More than 200,000 Nigerians displaced by a long-running Islamist insurgency are struggling for food and shelter after authorities in the northeast shut some of the camps they were living in and stopped aid, Human Rights Watch said in a report on Wednesday.
Borno state, the epicentre of the insurgency, announced in October 2021 that it was shutting all camps holding thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and returning some of them to their communities, citing improved security and a need to wean them from humanitarian aid.
But Human Rights Watch said IDPs who were removed from the camps were struggling to meet their most basic needs, including food and shelter in the places to which they had returned or where they had resettled.
The rights group said as of August this year, more than 140,000 people had been removed from eight IDP camps in Borno while food aid to two more camps had been stopped. The camps hold more than 74,000 people and will close this year.
"The Borno state government is harming hundreds of thousands of displaced people already living in precarious conditions to advance a dubious government development agenda to wean people off humanitarian aid," Anietie Ewang, Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in the report.
"By forcing people from camps without creating viable alternatives for support, the government is worsening their suffering and deepening their vulnerability."
Borno state commissioner for information Babakura Abba Jato said he could not immediately comment on the report.
The Borno state government says some areas formerly occupied by insurgents were now safe for citizens to return to and has rebuilt some communities although aid groups say they remain vulnerable to attacks.
Some of the camps and settlements for IDPs have been hit by a cholera outbreak, which has strained sanitation facilities and drinking water sources, with children the worst hit.
Last month, about 2,000 people started moving into a new residential complex in Ngarannam, 50 km (31 miles) outside Borno capital Maiduguri, which was rebuilt by the United Nations and Borno state government.
Ngarannam was overrun by insurgents in 2015. (Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Additional reporting by Maiduguri newsroom; Editing by Sandra Maler)