By Daniel Ochapa
I received with utmost joy the recent nomination of the Director General of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) as the Humanitarian Icon of the Year by TheNigerian News Portal . To also say I was lost for words would be an understatement. My excitement stems from the fact at the DG has been recognized for his excellent work since he assumed headship of NEMA in 2017.
As a background, when Engr. Mustapha Maihaja resumed as the director general of NEMA, some of us expressed reservation given his experience as an engineer. In truth, the bulk of the staff of NEMA held back and refused to accord him that cooperation to hit the ground running. I recall his first maiden meeting with the NEMA team upon resumption, he enumerated his plans and vision for the organization and craved for our cooperation towards this regards.
Afterward, some aligned with his mission to reposition NEMA, while some went all out against him, especially those who saw NEMA as that cash cow they must continue to milk. But when a new Sherriff came to town, they could not understand it because it wasn’t going to be business as usual.
In the annals of NEMA, Engr. Mustapha Maihaja is the only DG that had a clearly defined agenda for the agency. As a fact, one of the areas he has worked tirelessly since assuming office is that of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). I make bold to say that there is no IDP camp in Nigeria that he has not visited either in his official capacity or personal capacity to get firsthand knowledge of things.
Little wonder the massive efforts that have been channelled towards ensuring that IDPs are catered for across the federation. One of such intervention is the Federal Government Food Emergency Intervention in the North East that saw to the distribution of 30,000 metric tonnes of assorted grains for the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the North East. This intervention is a comprehensive livelihood support program for the IDPs, and its impact has been phenomenal in the lives IDPs.
Another area of intervention that NEMA under Engr. Mustapha Maihaja has scored great feat is in the provision of drugs to major hospitals in the zones and deployed medical team and equipment to the North East to support the provision of Medicare to the IDPs while providing working tools for IDPs with expertise in selected skills. NEMA has regularly received returnees from neighbouring countries who fled the country due to the insurgency and presented humanitarian relief assistance to them. NEMA has provided support to the affected populations living in camps, liberated areas, and host communities and to the refugees across the borders.
So, for some of us, the nomination didn’t come as a surprise regardless of the crisis that engulfed the agency at the initial stages of his stint as director general. I stand to be corrected, what NEMA has achieved in less than two years under Engr. Mustapha Maihaja is unprecedented. An area he has distinguished himself is in the area of effecting seamless processes for its activities, and also with proper accountability as a yardstick.
It is therefore on this premise that I think that the DG is deserving of more honours. I say this because we have not had it this pleasant in the annals of the agency. Workers welfare has taken centre stage, entitlements are paid as when due, the work environment is conducive, staff promotions are not stagnated, and the open office policy of the DG is unparallel.
So in a way, TheNigerian News has deemed it worthy to recognize a silent achiever in the person of Engr. Mustapha Maihaja for his contribution towards alleviating the sufferings of the IDPs in the country. I also want to firmly believe that there is more to this nomination other than the fact that he is the head of an agency, but also because he has proven to be a seasoned administrator par excellence.
And NEMA is better for it regarding its operations in recent times. As an insider, and one knowledgeable with the activities of NEMA in times past and now, I would summarise the experience now as Eldorado. Make no mistakes; for some, it might be the worst periods of their careers especially if their stock in trade is business as usual. And so this calibre of persons would never see anything good coming out from NEMA because “business” has seized. And the interesting part is those who fall under this category are usually in the majority for inexplicable reasons hence the perceived uproar and resistance that characterized his early weeks and months in office.
But all of these are in the past now, as everybody now understood the focus and drive of the current management. I would also assume that common sense prevailed and those questioning the rationale behind some of his decisions have realized that for Engr. Mustapha Maihaja, it is service to fatherland above everything else. And this is the mood in NEMA today as it stands.
While the nomination for Humanitarian Icon Award for the year is welcome, it is my considered opinion that it would spur Engr. Mustapha Maihaja to more exceptional service to fatherland and humanity. Lest I forget, he is also nicked named Mr. Transparency by members of the workforce that have keyed into his vision for the agency. As a fact, he has made the whole process at NEMA transparent to a fault that ordinarily, undue interference and preferential are all a thing of the past.
This much I can vouch for, likewise the majority of the staff of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), so much so that I dare say that better days are surely ahead for the management of emergencies in Nigeria. And of most public office holders emulate the work ethics of Engr. Mustapha Maihaja; Nigeria would be better for it in the long run.
This is to extend my congratulations to the DG and wish him more success in his quest to take NEMA to greater heights.
Ochapa, a civil servant wrote this piece from Abuja.