). JIPS’ approach to collecting, managing, and using data responsibly is inclusive and collaborative – if moving forward, a collaborative platform would be set up, to ensure participation by all interested actors during the profiling process.
A joint meeting with relevant Lagos State Government actors was convened by the Office of the SDGs in the Governor’s House. The University of Lagos and the JIPS team presented the proposed profiling and explored the relevance of results to policy, plans, and strategies of the State Government. In total, representatives from 13 government agencies participated. Overall, the actors present expressed interest in the exercise and suggested bilateral meetings going forward, to ensure that the study is tailored to specific analysis needs of the relevant government actors. It was agreed that a Technical Working Group would be set up with relevant technical focal persons from government agencies to support the planned profiling process.
Crucially, our mission also supported the University of Lagos in fundraising by generating donor interest in the profiling. A meeting with the Humanitarian Donor Community took place in Abuja, in which we introduced the profiling and presented initial findings from the scoping mission. While many voices expressed that the planned profiling does not match their current humanitarian focus, there was acknowledgment on the need for a better understanding on IDP data outside of the Northeast of Nigeria. This is in line with observations from JIPS’ 2019 scoping mission to Nigeria, following a request for support by the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and IDPs (NCFRMI), on opportunities for more holistic approaches to solutions analysis.
Our scoping mission to Nigeria confirmed the importance of addressing the challenges faced by IDPs in urban areas of the country. In synergy with country-wide discussions on Durable Solutions and efforts underway in Lagos (such as the Lagos Resilience Strategy, the Lagos Climate Action Plan and the Lagos State Development Plan), the proposed data collection exercise would support all stakeholders’ efforts and data needs to prioritise Solutions planning and programming and to operationalise the ‘Leave No One Behind’ agenda. Ensuring alignment of Durable Solutions indicators across the state and federal levels would further pave the way to scale up the pilot urban profiling to other areas of the country.
Drawing from the insights and discussions with a wide range of stakeholders consulted in Lagos and Abuja together with the University of Lagos, we believe now is a key moment to prioritise urban profiling to inform Durable Solution pathways for IDPs in Lagos and beyond. We look forward to building on the positive feedback from the scoping mission and debrief and continuing our engagement with the government, humanitarian, development, and civil society actors alongside displaced communities in the next steps of this process.
 See: Roberts, R. & Lawanson, T. (2021). Nigeria in Informality and Inequality in Urban Africa. Published in Cities of Refuge? Understanding Urban Integration Practices of Internally Displaced People. ARUACoE Urbanization and Habitable Cities, and Centre for Housing and Sustainable Development (CHSD) and University of Lagos
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