This section presents the analysis of data generated from qualitative interviews and focus groups. The data on preferences of durable solutions is presented under the three main headings, namely local integration and resettlement, return and indifference. Analysis of participants’ preferences and views on acceptable lasting solutions to their displacement has found that local integration and resettlement are the most preferred solutions among all categories of IDPs, even though more self-settled IDPs than those in camps prefer voluntary repatriation. Local integration and resettlement are reported under the same heading, as most participants mixed the two options in their responses to questions regarding which solution is preferable to them. Also, the reasons given by this category of participants were found to be the same for local integration and resettlement. It is clear in the data that participants reduce solutions to displacement to two rather than three: return or no return. In this case, those who do not want to return are willing to accept either local integration or resettlement.
Local integration and resettlement
Concern over security and safety back home is the major reason IDPs gave for preferring to integrate in their place of displacement or resettle elsewhere in the country away from their homes. This concern is born out of previous experience of violence and trauma. Another important reason advanced by this category of participants is loss of livelihoods in their communities of origin, which makes them think that there are better opportunities for social and economic empowerment in local integration or resettlement than in voluntary repatriation.
Personal experience of violence
Some of the IDPs who indicated preference for local integration were emphatic during the interviews that they will never return to their homes:
“We’ll never go back. Return is not an option at all to me. There is a challenge in return. I cannot go back … I would prefer to remain here and integrate. But we cannot return to our homes. We have suffered enough. We can’t.” (001 encamped female IDP, Malkohi).
“You see the first option (return), I don’t like it … Even if I will be given a new house there and all that, I would prefer to stay here…” (002 Female encamped IDP, Malkohi)
When one of the participants quoted above was asked why she felt local integration or resettlement are better for her than return, she mentioned “fear” and “suffering” resulting from Boko Haram’s violence and during their movement to safety as things she would not want to experience again:
“Because of the suffering we went through… Spending days and nights in the bush running for your life barefooted, in rain. You cooked food that you could not eat because of suffering and fear. That is it. So, I prefer to live the rest of my life somewhere far from our former home. If we can get the land to farm where one can get some food to feed one’s family and a house to live, that is much better I believe.” (001 Female encamped IDP, Malkohi)
Others were of the view that although they would like to return to their homes, local reintegration or resettlement is more tenable since security has remained a big challenge in their communities of origin. They maintained that they would not want a repeated experience of violence and trauma:
“Everybody wants to go back home since you were born there, and you grew up there. You would like to go back there if there is peace. But if there is no peace, then you must stay somewhere that the government gives to you. So, wherever you find yourself, to stay, where there is peace would be what you want.” (007 female encamped IDP, Malkohi)
“… in my opinion, if I could get somewhere where I would not go through the horror I went through in the past then local integration or resettlement is what would work for me.” (003 Male encamped IDP, Malkohi)
However, for some female IDPs, being married means it is not up to them to decide which option to accept. For instance, a female IDP indicated her willingness to oblige with her husband’s choices and decisions even if they were against hers:
“…you see even if I choose resettlement, if my husband does not like it then there is nothing I can do but to follow him and return… but I personally prefer resettlement. But if everything normalises, no one will dislike their home… no place like home.” (20 Female encamped IDP, Fufore)
This thinking shows that there is a gender dimension to decision-making during displacement and exile. Traditional androcentric norms which give men the power to decide what to do in the family appear to also influence how decisions are made within families even in emergency situations. Even though the principle of durable solution requires giving displaced persons the opportunity to make voluntary decisions on whether or not to return to their place of origin, there is a sense that some displaced women lack the decision-making power.
Although some male encamped displaced persons have cited safety and previous experience of violence as the main reason for rejecting voluntary repatriation, more women have echoed this concern during interviews. This is not surprising given that women and children were targets of abductions, rape and enslavement by the Boko Haram terrorists. Some of the participants narrated how they were forced to watch the gruesome execution of their sons and husbands by the terrorists.
Loss of livelihoods
Another important reason IDPs gave for their preference of local integration over voluntary repatriation is the loss of economic livelihood following the war and displacement. As one male participant stated during the interview:
“all that we had is lost now. Even before we left, everything we had was burnt or stolen. My farm, my house, my belongings… Now we do not have anything… even if we are to go back, where can we even start…?” (019 Male encamped IDP, Fufore)
These participants believe that it would not be possible to rebuild their livelihoods if they were to go back to their place of origin. They believe that it is easier to settle in their place of displacement and rebuild their livelihoods than in the war-torn villages and towns they fled.
In addition to loss of livelihoods support systems following violence, persecution and exile, some IDPs also indicated that availability of immediate needs and safety are major reasons given for the choice of local integration.
Vulnerability, powerlessness and uncertainty
Vulnerability, powerlessness and uncertainty are also some of the concepts that emerged in the views expressed by participants who prefer local integration or resettlement. Vulnerability was echoed as a factor that may prevent them from return. The perception of powerlessness on the part of displaced persons as well as the feeling of uncertainty as to what the future may hold after return have also been echoed to justify the choice of local integration over return.
As can be seen from the quotations of participants above, displaced persons living in government run camps are more likely than self-settled IDPs to express desires for local integration or relocation and reject voluntary return to their area of origin.
Majority of self-settled IDPs interviewed reject the idea of local integration. For instance, two self-settled IDPs mentioned the following reasons during an FGD:
“As I told you earlier, we are well received by the Fulani community here. However, everyone of us is anxious to return home. They gave us land to farm, yet their cattle encroached on our farms all the time and we cannot confront them.” (Male self-settled IDP, FGD)
“I swear to Allah, we have never received assistance from either Gwoza local government or the Borno state government. We are not receiving assistance as those in the nearby camp. And no matter how long we live here, the hosts will continue to treat us a Gwoza not Adamawa people. So… there is no point in remaining here once Gwoza is safe for return.” (Male self-settled IDP, FGD)
Study participants who expressed preference for voluntary repatriation/return to their homes cited socio-economic reasons such as reunion with their families and restoring of severed social and community networks as their major concern. Another concern salient in the narratives of participants who prefer voluntary repatriation is the need to rebuild livelihoods. Participants also mentioned ‘attachment to home’ as an important motivation for return. It is, however, important to note that all participants who consider return as their most preferred choice have identified peace and safety as a precondition for return.
“To be candid, if it was possible, return to Gwoza would be the best solution. If peace returns to Gwoza and every village is secure, you will not find a single individual here tomorrow. All of us will go back.” (Self-settled male IDP, FGD)
Reunion with family
The need to reunite with family and relations has emerged as the most widely mentioned reason for return by all categories of IDPs who see voluntary repatriation as the most viable of the three traditional durable solutions to their displacement.
“…if home is safe, going back home would be the best, you have your remaining relatives, your kids would also know their relatives, you would be free, there is no place like home, that is if it is safe. But if it is not, anywhere, a Nigerian would stay.” (004 self-settled male IDP)
“I would choose returning if I could get the necessary support I needed, such as capital to start my business. My mother is still alive and there are orphaned children of my late brother who was killed by the terrorists, 7 of them. I took them to Maiduguri and came back… and I have a female sister there, so I took them to her. They are going back to my village from Maiduguri… it was Allah’s will that we are separated. I and my husband, with our two kids were here before. But, as people were going back to Maiduguri, they followed them… It is destined to be like that… I will return back to my village and work. At least I have stayed long enough in displacement. Almost two years, I praise Allah” (024 Female encamped IDP)
Apart from safety, the participants quoted above imply that a sustainable return home to reunite with family requires economic support through the provision of capital and skills. The first participant quoted further added that from the information they are receiving from those who fled recently, the area is still not secure, as raids by insurgents and armed confrontations with the military are still ongoing.
Restoring social and community network
A number of IDPs emphasised the importance of social and community ties which were severed following displacement and exile. Such participants opined that if they would be safe and protected, return would be a more desirable and sustainable solution, as it offers them another opportunity to restore and rebuild their social and community network. As can be seen from the view expressed by the participant quoted below, status deprivation during displacement is another reason advanced by a small number of participants who preferred repatriation over local integration and resettlement.
“if the war ends, and peace returns, it would be necessary for me to go back home, since I am a community leader… I have followers, but if there is no peace, I would rather remain here or resettle elsewhere in the region” (009 male encamped IDP)
Despite their cultural connections to ‘home’ and the need to restore social and community ties, this category of IDPs has serious concerns over security and safety.
Displacement and exile were viewed by many of the IDPs we interviewed as involving the loss of livelihood resources and other sources of life support. Accordingly, the need to recover lost natural capital, especially land, as well as job was found to be one of the major reasons for wanting to return home among mostly self-settled IDPs. Also, lack of access to natural and man-made capital in their place of refuge and the hope that some of the life-supporting resources that are missing would be regained upon return were mentioned by IDPs:
“…farming was our major occupation that sustained us in the past. We used to feed and clothe ourselves from what we got from our farms. Even our weddings and childbirth were funded from the proceeds of farming. There was nothing that we used to do to get sustenance other than farming. Before we came here, all of us were self-sufficient, we never knew anything called begging, neither did we depend on anybody to help us with anything. It was after we arrived here that we began to realise that a human can be so helpless and dependent on others. We never knew anything like this. We are historically an independent and hardworking people…So for us, if we can get back to our farmlands to use our labour and cultivate, we would be grateful to Allah.” (Self-Settled IDP FGD)
As indicated by the participant quoted above, return home could guarantee self-sufficiency and sustainable income and, in effect, bring an end to their current state of ‘dependency’ and ‘helplessness’. A durable solution to this category of IDPs is one that would guarantee sustainable income through self-reliance and independent pursuit of economic goals.
One major distinction between self-settled and encamped IDPs is access to land for farming. Self-settled IDPs in Malkohi village, for instance, have revealed that the host community has provided them with lands for both settlement and farming. IDPs living in government-run farms do not have land where they can farm. Despite having access to land and freedom of movement, majority of self-settled IDPs in Malkohi village prefer voluntary repatriation over local integration. These IDPs mentioned stigmatisation in the host community, tension between IDP farmers and their pastoral hosts and lack of humanitarian assistance to self-settled IDPs compared to those in camps as some of the reasons why they prefer voluntary return.
Passivity, resignation and pessimism
There were a few IDPs interviewed who indicated that they were willing to accept any solution offered to them. The variety of views this category of participants expressed during interviews and FGDs indicate passivity, resignation and pessimism.
The first set of views is based on the belief in divine destiny, that is, the view that ‘everything is controlled by God’, including their sustenance and their future. This belief leads to ‘submission’ to the will of God as a means of coping with situations where individuals are faced with difficult choices that require difficult decisions. Although the belief has featured prominently throughout the data, some participants have used it to express their indifference and passivity regarding durable solutions:
“Well, the earth belongs to Allah… south, north, east and west…yeah… whichever place is more peaceful is the best... (okay) so… if I were asked to choose one… whether home or here or elsewhere..., to be candid, if we can have the house and other things, anywhere is okay” (016 male encamped IDP)
Even though this participant has surrendered his affairs to the will of God, he still underscores the need for sustainable housing and other life-supporting resources wherever he finds himself. Another participant suggested that whether she is asked to return, integrate or relocate, her major needs are food and farmland to feed her orphaned children and a house to live in:
“…well either going home or settling here or in a new place… all that is required is two things - food and land, as for health, it is in the hands of Allah… orphans’ care is also in the hands of Allah… that is my thought” (019 female encamped IDP)
Some participants suggest that while they are willing to accept any solution presented to them by the government, they are pessimistic the government is sincere, committed and capable of fulfilling its promises. The participant quoted below was implying that institutional failures and lack of sincerity will prevent any effective implementation of durable solutions in a way that would address their livelihood needs:
“Well, there is one thing, the Nigerian government is good at making empty promises, whether you go home or stayed here it all depends… if you go home you may yet be homeless, if you stay here for how long would you stay?” (020 male encamped IDP)
In addition to the feeling that the government lacks the capacity to support them to meet their basic economic and social needs, there is an obvious fear of ‘homelessness’ after return and ‘uncertainty’ in the case of local integration among some IDPs. The tension resulting from these conflicting possible outcomes is resolved by fatalistic beliefs in divine preordination and destiny. This thinking on the part of IDPs underscores the pitfalls of institutional failures such as corruption and inefficiency on humanitarian assistance and development in conflict situations.
Durable solutions, peace and security
A major recurrent theme in the narratives of all participants regardless of preferences of durable solution is the issue of peace, security and an end to the war. Both IDPs who preferred voluntary repatriation identified insecurity and the continuation of fighting as the biggest obstacle to the realisation of their dream of returning home:
“The problem is Boko Haram is still in control of much of the area around Gwoza. The entire villages outside of the town of Gwoza is still under Boko Haram. They are everywhere. You cannot even go outside the town to get firewood with a military escort and even with the escort you must be very quick, otherwise they would attack you.” (Male self-settled IDP, FGD)
“The area is still unsafe. You see this man (points to one of the IDPs standing), he has been living in Gwoza. He just escaped from the town two weeks ago. He is now here looking for a place to live.” (Male self-settled IDP, Malkohi village)
Another participant in the FGD added:
The military conducted a patrol once outside the town and sacked Boko Haram from two neighbouring villages. But since then, the did not make any attempt to expand their operations outside the town. They even rescued some villagers who were unable to escape, including one of my nieces who is crippled. She was brought to Gwoza by the army during that operation. They did that operation with the help of local vigilantes. They did another operation in Belneke once, that is all. But within the town of Gwoza, there is peace. But outside the town, there is no security at all. (Male self-settled IDP, FGD)
In addition to echoing the view that Boko Haram is still in control of much of the areas the Nigerian military claimed to have liberated in Borno, many IDPs pointed out that they do not expect the military to end the war and restore normalcy in the area anytime soon. We asked one the officers responsible for camp management about how they are implementing durable solutions when security remains a big challenge. He responded:
“We have done a durable solution survey here recently. The governor Adamawa State has formed a durable solution committee which comprises of all major humanitarian agencies operating in this state. Based on our survey, majority of them want to go back home, if their towns and villages are secure. A few of them said they prefer to be resettled elsewhere. And you know, they are different people with different preferences and experiences… The main challenge is the war is still going on. The military had reclaimed some territories previously governed by the terrorists. But the war is far from over… and we cannot allow them to return only to be displaced again, abducted, or even killed.”
These views show that achieving durable solutions to the problem of protracted displacement in the Northeast Nigeria depends on the actual resolution of the conflict and an end of all armed hostilities. As one female IDP recalled, Boko Haram had followed them to their place of refuge in Malkohi camp, Adamawa, and carried out a suicide bomb attack that killed a scores of IDPs and camp officials in September 2015. According to her, even after resettlement or local integration, IDPs still have concerns over the ability of the government to prevent future displacement and keep them safe from Boko Haram’s violence.