Early warning and response mechanism as panacea to emerging security threats




Almost every part of the country is enmeshed in one crisis or another. TOPE SUNDAY writes on the activities of National Early Warning and Response Mechanism Centre in Nigeria and its determination to tackle security challenges across the country.

From the east to the west, south to the north, Nigeria is battling with security challenges on every front occasioned by various factors. As at today, civil unrest is a common sight in most cities, towns and villages across the country for which these towns have been negatively affected. In most cases, the activities of these insurgents have caused high level of tension among the citizens to the point that everyone is suspicious of the other.

Despite various efforts by the government, the menace appears unabated because, according to investigation, the root causes are yet to be clearly identified and tackled. This explains why the Boko Haram menace and other security threats have lingered for so long.

To forestall the plethora of internal security challenges in the country, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in collaboration with the federal government established the National Early Warning and Response Mechanism Centre in Nigeria with its headquarters in Abuja.

 Its role

According to ECOWAS Commission, the centre is intended to be a community instrument for solidarity, essential for the prevention, management and resolution of the conflicts besetting the West African sub-region.

It is also an outcome of the strategic framework for the establishment of national early warning and response mechanisms adopted by the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government at the 45th ordinary session held in Accra, Ghana on 14 July, 2014.

The major objective of the national coordination centre for the early warning mechanism is to strengthen the ECOWAS strategy for information sharing among member states in order to prevent or minimise threats.

The centre’s role, the commission further explains, is to warn the government of threats to human security, propose appropriate action, coordinate and ensure monitoring of the implementation of response to the warning, optimise information collection, quality analysis through a participative approach involving all relevant stakeholders.

 Why was it conceived?

According to an ECOWAS’ document obtained by Blueprint, the idea of the centre is to tackle insecurity in Nigeria and other ECOWAS member states vulnerable to risks associated with emerging threats.

In a recent interview with Blueprint in Abuja, chief of staff to the National Early Warning and Response Mechanism Centre in Nigeria, Ms Ayowale Salvador, said the centre was established to provide response and early on disaster, conflict, things that concern lives and human rights.

“Some Africa countries under ECOWAS have already had their centres set up.  We are just trying to kick-start the Nigerian office here in Abuja. We are going round the 36 states.  We will ensure that the Abuja office is properly put in place to be able to reach every other state.

“We will cover human trafficking, earth shaking and generally things that are happening in the environment like insecurity. Also, we will be dealing with conflicts in the local government areas and things that can escalate into a major challenge.

“We will also work on flood; before the raining season, we would have gone through the whole report we have to know the areas that will be affected and come up with how to minimise it. Flood is a natural disaster and you can’t say that you want to stop it completely. We don’t want the aftermath of the flood to be bad.  During this time, we will issue the early warning to the government and the people that are concerned that they should be evacuated while government should construct drainages to communities that do not have such.

“We will talk about accident, human trafficking, human rights and domestic violence. In a nutshell, this centre is for the prevention and management of disasters,” she said.

Also speaking, the director-general of the centre, Dr Oluwafemi Damilola Oke-Osanyintolu, said the centre was conceived to bring about the paradigm shift from response to disasters to more preventive measures.

He said, “This centre will bring about paradigm shift from response to more of preventive. It is gazetted for intensive research, to prevent a lot of things and to alert between the emergency and the response side.

“The key thing here is that we want to reduce the vulnerability of our people to disaster; we want to improve their resilience to disaster; we want to reduce the mortality, morbidity, fatalities that are associated with disaster. Anything that threatens human security, this center wants to nip it in the bud.

How to achieve this

Although the centre, which is under the Office of the Vice President, is not yet fully inaugurated in Nigeria, it has, however, started skeletal work in its office located in Asokoro, one of Abuja’s highbrow settlements.   

While outlining the centre’s operational system, Oke-Osayintolu said, “This centre in one way or the other is being set up by the ECOWAS Commission because in December 2014, all the heads of states in ECOWAS member states adopted the establishment of the early warning and response mechanism centre. This is because some of the member states have experienced life-threatening issues that were devastating to their states.

“Should we talk about Boko Haram insurgence? Should we talk about Ebola, human trafficking or climate challenges? So, with these, they came up with a decision that there must be an agency that will nip all these things in the bud. And they are trying to collaborate with the existing agencies in each member state to be able to response efficiently to emergencies.

“With this, we have 777 field officers across the member states. In Nigeria, we have seven officers and our plan is that each in each unit, we have early warning mechanism department.

“In each local government, we have early warning mechanism department. We are going to carry out risk mapping, risk resources mapping, vulnerability analysis that will allow us to know what is each local government should be settled with. With that, we are going to carry out the capacity-building for the local governments that are vulnerable.

“With that, we will carry out empirical research, share information among the stakeholders and ensure effective and efficient collaborations among the key agencies that are involved in certain challenges.

“Aside from gathering information, we are going to process and share it and also know what is happening in other member states. There is no clear geo-graphical demarcation between Ghana and Nigeria and that is what we saw when Ebola broke out in Liberia and spread to Nigeria.

“If disaster is not managed properly, it will affect our economy. You will also agree with me that the money we are spending on managing disaster is much more than putting a structure in place for preventing disaster.”

Without doubt, this initiative would not have come at a better time, considering the plethora of security issue ravaging the length and breadth of West Africa. Analysts are of the views that this project must be effectively put to work to ensure the sub-region is spared of the bloody skirmishes fast dotting the land.

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