By Daniel Onoja
Natural disasters come with its attendant consequences. But the topic is how well the relevant authorities manage such disasters. Having stated the above, it is therefore desirable for me to travel memory lane on how Nigeria has been managing natural disasters in times past.
The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) was established via Act 12 as amended by Act 50 of 1999, to manage disasters in Nigeria. This is in line with the National Disaster Management Framework (NDMF) that provides a mechanism that serves as a regulatory guideline for effective and efficient disaster management in Nigeria. Part of the objectives of the NDMF framework is to formulate policy on all activities relating to disaster management in Nigeria, coordinate the activities of other stakeholders in Disaster Management, coordinate plans and programmes for efficient and effective response to disasters in the country, coordinate and promote research activities relating to disaster management in the country.
And this leads us to the activities of NEMA in the managing of natural disasters in recent times, especially in the last two years. I stand to be corrected, NEMA has done well. Its director general, Engr. Mustapha Maihaja has indeed proven that the effective management of natural disasters is not indeed rocket science. I say this for two reasons. One is the fact that NEMA under the watch of Engr. Mustapha Maihaja indeed weathered the storm in the initial days of his assumption of office to lead the organization in a way that has elicited accolades from home and abroad. Secondly, is also the fact that the era where victims were left unattended to by the non-provision of relief materials and in some instances diversion of relief materials is gone, and for good.
I must confess that I was one of those that expressed a bit of reservation when Engr. Mustapha Maihaja was appointed as DG of NEMA. I was skeptical in a way because I thought it was going to be business as usual as it has always been the case. But I was wrong. Today, I am not only impressed, but I am also full of accolades for how the DG has been able to transform NEMA within a short period. If not a genius, I do not know of individuals that can perform such feats, and in a short period.
I stand to be corrected, those conversant with the activities of NEMA in recent times, especially with the way and manner it handled the recent flooding in some parts of the country would readily agree with me that Engr. Mustapha Maihaja indeed has the Midas touch. Maybe Midas touch might be an understatement because right from the word go when the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) issued an early warning on the possibility of flooding in some parts of the country, NEMA swung into action, and the result was the effective management of the situation with minimal casualties.
Those who knew him in times past have come out to commend him, describing him as the Ombudsman at NEMA. In many forums, it has been stated that Engr. Mustapha Maihaja has not only transformed NEMA, but he has also structured it in a way that teamwork and dedication are the order of the day. A staffer of NEMA once confided in me that Engr. Mustapha Maihaja is such a workaholic and one that places the interest of others well above his, provided you do what is right and expected of you in the discharge of your duties. And the result is the level of responsiveness that NEMA is now known for. And the management of the flooding in Nigeria suffices.
This is also aside from the various interventions of NEMA in North East Nigeria as well as other parts of the country where there have been cases of natural disasters and the likes. The approach has been constant and consistent with the best global practices in disaster management. So much so that in some quarters, it has been advocated that Engr. Mustapha Maihaja is bestowed with a National Honours award. While I am in support of him presented with a National Honours award to serve as a psychological boost for him, I am however more interested in the coming on board of critical stakeholders in the international community to the operations of NEMA.
This is important in my opinion because disaster management requires significant funds and the government cannot do it all alone. The logistical requirements are such that if there a delay in action from point A to point B, a whole lot can go wrong. In the case of NEMA, what has been lacking is effective leadership, a gap which Engr Mustapha Maihaja has filled very well. And now the next step would, in my opinion, be adequate funding for optimal results.
I indeed salute the courage of Engr. Mustapha Maihaja for rising to the occasion by providing leadership at NEMA and, for also repositioning the agency within a short period. If only other political office holders can take a cue from him, maybe we might be on the path of greatness. I, therefore, join others in celebrating the ombudsman at NEMA.
Onoja wrote this piece from Abuja.