I had written an article to appraise the first one year in office of the Director General of National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) Alhaji Sani Sidi in August 2011. In the said article, I wrote that Alh Sani Sidi is a “round peg in a round hole” stressing that the direction of his policy thrust, which is anchored on taking emergency management to the grass roots using international best practices of disaster risk reduction (DRR) will transform the agency. The events of the past two years have proven me right
To say that the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has under gone a transformation will be an understatement. The floods, which engulfed many states in the country, have brought NEMA into national and international limelight with everyone praising the agency for how it handled the disaster with efficiency given the constraints that hinder its operation. The agency under the leadership of Alhaji sani sidi has succeeded in gaining the trust of the citizens because in the last two years, they have witnessed changes in the way and manner disaster management issues are handled in the country.
The Director General of the agency with his tireless leadership has ensured that the agency lived up to the billings of the Act which set it up through strategic policy formulation which has helped to save lives and properties. Since the agency’s work is based on collaborative efforts with other stakeholders ( Red Cross , Fire Service ,Civil Defence, Federal Road Safety Corps , the Military’s disaster reaction units (DRUs) and volunteers), the DG has ensured that the relationship between these stakeholders is sustained through joint exercise simulations and stakeholder consultations.
Quarterly capacity building programs have been introduced to boost mass enlightenment on the basic rudiments of disaster management, which targets professional organisations, community based organizations, nongovernmental organisations, traditional rulers, health workers, the clergy, students, women organisations and children. This capacity building is organised in form of sensitisation and awareness creation.
Another area of innovation by Sani Sidi could be noticed in the deployment of technology to enhance performance, through the introduction of a toll free number (0800CALLNEMA), which is in line with international standards and the integration of agency activities in online social media like Twitter and Face book. The agency’s interactive website has also been upgraded to make it easier for the citizens to report cases of emergencies in their localities using different means. All this have been achieved through staff training and capacity building.
These strides have brought about a certain level of public awareness on the critical role of the agency in managing disasters, which is sustained through effective media and public relations. This helps in dissemination of early warning alerts, which have assisted in reducing the impacts of the floods which occurred last year. Timely response and relief provision is also given topmost priority to reduce the suffering of people affected by disasters through the procurement of search and rescue equipments and the training/retraining of search and rescue officers, who in turn train other stake holders and volunteers in line with global standards. Ambulances have been procured and handed out to various stakeholders and major hospitals. Drugs and medical disposables have been provided to hospitals especially for the free treatment of various bomb blasts victims which occurred in the last two years.
Both locally and internationally, the agency has provided relief materials in form of basic needs like clothing, food items and building materials worth billions of naira to victims of disasters within and outside the country like Congo Brazzaville and Niger. Nigerian citizens who became stranded in conflict areas especially during the Arab spring were quickly evacuated successfully by the agency.
The NYSC/NEMA Emergency Management Vanguard program has also been reinvigorated to ensure that the volunteers are properly trained and equipped to carry out their roles of hazard recognition and enlightenment in their areas of primary assignment. This has greatly reduced the vulnerability of local communities who can now count on the emergency vanguard volunteers in times of emergency.
The DG has also provided scholarships for NYSC NEMA vanguards that perform exceptionally for them to study Masters degree programs on Disaster Management in any of the six universities where NEMA is sponsoring the Master’s degree programs in each of the geo political zones.
Many corporate and non corporate organisations have recognised the great strides achieved by NEMA in the last two years under the leadership of Sani Sidi and this has culminated into various awards and recognition for the Director General whom his staff fondly refer to as SARKIN AIKI (Hausa title meaning the KING OF WORK ETHICS). The coming future will surely unveil more of the impacts of the Sani Sidi era.
Information officer NEMA North East