Unfair attacks on Humanitarian Affairs Ministry

Minister of Nigeria Humanitarian affairs Hajiya Umar Farouq

The recent attacks on the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development in relation to the widespread flooding in the country amount to unfairly putting the foremost intervention organ in the eye of the storm.

In particular, the ministry, under the watch of Hajiya Umar Farouq, has been accused of regionalising the recent intervention efforts of the federal government in favour of the North. There is no doubting the fact that the disasters first ravaged some flood-prone states in the North before marching southwards, devastating communities in Anambra, Delta, Rivers, among others, before visiting perhaps the most unimaginable deluge on Bayelsa.   

By the time the deluge began to ebb after the cessation of the rains, the floods had ravaged communities in 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). According to available statistics, no fewer than 612 persons were reported dead; 3,219,780 were affected; 1,427,370 persons were sacked from their abodes, while 2,776 others were injured. 

A total of 181,600 houses were partially damaged; 123,807 houses were totally damaged; 176,852 hectares of farmland were partially damaged, while 392,300 hectares of farmland were totally swept away. The groundswell was a widespread environmental dislocation.

Perhaps, the major reason the Humanitarian Affairs Ministry is expected to bear the main burden thrown up by the latest monumental flooding, the second after the first major catastrophe recorded in 2012, is that many believe that other agencies and organs of government that are supposed to complement the ministry’s efforts have taken the backseat.

Besides the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, there are the Ministries of Environment, Water Resources, Agriculture, Works/Housing as well as the State Emergency Management Agencies (SEMAs) whose mandates are to put in place preventive measures by sensitising Nigerians on the dangers associated with natural disasters and responding promptly whenever they occur.

Then, there is the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) whose intervention mandate covers the entire South-South zone where communities were also tormented by the natural disasters. The NDDC ought to have taken a cue from its counterpart, the North-East Development Commission (NEDC), which responded swiftly to the challenges posed by the tragedies in states under its control.

It is gratifying to note that in spite of the NDDC’s lethargy and the near tepidity of the other relevant state intervention agencies, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), a parastatal of the Humanitarian Affairs Ministry, on October 8, 2022, responded through its South-South zonal offices by delivering to the beleaguered Bayelsa state assorted relief materials comprising food and non-food items in colossal quantities for immediate distribution in communities affected by flood. The items were distributed directly to the affected persons in Otegwe and Ibelebiri communities of Ogbia Local Government Area of the state.

To facilitate the distribution, the ministry and its agencies had to partner with the Nigerian Air Force to deliver the relief materials from the Benin Airport to the Port Harcourt Airport en route to Yenagoa by helicopters on regular basis as a result of the impassability of the East-West roads. 

These materials included 400 bags of 10kg rice, 400 bags of 10kg maize, 300 bags of 10kg garri, 50 kegs of vegetable oil, 200 cartons of tin tomato, 200 cartons of Indomie, 200 bundles of roofing sheets, 200 bags of cement, 40 bags of 3″ nails, and 50 packets of zinc nails.

Other relief materials delivered on October 25, 2022 included 1,000 pieces of mosquito nets, 600 cartons of bath soap, 2,500 pieces of Guinea Brocade, 1,000 pieces of children’s wears, 1,000 pieces of women’s wears, 1,000 pieces of men’s wears, 8,000 pieces of nylon mats. 

The food items also approved for intervention which are being delivered to the states are: 1,000 bags (10kg) of rice, 1,000 bags (10kg) of beans, 1,000 bags (10kg) of maize, 75 bags (20kg) of iodized salt, 150 cartons of seasoning cubes, 75 kegs (20L) of vegetable oil and 75 cartons of tin tomato paste.  

The NEMA also procured more relief items for third intervention in less than a month for delivery. They included 1,000 bags (10kg) of rice, 1,000 bags (10kg) of beans, 1,000 bags (10kg) of garri, 300 bags (20kg) of iodized salt, 200 cartons of seasoning cubes, 100 kegs (20L) of vegetable oil, 1,000 pieces of foam mattresses, 1,500 pieces of nylon mats, 1,000 pieces of blankets, 2,000 pieces of mosquito treated nets, 800 pieces of Guinea Brocade, 1,500 pieces of children’s wears and 

500 pieces of wax prints. However, the materials got stuck in Kogi en route to Bayelsa.

In addition to the relief intervention, the NEMA in collaboration with the Nigerian Navy through NNS Soroh in Bayelsa State and NNS Pathfinder in Rivers state, the Nigerian Red Cross, and local volunteers carried out evacuation of persons on the East-West Road from and to Bayelsa state.

Be that as it may, the phenomenon of flooding will continue to teach us bitter lessons year in and year out until we learn to do the needful and be proactive. It is public knowledge that as early as February, this year, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) dished out its Seasonal Climate Prediction (SCP). According to the agency, the 2022 annual rainfall pattern was expected to be from normal to above-normal throughout Nigeria.

Similarly, the Nigerian Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) in its 2022 Annual Flood Outlook (AFO) forecast flood situation for different parts of Nigeria. It highlighted that 233 Local Government Areas in 32 states and the FCT were within highly probable flood risk areas, while 212 LGAs in 35 states of the federation were within moderately probable flood risk areas.

The AFO also predicted coastal flooding in Rivers, Delta, Lagos and Bayelsa states due to the rise in sea level and tidal surge, and urban flooding in some locations such as Lagos, Abeokuta, Osogbo, Ibadan, Benin City, Asaba, Warri, Onitsha, Port Harcourt, Kaduna, Sokoto, Yola, Abakaliki, Birni-Kebbi, Makurdi and other major cities as a result of poor drainage system management.

As part of its annual flood disaster preparedness, NEMA also convened a meeting of all stakeholders between April 26 and 27, 2022 to critically analyse the 2022 Annual Climate Prediction and the Annual Flood Outlook and came up with the disaster management implications of the two predictions. At the end of the 2-day meeting, the group of experts came up with the 2022 Disaster Early Warning Message highlighting the implications and recommendations across climate sensitive socio-economic sectors.

Communication on the flood Early Warning Message produced was sent to all the state governors, the FCT Minister and members of the National Assembly along with respective recommendations to mitigate impacts of the anticipated outcomes and avert loss of lives, means of livelihoods, public and critical national assets and environmental dislocation.

Furthermore, the NEMA GIS produced Flood Vulnerability Mappings for the whole country based on the 2022 AFO released by NIHSA highlighting all communities at risk and shared the documents with its partners. 

Throughout the period, NEMA worked closely with state governments and all relevant partners to achieve its mandate for effective and efficient disaster management in Nigeria. In monitoring the level of preparedness of state governments and other partners, NEMA has constantly evaluated the plans they are putting in place in response to the recommendations contained in the Early Warning Messages.

In the furtherance of its mandate of Disaster Risk Reduction, NEMA organised a National workshop on August 2, 2022 that focused on disaster management implication of the predictions by NIMET and NIHSA to engender effective flood preparedness, prevention, mitigation and response nationwide.

Subsequently, flood early warning jingles were aired through selected radio and TV stations in both English and local languages to sensitise the public on flood disaster preparedness, mitigation and response.    

It is also gratifying to note that President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the release of 12,000 metric tons of assorted grains from the National Strategic Reserve to NEMA for distribution to 36 states of the federation and FCT.

The Presidential Committee on Flood Relief and Rehabilitation under the Chairmanship of Alhaji Aliko Dangote has also donated assorted foodstuff worth N1.5bn to NEMA for distribution to all the states of the federation. NEMA has already provided warehouses in the six geopolitical zones of the federation to receive the materials, while plans have been put in place to transport the relief materials to the benefiting state governments. 

The ministry is also coordinating a nationwide support by the World Bank to undertake a comprehensive Impact Analysis and Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) similar to what obtained after the 2012 flood.

The ministry deserves commendation for its sustained intervention efforts at all times rather than condemnation. This year’s catastrophe is the first major circle of disasters occurring since the creation of the ministry about four years ago. Government at all levels and other relevant organs must collaborate with the ministry in doing the needful to mitigate the sufferings of victims of natural disasters.

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