By Robert Audu
Since the advent of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015, the country has witnessed significant progress in critical areas such as security, agriculture, health, and education.
Also, another area where the president has scored high is in the recent handling of the flooding in some states by the National Emergency Management Agency ( NEMA). The rapid response as displayed by NEMA in managing the flood disaster in the country gives an insight into how President Muhammadu Buhari has continued to pilot the affairs of this country with sincerity of heart and purpose.
Let me digress a little. Before 2015, Boko Haram unleashed hell on innocent women and children. Families were displaced, fathers were maimed and executed in the presence of their families, and sources of livelihood were destroyed. It was indeed a tale of gloom, sorrow, and blood. Yes, that was what was witnessed in North East Nigeria before President Muhammadu Buhari came on board. I stand to be corrected.
Also, the theft of our commonwealth reached an alarming state, so much that Nigeria was on the brinks. We were a witness where individuals received a massive amount of monies from government coffers for doing nothing. Also, monies meant for critical government infrastructure ended up in private pockets. Civil servants had a free-for-all with government funds scattered in commercial banks. Nigeria was indeed a banana republic at that time. But not anymore with the coming President Muhammadu Buhari.
Some might not like him for the radical reforms he introduced. Some might also not like him for the mere fact that it is no longer business as usual. But in truth, if a census of those that are complaining about the governing style of President Muhammadu Buhari, is taken, it would be realized that the core of them are those that fleeced the system and the realization that business has ended, gives them sleepless nights.
Back to the crux of the issue, the management of the flood disaster that ravaged some parts of the country.
I would as a first say that the director general of NEMA, Engr. Mustapha Maihaja deserves some commendation. I say this because as a stakeholder in the sector, I was witness to the actions and inactions of NEMA from the word go when the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) issued an early warning on the possibility of flooding in some parts of the country.
And NEMA swung into action. It conveyed a stakeholder’s forum to discuss modalities on effective management of the situation. At the conference, DG of NEMA stated that there is a need for preparedness. Hear him “ we should be ready for any eventuality. We should invigorate our enlightenment campaign to enlighten the people to inform the frontline states more aggressively further”.
“ One of the ways to take care of this situation is that we have set up a committee of five groups, three persons from each sector will go the villages and cities that will be affected, use all avenues to enlighten the people and make sure they are well informed.”
In my opinion, this act is not only brilliant; it is indeed a testament to the fact that the present administration has indeed placed a high premium on strategic problem-solving skills. And how is this possible you might want to ask? And I would say that it is as a result of the buy-in of the political authorities. I will give an example.
The federal government approved and released the sum of N3 billion to NEMA for the first stages of preparedness, and response disaster mitigation. What stands out of this action is the fact that the government understood that we must be prepared for any eventuality that would arise from the flooding. And NEMA indeed was able to handle the situation most effectively, unlike in times past. And what did we see? Minimal casualties and the likes because of the efforts of the critical stakeholders.
This suffices to add that we should not rest on our oars yet as there is more to be done and can be done if other stakeholders come to the support of the activities of NEMA. For one, NEMA has indeed proved that it is capable of providing sound leadership. The government has also indeed shown a commitment to a worthy cause that affects the lives and sources of livelihoods of ordinary Nigerians who are mostly victims of such natural disasters.
As we all know, disaster management requires enormous funds the world over and Nigeria is not an exception.
The government has done well, but more can be done. The local and international humanitarian organizations must also be involved. Organisations such as the Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs ( OCHA), the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN, the World Food Programme ( WFP), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the World Health Organisation (WHO), must lend a voice and a hand to the operations of NEMA as it continues with the laudable project of disaster management in Nigeria.
I say this because efforts to strengthen disaster prevention, disaster risk management, disaster awareness, and local capacity building are vitally essential to cope with these difficulties. Without adequate and timely relief activities, the insecurity of individuals and communities at a time of need will be heightened, which can eventually lead to increased instability in the country.
NGOs also have become more significant actors than ever before in disaster relief management. For example, after the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean, nearly half of the $ 14 billion pledged in disaster funding involved programs implemented by NGOs.
There are several reasons for this. One practical reason is that, in many cases, the magnitude and frequency of disasters overwhelm governments’ capabilities. And using Nigeria as an example, the government has committed N3billion for preparedness and relief for victims of flooding despite its various commitments in other critical sectors.
In my opinion, the federal government got it right, and that should give a signal to the international humanitarian organizations that they ought to be involved in disaster management in Nigeria because there is a government in place that is proactive, and there is also a disaster and emergency agency that has shown capacity to deal with emergency and disaster situations.
While I would not hesitate to commend President Muhammadu Buhari’s efforts towards making Nigeria a better country for all of us, I also wish to encourage him to continue to render selfless service that he represents and is known for from time immemorial.
Audu is a civil servant and contributed this piece from Abuja.