The vast majority of the close to two million Nigerians driven from their homes by the Boko Haram conflict cannot return because of a lack of security, an aid agency said.
About 1.8 million people have been displaced in Nigeria by the conflict with the Islamist insurgency, which has left at least 20,000 dead and shows little sign of ending as it drags into its ninth year.
The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) said in a report 86% of internally displaced people were not ready to return home in the immediate future. Insecurity is cited by 84% of them as the main reason for wanting to stay put, it said.
Only about six in 10 people said they wanted to return to their villages at some point, but could not do so now, the NRC report said.
Many displaced say they have tried to return home, only to be forced to flee to safer camps and cities because of continued Boko Haram attacks by and general insecurity.
“While the end game is for communities to return home, the unfortunate truth is pushing people back now will have harmful consequences,” Jan Egeland, NRC secretary general, said in a statement.
Boko Haram has in recent months increased attacks on displaced people, they still feel safer in camps and urban centres than in their communities, said Egeland.
The Nigerian government and military have repeatedly said the insurgency has been “defeated”.
Boko Haram killed 381 civilians in Nigeria and Cameroon since the beginning of April, more than double the dead in the preceding five months, Amnesty International said last month.
The NRC survey did not take into account the roughly 200,000 refugees who fled to neighbouring countries such as Cameroon, Chad and Niger.
The humanitarian crisis in northern Nigeria is now one of the biggest in the world, with $1 billion needed to fund relief efforts in 2017, the United Nations says.