Until two years ago, not many Nigerians know much about disaster management or the existence of its coordinating body in the country, alias NEMA. When Muhammadu Sani Sidi, a former Commissioner in the then Architect Muhammadu Namadi Sambo led Kaduna state government, was appointed to oversee the affairs of NEMA as its Chief Executive Officer and Director General in September 2010, little or nothing was known about the agency. Since assuming office, Sani Sidi as an astute administrator, humanitarian and a politician with a difference, has tried all he can to re position the agency as a fast growing disaster management arm of the government of the federation. He has with all seriousness emphasized the need for collaboration and partnership with all stakeholders in disaster management (DM). He has embarked on a transformational programme for the agency and shifting it from being a mere relief intervention outfit to being an active proactive agency working day in and out to deal with disasters through a number of disaster risk reduction (DRR) measures. Indeed, DM in this country has now moved up to the next level. He has in the last two years prioritise DRR through international cooperation, experience sharing and capacity building. He has placed so much emphasis on the cycle of disaster through prevention, mitigation, preparedness and rehabilitation at all times.
Local and foreign Capacity building for staff and all critical stakeholders by Sani Sidi is no doubt one area that has continuously attracted his attention and funding. This is done though normal training sessions and also through simulations, particularly at the Jaji armed forces simulation centre. This further enhances the state of preparedness of all stakeholders.
The total, timely and commensurate funding of six Nigerian universities to offer courses at post graduate levels on DM in the country has further boosted the profile of DM in the country. Such Universities are ABU Zaria, FUT Minna, University of Port Harcourt, UNN Enugu campus, University of Ibadan and University of Maiduguri. This is in the area of promoting research activities within the context of DM in the country.
Today, even an editorial in one of the Nigerian newspapers- Leadership Weekend of September 22, 2012 said: “NEMA is one agency that works. Its impact has been felt by almost every one and everywhere, at least in the last two years”. There is no gainsaying in the fact that NEMA under the focused and able leadership of Sani Sidi has gone beyond provision of relief materials, resettling victims of disasters and responding with all its might to disasters like fire, flood, road accidents and lately bomb blasts among others. Regrettably, the states’ SEMAs and LEMCs at the local levels are certainly missing in action. Even though they also receive funding from the ecological accounts, the states and the LGAs respectively always look on to NEMA for all disasters in their areas of jurisdiction even where the disasters are within their coping capacities.
The NEMA DG has left no stone unturned in his advocacy visits, information dissemination and public enlightenment on all DM issues at the headquarters and in the 7 zonal offices of the Agency across the country. Such approach has greatly improved public image and perception of the agency in the eyes of its stakeholders and members of the public. The relentless efforts of Sani Sidi in ensuring that DM in the country is practiced within the confines of global best practice is an evidence of his commitment to move DM to the next level in the country. This effort has paid off with the development of policy documents that will stand the test of time. The national disaster framework and the national contingency plan are today legacies that will outlive the tenure of Sani Sidi in NEMA. These documents are to respectively be a manual for coordinating DM structures in the country and provide requirements and plans for humanitarian responses for 10 000 displaced persons during emergencies.
In his attempt to improve response time by NEMA and its stakeholders to disasters and with a view to containing minor disasters and reduce the chances of them growing to full scale emergencies, Sani Sidi created a toll free line of 0800 CALL NEMA (0800 2255 6362) for the purpose of responding promptly to distress calls. Added to this, is the state of the art full operational capacity (FOC) of its mission control centre(MCC) by the COSPAS-SARSAT secretariat which is a satellite based equipment that provides maritime, aviation and land distress alerts and location information for search and rescue services.
Satisfied with the giant strides in DM by Sani Sidi in Nigeria, The Gambian government recently commissioned NEMA to assist it set up a national emergency management agency for the country.
Sani Sidi’s modest landmarks in NEMA in general and DM in particular are too numerous to mention in one swoop. His other achievements are put in the archives for now. So far, the story of DM in the country under the leadership of Sani Sidi has been so far so good. What he needs now and forever is continuous support and collaboration from all stakeholders and staff to further improve on his achievements.
By Musa Ilallah, 15 Wurno Road, Kaduna