As the Nazi leaders quickened their preparations for the
European war of conquest that they intended to unleash, anti-
Semitic legislation in Germany and Austria paved the way for
more radical persecution of Jews. These, as the reader may
recall, led to the expulsion of millions, as well as the genocidal
activity involving the extermination of six million Jews in
Germany alone. The government of Adolf Hitler required Jews
to identify themselves in ways that would permanently
separate them from the rest of the population. In August 1938,
German authorities decreed that by January 1, 1939, Jewish
men and women bearing first names of “non-Jewish” origin
had to add “Israel” and “Sara,” respectively, to their given
names. All Jews were obliged to carry identity cards that
indicated their Jewish heritage, and, in the autumn of 1938, all
Jewish passports were stamped with an identifying letter “J”.
In the build-up to the genocide, Jews were removed from public
services and purged from the security services. Their children’s
enrolment in schools was curtailed and access to business
opportunities and most public buildings were stopped. Signs as
indicated above, “Jews Unwelcome” were a common sight at
In addition to Germany, history has shown elsewhere that
practices requiring displaced persons to carry ID cards to
distinguish them as a non-indigene or “outsider” has only
served to promote further discrimination and marginalization.
A look at a few more global examples of ID card discrimination
may be useful for this discussion.
Starting in 1935, the Belgians began a national ID system in
Rwanda that indicated whether a person was “Tutsi”, “Hutu”
or “Twa”. The Belgian government supported the Tutsis political
power and sought ways to distinguish them from the rest of
the inhabitants. The means to determining these classifications
was highly arbitrary, based on physical appearances and the
personal property of the person in question. The primary
justification for this distinction was the “lighter” skin of the
Tutsi people, signifying to the occupiers that they may have
European ancestry. The privileges afforded by the Tutsis led
to increased resentment by the Hutu populations who had been
marginalized during Belgian rule, leading to several conflicts
and finally the genocide of nearly one million Tutsis in 1994.
South Africa has an extensive history in using ID cards, called
“passes”, to restrict the movement of black people within the
territory. Passes were used to exclude native populations from
the Cape Colony. Later in 1923 the Natives (Urban Areas) Act
deemed certain areas in South Africa as “whites”, requiring all
black persons in the areas to carry around passes at all times.
Any black person found without a pass would be arrested and
relocated outside of the “white” area.
So the discriminatory policies gradually being churned out by
our brothers in South-Eastern Nigeria, against their own
Northern brothers is really nothing new or unique to humanity.
The government of Enugu has said that they are embarking on
a house-to-house registration of Nigerian citizens of Northern
extraction in their midst while the neighbouring Imo state has
taken the further step of planning an Identity Card scheme
that every Northerner living in the state will henceforth have
to carry, and produce upon request. The government of Imo
has, in addition, prescribed that northerners (read aliens) who
are certified to continue in their state must henceforth show
evidence of work that they doing and that any who did not
have this will not be allowed to live in the state “to engage in
terrorism.” Another sore issue related to this, but of a different nature, is
the increasing profiling of Northerners and Muslims in the
region, as exemplified by the stop-and-search operation by
the military in the state of Abia, as a result of which nearly
fifty buses ferrying about four hundred northerners were
barred from prom proceeding to their destination, Port
Harcourt. This was on the basis of the allegation that the
traders and migrant workers were Boko Haram terrorists. Of
this number kept in detention for about two weeks, some were
actually wedding parties, delivering a newly-wed bride to her
suitor in Calabar
and Port Harcourt.
It is also now known that a large number of these travellers
are persons internally displaced by fighting between Boko
Haram and Government and others by poverty and killings
between tribes and the followers of different religions.
But a few of them, as said by the army, were actually found to
be Boko Haram. If Boko Haram are seen and barred from
public places because of the harm they can cause, there is
nothing wrong with that. Boko Haram is a problem for every
one-Christian, Muslim, men and women, children and the aged
whom they merrily kill and whose resources they pillage.
Everyone is a victim.
Last year, I bought a three-bedroom apartment in a growing
settlement somewhere behind the Bayero University in Kano. I
paid two thirds of the money through my cousin who inspected
the building and approved the purchase. I was informed that
the remaining third of the amount would be paid for the
property to be taken over upon vacation by the sitting tenant.
Before the man’s time was up, an incident happened in the city
which the reader may have been well aware of. The respected
late Emir, Ado Bayero, was attacked by terrorists and he
barely escaped with his life. After a few days of investigation,
the soldiers stormed this same building, taking away the
tenant who they said was a suspect in the attack on the emir.
On their arrival at the premise, they used a bulldozer to bring
down the gate, went inside and grabbed their suspect.
Once the word was out, children and the unemployed in the
neighbourhood stormed the house, chased the women and
children out and looted the whole place. Before day break, not
only had they removed furniture and fittings but that the
roof had gone and the blocks were being dissembled. It was a
personal loss and a sacrifice one had to bear and there is no
where you can obtain a redress. An existing policy in the city is
that wherever a terrorist is caught, the entire structure is
The plight of displaced persons who are mostly economic
migrants among the Abia 400+ should be a matter for concern
for the international community considering the disturbing lack
of interest of the Nigerian Federal government in actions that
clearly amount to an assault on the constitution.
The International Federation of Social Workers, IFSW, states
that, “marginalised within their own society and facing the
emotional trauma of their uprooting experience, displaced
people turn into excluded people who suffer loss of economic
opportunities, breakdown of cultural identity, loosening of
social and familial structures, interruption of schooling and
increased poverty levels. They also suffer from grief relating
to dead or missing family members and, in extreme cases,
resort to delinquency and begging in order to survive.”
I fear that if displaced persons are required to carry ID to
distinguish themselves as non-native residents of a territory,
we will find ourselves with millions of disenfranchised people
whose desperation will cause them to turn to illegal activities to
survive. In fact marginalization will only serve to breed
resentment that could push people to retaliate with violence.
It is up to us to raise ourselves above such trivial distinctions
and to remind ourselves that it is our duty as Nigerians and as
a people to respect and help our brethren in need. Nigerians
must harness their empathetic instincts and recognize the pain
and suffering that internally displaced Nigerians have
endured and to make our best efforts towards reintegrating
them into society and making them feel comfortable in their
new homes regardless of the length of their residency. We
must work to remind them that they are still members of the
Nigerian family and that there is hope for a better tomorrow.
Profiling of citizens in accordance with their religion and
ethnicity is wrong and condemnable. We saw what it led to
against the Jews in Europe and the Tutsi minority in Rwanda.
State governments trying to create this type of environment
with the silent complicity of the Nigerian Federal Government
must know that the United Nations has a tribunal trying
genocide cases all over the world and that this country is a
signatory to that treaty.