Welcome, Humanitarian Affairs Ministry, but…

Since coming back on his second tenure, President Muhammadu Buhari has consistently been using every opportunity to smear at the 8th National assembly, portraying it as a congregation of corrupt elements as opposed to his “saintly” executive arm and which he claimed had sabotaged and contributed to his administration’s dismal failure and slow progress in the last four years. But one thing observed by Nigerians is that, since the day of his inauguration into second tenure, one of the most significant things the President has done so far is assenting to acts passed by the demonized 8th Assembly.

And the recent is the creation of the Ministry of Disaster Management and Humanitarian Affairs, the idea of which came from a resolution passed by the House of Representatives under the Speakership of Rt. Hon Yakubu Dogara early this year. This followed a motion by Hon. Muhammed Sani Zorro (the then Chairman, House Committee on IDPs, Refugees & North-East Initiatives) calling for the establishment of a whole ministry to solely shoulder the daunting task of addressing the humanitarian catastrophe engulfing the country.

While moving the motion, Hon. Zorro cited examples of countries, both within the African continent and beyond, who have equally faced (or are facing) similar long-term humanitarian situation challenges as Nigeria (although some of them in much lesser degrees) – countries like Cameroon and the Sudan – who have full ministers supervising the humanitarian sector in their respective countries. And this is to show the importance and the desired attention humanitarian situations are given in those countries.

Now, as the President has heeded to this and established a ministry to run the humanitarian affairs in the country, we hope this will pave the way to solving the myriad of problems bedevilling the humanitarian field in Nigeria. Wow facts 1 Copy video url Play / Pause Mute / Unmute Report a problem Language Mox Player We hope the appointment of a minister to supervise and control works in the humanitarian sector in the country will help put a stop to the age old, protracted, inter agency rivalry (especially among the government agencies that are involved in humanitarian emergencies and relief works) which has been hindering every effort by the government at addressing general issues of displacement and rendering of relief assistance to the displaced persons and refugees across Nigeria.

By operating under the same ministry, I think the embarrassing rivalry and backstabbing between the two primary government agencies in the sector (the National Commission for Refugees and the National Emergency Management Agency), which have been struggling to usurp each other’s duties and functions, can be solved for good. Also, now that a cabinet minister will be representing the sector at the Executive Council Meeting, we hope this will make the government now look at the following two lingering issues: First, in addition to the lack of proper coordination in tackling the country’s humanitarian situation, we are also operating without an approved policy in place.

The National IDP Policy, which was drafted since the year 2012, has been lying there waiting for the government’s approval for it to become operational. This is a policy document that is supposed to be guiding and regulating activities within the humanitarian sector in the country. Maybe this time around the new minister, who happened to be the immediate former federal commissioner in charge of the National Commission for Refugees (NCR), would help expedite the process for the approval and putting into operation the policy document.

Secondly, there is the issue of domestication of the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa, popularly known as Kampala Convention, which the government has been dragging on and showing lack of commitment or interest. Nigeria had already ratified the 2009 Convention, what remains now are for it to follow the footsteps of sister-nations and domesticate the provisions contained in the Convention through an act of the National assembly. With the Minister in place now, this may not be a difficult task to accomplish, if there is political will and commitment. But, above all, can the establishment of the Ministry help checkmate the endemic corruption in Nigeria’s humanitarian sector that, ironically, has been one of the corruption-enabled sectors in the country? Time will tell. But for now, we welcome the ministry and the minister on board.

Gumel writes from Abuja.

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