By Abdulkareem Abdul- Samad
The National Emergency Management Agency, (NEMA) is in the news again. This time around for the good of humanity. I am one of those that have long questioned the heavy presence of foreign non-governmental organization supposedly providing humanitarian services in North East Nigeria. I was of the opinion that Nigeria could indeed take care of its humanitarian needs with an agency like NEMA whose mission is to coordinate resources towards efficient and effective disaster prevention, preparedness, mitigation and response in Nigeria.
Having stated the above, it brings me to the question of the influx of foreign NGO’s in northeast Nigeria carrying out humanitarian services, usurping NEMA’s role sometimes without the knowledge the relevant agencies of government. I have longed frowned at this for the apparent fact that some of these so-called NGO’s are carrying out espionage activities on behalf of nefarious groups and individuals who do not wish Nigeria well, and those systematically fuelling the Boko Haram insurgency.
This is why I was elated when news filtered in that the leadership of NEMA has relocated to the North East and addressing the relocation and settlement of IDP’s and all other issues relating to IDPs. The implication of this is that Nigeria would have a better grasp of the issues affecting IDPs and develop a long-lasting framework for disaster management situations in Nigeria. Aside from this, the influx of these organizations would not enable the relevant authorities to keep track of the humanitarian crisis in the country.
This new methodology introduced by NEMA is indeed a welcome development and must be commended by all and sundry because of the numerous benefits accrued to the country in the critical sector of disaster management. In my opinion, it further emphasizes the commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari towards the plights of IDP’s in North East Nigeria as we all know that the IDP’s crisis is one of the issues that has dominated public discourse since the Boko Haram insurgency escalated in 2009.
This strategic engagement by NEMA, even though long overdue, is a demonstration of political will to providing durable solutions to the plight of IDPs and a practical admission of the fact that ensuring IDPs protection and assistance primarily lies with national authorities whose mandate and obligation it is to protect and care for them.
This, in my opinion, would further reduce the intervention of foreign NGO’s whom in most instances are acting against the interest of Nigeria towards resolving the issues of IDPs in Nigeria.
For these NGO’s, a permanent solution to the IDP issues should not happen because they would go out of business. And this much has been speculated in some quarters. But the imperative of ending the IDPs issue once and for all requires a commitment from the relevant agencies of government such as NEMA and also a political will from the government at the centre which has not been in short supply.
As a fact, the Muhammadu Buhari administration has in ways too numerous to mention taken the plight of IDPs seriously, so much so that it would not be out of place to state that the renewed vigour and innovations in the activities of NEMA in the past two years are as a result of a presidential commitment and directive aimed at ultimately seeing to an end to the multitude of issues related to IDPs in Nigeria, especially in North East Nigeria.
In truth, NEMA has been quite impactful in the past two years especially in the management of humanitarian disasters in Nigeria. So much so that accolades have poured in from far and near. Some have attributed these happenings as a result of the management drive of the agency led by Engr. Mustapha Maihaja. While I would agree with that position, I am also of the opinion that beyond the management drive, there must have been a resuscitation of the work ethics in the agency which was at its lowest ebb some five to six years back.
The IDPs issue in North East Nigeria is just one of the numerous ways NEMA has been impactful in emergencies in Nigeria. It goes to tell that with this momentum, the IDP crisis would soon be a thing of the past. And also in other interventions across the country.
If not for anything, the management of NEMA deserves commendation because they have indeed proven that something good can still come out of Nigeria in the area of disaster management. The era of apathy has been replaced by proactive approaches and cutting-edge solutions that hitherto eluded Nigerians.
Like I mentioned earlier, the impactful outing in North East Nigeria by NEMA might be a tip of the iceberg. It might mean that Nigeria might be gradually itching towards a safe place in disaster management in the country. And if that becomes the case, a new chapter has opened, and a new phase has begun in Nigeria.
However, it must be stated that it is not yet Uhuru. A lot still has to be done. But with this pace, it might just be in not distant time. Well-done NEMA.
Abdul-Samad is a civil servant writing from State Secretariat, Maiduguri.