Tuesday, 5 May 2020

Understanding The Synergy Between Ministry Of Humanitarian Affairs And NEMA By Michael Jimoh


Trawling through twitter, this writer came across a tweet – HM @sadiya_farouq on an
official visit to @nemanigeria. The DG updated the Hon. Minister @sadiya_farouq
and the perm sec Jalal Arabi on the activities, interventions and responses of
@nemanigeria with respect to the #COVID 19 pandemic.

A comment caught my eye – “What is this woman @sadiya_farouq doing again with
NEMA?”

My first instinct was to consider the question, what is the Minister of Humanitarian
Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development doing with NEMA? But the
moment I considered the question, the answer popped up almost immediately. The
ministry’s mandate under - Disaster Management is completely aligned with the
mandate of NEMA.

NEMA short for National Emergency Management Agency was established via Act 12 as
amended by Act 50 of 1999, to manage disasters in Nigeria with a clearly defined
objective - tackle disaster related issues through the establishment of concrete
structures.

Its mission, as spelt out on its website, is to “coordinate resource towards efficient and
effective disaster prevention, preparation, mitigation and response in Nigeria” while its
vision is “to build a culture of preparedness, prevention, response and community
resilience to disaster in Nigeria.”

The Ministry on the other hand established in 2019 with a mandate to develop
humanitarian policies and provide effective coordination of national and international
humanitarian interventions, ensure strategic disaster mitigation, preparedness and
response, while managing the formulation and implementation of equity focused social
inclusion and protection programmes in Nigeria.

A close reading will show that there are several points at which the raison d’ etre of
NEMA intersects with that of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster
Management and Social Development. But before we consider those points of
intersection and alignment, let us take a quick trip to America.

Even the most cursory look at NEMA vis a vis its name, mission and vision will leave no
one in doubt that the spirit and the letter came from America’s Federal Emergency
Management Agency (FEMA). In America, FEMA is responsible for coordinating the
federal government's response to natural and man-made disasters. Its mission
statement is simple and speaks to proactiveness – “helping people before, during and
after disasters.”
FEMA was established in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter via Executive Order 12127.
The executive order merged many of the disparate disaster-related responsibilities into

the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Upon its establishment, FEMA
absorbed the following: The Federal Insurance Administration, The National Fire
Prevention and Control Administration, The National Weather Service Community
Preparedness Program, The Federal Preparedness Agency of the General Services
Administration as well as the Federal Disaster Assistance Administration activities from
Housing and Urban Development while Civil defense responsibilities were also
transferred to the new agency from the Defense Department's Defense Civil
Preparedness Agency.
FEMA enjoyed autonomy for all of 24 years before it was subsumed under the newly
created Department of Homeland Security in 2003, two years after the 9/11 bombing of
2001, America’s biggest man-made disaster. The Department was set up ostensibly to
“better coordinate among the different federal agencies that deal with law enforcement,
disaster preparedness and recovery, border protection and civil defense.”

In subsuming FEMA under the Department of Homeland Security and providing it with
cabinet level oversight, the President George W. Bush administration noted that though
effective, FEMA had over its 24 year existence carried out its mandate in concert with
other disparate federal and state agencies and they all had failed to present a single,
unifying and wide ranging strategy to meet the nation’s disaster preparedness and
management.

17 years later, FEMA is a larger and much strengthened agency reporting to the
Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

20 years after NEMA was created in Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari created the
Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development. The
overarching intention was to create a ministry that would facilitate and oversee the
preparedness and management of the nation’s humanitarian programmes, disaster
management activities as well as social investment programmes.

Such a ministry has become imperative in a country where the North East has been
devastated by over a decade of insurgency which has taken unprecedented human and
infrastructural toll on the nation; personal and forced migrations have become topical
issues that dot our newspaper headlines; the term IDP has become part of our daily
lingo due to internal displacements precipitated by sundry crises; incidents of flooding
have been on the increase no thanks to climate change and environmental degradation
while the death toll continues to rise from incidents of fire disasters, pipeline explosions
as well as other man-made disasters that continue to exert pressure on the government
and populace.

These exigencies made it imperative for a ministry that would provide oversight as well
as a single, unifying and comprehensive strategy to meet the humanitarian, disaster
management and social development needs of a country like Nigeria.
A few months after its creation, the ministry was put through its paces when it
facilitated the return of over 130 Nigerians who were stuck in Cameroun. Many who

knew the Minister’s antecedents did not find that particularly newsworthy because they
saw her doing what she had always done because prior to her appointment as Minister,
Sadiya Umar Farouq had acquitted herself creditably as the Honourable Federal
Commissioner of the National Commission for Refugee, Migrants and Internally
Displaced Persons (NCFRMI).

Because it was her quick interventions and leadership from the front in the wake of two
devastating incidents that finally put her in the bull’s eye of the press and public.
Boko Haram’s attack on Auno in crisis plagued Borno state left one score and ten people
dead while a pipeline explosion in the Abule Edo area of Lagos led to over 20 fatalities.
Sadiya Umar Farouq was quick to carry out on-the-spot assessments which were
followed by the provision of relief materials and medical supplies.

Under her sway, the North East Development Commission (NEDC) has become more
engaged and only recently announced the construction of a 14-bed and 21-bed facility,
each close to a large IDP Camp in Maiduguri using pre-fabrication technology to serve
as COVID-19 Isolation Centres in the North-East.

With the Covid 19 pandemic, Honourable Minister Sadiya Umar Farouq and the
ministry she superintends have suddenly been thrust into the forefront of the battle
against Covid-19. Today, the major bodies in the vanguard of attack are clearly the
Presidential Task Force (PTF), the Nigerian Center for Disease Control (NCDC) and the
Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development.

The Ministry, to give impetus to its interventions, inaugurated a Technical Working
Group (TWG) on March 27th, 2020 to complement the efforts of the PTF in providing
humanitarian and social interventions as Covid-19 rages. The TWG is comprised of all
the Agencies and programs under the supervision of the Ministry; which have been
pooled to operationalize the Ministry-led response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ministry is providing, in a single, unified and comprehensive manner, humanitarian
assistance to the poor and vulnerable, awareness and sensitization to persons of concern
as well as relief and palliatives as social impact interventions during this crisis.

These interventions are more comprehensive and wide ranging and clearly beyond the
remit of a disaster management agency like NEMA. So, like Bush did with FEMA,
Buhari has done with NEMA, bringing the agency under the away of a broader and more
strategic ministry for the good of the larger majority.
Now, we know what that woman @sadiya_farouq is doing with NEMA?
**Mike Jimoh, a communications analyst writes from Lagos

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