19 December 2012

Nigeria: NEMA and the Drive for Disaster Prevention Strategies


Umar Farouk of the Kaduna based Transparency Center Network first drew the attention of my team - Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria [HURIWA] about what he called the silent revolution going on at the National Emergency Management Agency [NEMA] under the able leadership of its Director-General, Muhammad Sani-Sidi. But we are not new to monitoring the progress of work going on in this agency of the federal government that has always been lucky to have good and committed patriots as the driving force in the last couple of years.

Sani Sidi was appointed to lead NEMA in September, 2012. Prior to his appointment, he was a commissioner in various ministries in Kaduna State when he served under the then Governor Namadi Sambo, Nigeria's current Vice President. Some of the ministries included that of Works, Environment and Health.

Muhammad Sani-Sidi has achieved a lot towards disaster management in the country. On December 10, 2012 when our association presented him with the Human Rights Person Of The Year award in commemoration of the annual International Human Rights Day, Sani-Sidi admitted in the most humble manner that his management team is prepared to do more towards driving the national process of inculcating disaster prevention strategies on the citizens and to encourage local and state governments to activate strong, effective and vibrant disaster management and prevention strategies and also to create national awareness on disaster management.

So far, in the last two years, the current management of NEMA has achieved various milestones that include organizing of seminars and workshops to raise public awareness and build capacity of participants; conscientize Nigerians on the necessity for timely response to disaster and emergency situations; create enabling environment for adequate mobilization of stakeholders on disaster management; co-ordinate and collaborate with response agencies on operations. NEMA is credited with the successful evacuation of Nigerians from troubled countries like Egypt, Tunisia and Libya just as the agency has remained in the forefront of implementing her core mandate which include the provision of relief materials to victims of natural and man-induced disasters and embarking on advocacy visits and massive public awareness campaign.

NEMA today has become very visible, active and responsive whenever there are outbreaks of floods, bomb explosions, flood, collapse buildings, erosion, thunderstorms, market fire among others. But one challenge that the agency needs to overcome is to take disaster awareness to the grassroots and to lobby the 36 states Houses of Assembly to ensure that mechanisms put in place for disaster prevention and management in those states and local government councils are made effective because the rural communities are some of the most disaster prone areas and often because the local government administrations are undermined by the state governors, most area councils are often not well positioned to become effective first responders whenever disasters occur.

A graduate of Business Administration from the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, the current Director General of NEMA is indeed a square peg in a square hole. He holds a Masters Degree in International Affairs and Diplomacy and is a member of several professional bodies, including the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM), the International Emergency Management Society (TIEMS), Belgium and Institute of Civil Protection and Emergency (ICPEM), United Kingdom.

-Onwubiko is the Head, Human Rights Writers Association Of Nigeria

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