Muhamad Sani-Sidi, DG NEMA
National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) is the organisation charged by law to manage disaster in Nigeria. TAIYE AGBAJE chronicles the agency’s activities in 2011 vis-à-vis the challenges faced. The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), established via Act 12 as amended by Act 50 of 1999, has been tackling disaster related issues through the establishment of concrete structures and measures.


The agency, according to the the Act vested in its, among other things, formulates policy on all activities relating to the disaster management in Nigeria and co-ordinates the plans and programmes for efficient and effective response to disasters at the national level; monitors the state of preparedness of all organisations or agencies which may contribute to disaster management in Nigeria; collates data from relevant agencies, so as to enhance forecasting, planning and field operation of disaster management; educates and informs the public on disaster prevention and control measures.


In addition to this, NEMA co-ordinates and facilitates the provision of necessary resource for search and rescue and  other forms of disaster curtailment activities in response to distress calls; co-ordinates the activities of all voluntary organisations engaged in emergency relief operations in any part of the federation; receives financial and technical aid from international organisation and non-governmental agencies, for the purpose of  disaster management in Nigeria; collects emergency relief supply from local and foreign source and from International and non-governmental agencies; it also distributes emergency relief material to victims of natural or other disasters and assist in the rehabilitation of the victims among others.


NEMA in its bid to prevent disasters in Nigeria engages in educating the public in order to raise their level of awareness and reduce the effect of disasters in the country. The agency has also put in place structures that enable it detects, responds and combats disasters in a timely manner.


Facilities like the Mission Control Centre located at the Headquarters of NEMA is a computer based satellite technology that uses the COSPAS-SARSAT hi-tech system/facility. The system is designed to pick distress alerts and location data to assist in search and rescue operations, using spacecraft and ground facilities to detect and locate the signals of distress beacons operating on 406 MHz. Other facilities like Geographic Information System (GIS) lab for early warning and precision in response to the management, mobile clinics and ambulances, helicopter which is manned by officers of the Nigerian Air Force and other policies and strategies adopted to ensure prompt and efficient response to disasters.


This cannot be unconnected to the feat the agency was able to achieve in the preceding year. In 2011, NEMA took a giant step in refocusing disaster management in Nigeria, shifting emphasis from humanitarian relief intervention to proactive disaster risk reduction in line with the Hygo framework for Action. In view of the global rise in natural and man-induced disasters, the agency trained no fewer than 200 local government officials and emergency volunteers in each of the six geo-political zones in the country, in addition to the rigorous sensitisation of students across the country in its campaign on disaster management and control. Besides imparting emergency management knowledge to the people, the agency also performed excellently in its mandate in so many ways.


In 2011, NEMA swung into action in evacuating Nigerians in countries like Libya, Tunisia and Egypt during the crises in these countries. Thousands of the returnees were reunited with their families in Nigeria. Through the collaboration of International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), NEMA was able to airlift luggage and baggage of the returnees as well.


Truckloads of relief materials, like food items, bedding, medications, toiletries and clothing, were dispatched by the agency to the victims of the post-presidential election violence in some states in the Northern part of Nigeria last year, and through its effort, the Federal Government during the period under review, approved free medical services to innocent victims of the crisis in government-established hospitals and clinics. NEMA also collaborated with other response agencies like the military, the police, civil defence, road safety and fire service in ensuring adequate security of displaced people as well as other innocent Nigerians.


The agency assisted in mobilising stakeholders and other resources against impending flooding in some parts of the country last year. For instance, the World Food Programme (WFP) worked closely with NEMA in developing integrated risk management tools to help manage the risk to food security posed by climate hazards as well as helped to build the resilience and coping capacity of vulnerable people in the previous year.


Besides, the agency partnered with the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) in raising the people’s awareness on any imminent unpleasant weather, and also assisted in giving the accurate and reliable statistical figures of victims of disasters in the country, thereby serving as a basis for information gathering in Nigeria.


For example, when more urban cities experienced massive floods in last year’s rainy season, NEMA rose up to giving professional advice to communities located along flood plains to adopt necessary precautionary measures following increased rainfalls and dangers of being affected by the disaster.


Worried by the devastation caused by floods in parts of the country last year, the agency requested the supports of the National Orientation Agency (NOA) on grassroots disaster awareness to boost community resilience in reducing losses of lives and property.


Also NEMA functioned effectively in the issue of building collapsed across the country despite shortage of state-of-the-heart equipment needed for its effective operation.  Perhaps, the latest threat to lives and property in Nigeria today, and another big challenge to NEMA, is the issue of terrorism. However, as part of its efforts at providing succour to victims of terrorist attacks in parts of the country, the National Emergency Management Agency had not performed badly.


During the bomb blasts that occurred on May 29, 2011, the Nigeria's Inauguration Day in some parts of the country, especially at Military Barrack Bauchi and Zuba, outskirt of Abuja, the agency provided relief materials and medical supports to the victims of the blasts.


It also confirmed that a total of 18 people died and 31 victims hospitalised. Giving the figures, the agency said Bauchi recorded 16 deaths, Zuba 2 while 31 victims were admitted in hospitals. On the spot-assessment of the situation, it revealed that many lives were saved as a result of the proactive approaches, preventive measures as well as prompt response of relevant agencies before and during the incidents.


Again, the agency mobilised its rescue and evacuation team to the site of explosion which occurred at the parking space of the Police Headquarters, Abuja on the 16 June, 2011, the two explosions at Suleja and it also played a leading role in the rescue mission during the Madalla Christmas Day bombing by the Islamic sect, Boko Haram, using specialised equipment for the operations.


While its contribution in rescue operations in Kaduna, Yobe, Plateau, Bauchi, Borno States’ bombings, among others, cannot be over-emphasised, the establishment of NEMA has over the year, proved its indispensable functions of emergency management in Nigeria.


In its drive at strengthening the capacity of the agency, the Director-General of the agency, Alhaji Muhammad Sani-Sidi incorporated in its activities the use of space technology in the disaster management in Nigeria.


He pointed out that the technology would assist in obtaining information that could facilitate wide range of opportunities for disaster prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery.


Moreover, it created emergency unit to take care of vulnerable groups especially during emergency situations, as part of its effort to mark the International Day of Persons with Disability in December 3, 2011.


The DG said this became necessary because the challenges faced by the disabled persons were so enormous that they are easily vulnerable to disasters.


For efficient and effective discharge of its duty, the agency conducted trainings and retraining of staff, while workshops and seminars were held by the agency to train various officers of the state emergency management agencies, non-governmental organisations, faith and community based organisations on emergency management.


The agency also carried its advocacy to healthcare sector against the backdrop of the threatened global resurgence of Avian Influenza. A meeting of stakeholders was convened to strategies towards the prevention and minimal human transmission of the infectious virus in the country.


While explaining the reason for the agency’s concern about the threats of the virus, Alhaji Sani-Sidi said he mobilised stakeholders in order to strengthen capacities for the pandemic prediction and response. He said the bitter losses recorded from the recent spread of poultry infections by the virus had necessitated early preparations for effective management in the prevention of the human infections, which he noted, had begun to manifest in some parts of the world.


In recognition of its importance in the country, governors at the state level promised to assist NEMA in discharging its responsibility appropriately. For instance, Governor of Imo State, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, who commended the agency during a farmiliarisation visit to the state last year, promised to provide facilities in Owerri, the state capital, to host NEMA office and to maintain its helicopter if acquired. He said: “Imo State as the centre of South-East and South-South geo-political zones would be glad to provide facilities to NEMA that will make your efforts easy and fast in deploying and attending to disasters within the region from Owerri, the state capital.”


However, all these achievements would be a tip of the iceberg if government, non-governmental organisations; both national and international, and well meaning Nigerians would help to buttress the agency’s effort in this New Year as the country set to tackle every emergency related disaster in the country.


To achieve this, we must ensure that those militating factors against the smooth operation of the agency are addressed, even now that a new trend of disaster, in the name of “terrorism”, has found its way into the country. Therefore, more offices should be created across the country, staff strength increased, more fund made available while staff welfare is taking care of. These and many more will go a long way in assisting the agency in combating challenges faced in the field.


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