It is on record that since Nigeria's return to civil rule in 1999, 2011 remained the year the country recorded mass casualties resulting from mostly human-induced and natural disasters. For instance, bomb explosions allegedly carried out by members of the Boko Haram, Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) and other amorphous militia groups have claimed several lives and destroyed properties worth millions of naira.
Aside serial bomb attacks which seem to have dwarfed all efforts by the nation's security apparatchik to stem, disasters such as road accidents, building collapse, flooding and communal clashes have sadly increased the country's death profile in the last one year. Abuja, which hitherto was seen as the safest place in Nigeria, also lost its starling attributes to these disasters.
As these unfortunate incidence continued to happen, so were emergency responses from concerned government establishments heightened. Like never before, response to emergency situations as coordinated by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) saw security bodies like the Nigerian Police Force the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) playing prominent roles.
In the outgoing year, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) being the nation’s sole manager of emergency cases under the leadership of its Director General, Alhaji Mohammed Sani Sidi introduced a number of well-articulated initiatives aimed at positioning the organisation to carry out its responsibilities were birthed.
These efforts no doubt, were aimed at providing relief for victims of disasters in the country. the agency and other major organisations had in the last one year, reeled out some workable blueprint as well as a sustainable synergy in disaster management, while ensuring adequate distribution of relief materials to the victims of various disasters across the country.
In addition, the agency has been focused on equipping human capacity through training, seminars and simulation exercises. Also as part of NEMA’s success stories was the introduction of the Disaster Risk Reduction strategy, an advocacy platform for visitations and on-the-spot assessment on which more awareness in emergency issue will be spread among members of the public.
Already, NEMA not only fund and partner with six universities (one in each geopolitical zone) to promote scholarship in the field of disaster management but has improve the capacity of stakeholders through training, seminars and simulations exercises.
It would be recalled that NEMA’s kind gestures have been greatly felt by victims of natural and manmade disasters across the country and beyond as the successes achieved during the evacuation of stranded Nigerians from Egypt, Libya and Tunisia still lingers on.
As a way of encouraging hard work and efficient performance, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has vowed to henceforth, reward exceptional performance from its search-and-rescue and relief-and-rehabilitation officers, who operate in difficult terrains in meeting the mandates of the agency.
Also, the creation of the Emergency Vanguards was a step in the right direction as a total of 154,800 persons in the 774 local government areas of the federation were engaged for training as vanguards in managing emergency cases in the country.
Another area that NEMA has done pretty well is in the area of organizing trainuings and workshop programmes for some members of several establishments it has entered into partnership with.
For instance, In consolidation of synergy in disaster management, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) organised a training for stakeholders to improve their capacities for proper responses to emergency situations in Lafia, the Nasarawa state capital.
Director-General of NEMA, Muhammad Sani-Sidi, while declaring open the training workshop on camp management, organised by the agency for State Emergency Management Agencies (SEMAs), said the focus of the training was to ensure that early response to disaster situations was properly handled to minimise losses and enable early recovery for the victims.
Represented by the Director of Relief and Rehabilitation, Edward Maigida, the NEMA boss, said experience has shown that the emergency response phase in disaster management cycle was very critical and influences post-disaster recovery and future development possibilities.
“The agency will continue to build capacities of stakeholders in disaster management through sensitisation, training and simulations exercises to improve on our levels of readiness,” he said. “Our target is to ensure that emergencies are handled in line with international best practices.”
He, therefore, challenged the stakeholders to take advantage of the training and also develop appropriate contingency plans that could further enhance their efficiency and effectiveness in disaster management.
Participants at the workshop were drawn from representatives of the state emergency management agencies, non-governmental organisations, faith and community based organisations.
To help in discovering accident scenes, the agency has procured a number of helicopter for aerial surveillance in case of emergencies.
In line with the agency’s statutory mandate which is to reduce disasters, NEMA has also trained about 2000 Emergency Vanguards. In the same vain, it also mandated local government councils in the country to step up efforts to establish Emergency Committees in their various domains.
To ensure the success of these programmes, both the zonal and state offices of NEMA are usually made to launch them in their areas.
To combat accidents associated with fire outbreaks, the organisation also introduced its Disaster Risk Reduction strategy.
Recently, the agency, through its Disaster Risk Reduction action plan embarked on relentless sensitization campaign on hazards associated with fire disaster especially at this critical period.
The Acting Zonal Coordinator NEMA North West Zone, Alhaji Musa Ilallah stated “The Harmattan has set in and its characteristics dryness is capable of reducing anything to cinder at the stroke of a match, this is being so, it is expected that exceptional care needs to be taken by Institutions, Private and Public Places which are repositories of valuable but a flammable goods and other property”.
“As perpetual as fire disasters have become many institutions are ignorant about it or still unable to take the incidents seriously, so the need arises to sensitize the public in this critical season associated with fire incidents. The Populace needs to be oriented on the way of preventing the fire and also controlling the fire in case it occurs”.
“The Agency reiterated to promote a growing recognition from the Public, Civil Society and Private Sectors that the only way to address the escalating human and economic costs of disasters is not a reactive emergency assistance but a preventive comprehensive and long-term approach to impacts resulting from disasters”.
The sensitization campaign which took place in Kaduna, Zamfara, and Jigawa states is aimed at sensitizing the Public, Students Teachers (Primary and Secondary) and Ward heads at the grassroots’ level on Fire prevention, mitigation and control.
In the face of these giant efforts, the agency is also faced with a number of challenges which tend to stand in the way of the agency in its determination to achieve more successes.
Speaking on this, the agency’s Head of Press, Malam Yushau Shauib said “While the agency has succeeded in its advocacy and the coordination of emergency organizations during crises, it is finding it difficult to persuade operators of telecommunications in Nigeria to commence the implementation of 112 as the National Emergency Call numbers for quick access to assistance in distress situations”.
He said “The challenges of disaster management in Nigeria is everybody’s challenge, most especially the media who can use their platforms to alert the public on looming dangers of epidemics, natural and man-made disasters that are easily forecasted nowadays through advanced technology”.
He however charged the media practitioners to assist the agency in its efforts to sensitise Nigerians on ways of averting disaster as well as managing them.
“While the media has the right to give priority attentions to big news on disaster happenings, they should also be fair enough in informing and educating the public on disaster management which is quite cost effective to save lives and properties of our people”.