Worsening violence doubled the number of people displaced from north-west Nigeria to 40000 over the past four months, the United Nations said.
The UN’s refugee agency said the turmoil created a “new humanitarian emergency” requiring a fresh inter-agency fundraising effort of $35.5 million by year-end.
UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch said Boko Haram, the Islamist group waging a decade-long insurgency in the north of the country, was not responsible for the latest attacks.
The upsurge of violence in the past 10 months in Sokoto, Zamfara and Katsina states in Nigeria was the work of organised armed groups.
“It paints a horrible picture of lawlessness and insecurity,” he told journalists.
He said there were frequent reports of kidnapping, torture, extortion, murder and sexual violence by attackers who also destroy homes and steal property.
Military and police are deployed to tackle criminal gangs in the region.
The military is stretched from fighting against Boko Haram and Islamic State’s West Africa branch, which split from the former group in 2016.
“The refugees are not coming with names of groups,” he said. “What they are coming with are horrific accounts.”
Those fleeing mostly cross into Niger. In a statement, the UNHCR said it expected more to flee in the coming months as the security situation, particularly in Sokoto state, deteriorates.