YOUTHS AGAINST DISASTER INITIATIVE (YADI)
PRESS RELEASE
Following a renewed clash between members of Offa and Erin-Ile communities of Kwara state leading to the death of 10 people and destruction of property worth millions of naira on Monday, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), Youth Against Disaster Initiative (YADI) observed that:
1. The system of artificial and arbitrary boundaries that split ethnic groups among different local government areas and states in Nigeria could be responsible for disputes, neglect, oppression, domination, exploitation, victimization, discrimination, marginalization, nepotism, intolerance as well as the constant demand for secession by some groups.
2. Over the years, Offa and Erin-Ile communities have involved in incessant cases of avoidable boundary and land disputes with their attendant threat to life and property.
3. The violent conflicts between the two communities have posed serious challenges to their socio-economic well-being.
4. The various crises have been heightened by weak traditional and socio-political institutions, ignorance, and intolerance among members of the communities.
5. The rising unemployment rate, illiteracy and joblessness among the youths have extensively exposed the two communities to undesirable elements that could capitalize on insecurity to attack innocent citizens.
The Group recommended that:
1. The state government should first identify the dynamics of conflicts between the two communities; as two incidents, even if occurred in the same area, may not be viewed from same perception.
2. Effort to resolve the conflicts should give priority to the roles of traditional rulers, community/village heads, and the religious leaders who are likely to be more informed on the root causes of the clashes.
3. The tradition institutions in both communities should always encourage their members on attitudinal change in their mindset and proper orientation toward others.
4. The state and local governments should engage the jobless youths in the communities with basic knowledge, skill acquisitions, and local technical support to promote self-help skills as essential principles toward peace building.
5. The security agencies should quickly interfere and restore order, without resorting to tactics capable of worsening the crisis.
We commend the prompt intervention of the of the search and rescue team of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Nigerian Police Force (NPF), Kwara state government and other stakeholders who had helped to curtail the escalation of the crisis in the areas.

Abubakar Jimoh
National Coordinator, Youths Against Disasters Initiative (YADI)

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BY: ABUBAKAR JIMOH

Over the years, desertification and drought are two related disasters largely contributing to high rate of famine, especially in the Northern part of Nigeria.

In the analysis of the United Nation Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), desertification was described as a process involving land degradation in a dryland area resulting to environmental crises, such as loss of biodiversity and global warming.

Similarly, drought is a condition of unusually dry weather in a geographic area, where rainfall is normally present; resulting to water shortage that seriously interferes with human activities such as water-supply reservoir emptiness, wells dry up, crop damage and other consequences which trigger ‘desertification’.

Unarguably, desertification and drought have continuous to sabotage the nation’s socio-economic, food security and employment opportunities. For instance, about 35 million people in northern part of the country are reportedly suffering from the dangers of desertification. While not less than 50,000 farmers in about 100 villages in Yobe state have been affected by sand dunes.

Also, it was estimated that over 55 million people have been seriously affected in Borno, Bauchi, Gombe, Adamawa, Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto and Kebbi states; and approximately 350,999 hectares of land is lost to desertification annually.

It is noteworthy to recall that phenomena of drought had triggered the recent crisis which erupted between Gwari farmers and Fulani herdsmen as a result of encroachment of herds of cattle into farmlands in Gwako, under Gwagwalada Local Government Area of the Federal Capital Territory.

Not surprisingly, after the crisis, Youths Against Disaster Initiative (YADI) observed that during the dry season, low feedstuff and low water in rivers would trigger an early movement of herds in search of pasture and water as early as December/January, thereby increasing the risk of conflicts between herdsmen and farmers. Overgrazing and overcrowding settlements could further intensify conflicts between herdsmen and farmers in the affected areas.

In its surveillance, YADI revealed that communal clash has remained a persistent phenomenon between farmers and herdsmen across the country, especially during the dry season starting from November/December every year. Also, as struggles persist against low feed purchasing power and the general fall in prices of animals as a result of deterioration in animal body conditions in dry season, the country is expected to witness further Farmers-Herdsmen conflicts across the country.

More importantly, a study carried out by National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) under the leadership of leadership of the Director-General, Alhaji Muhammed Sani-Sidi in collaboration with United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), and United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) showed that both natural and human activities have contributed to the menace of desertification and drought. Such activities include inadequate rain fall, harsh climate condition, over-cultivation which exhausts soil, overgrazing involving removal of vegetation that prevents and poorly drained irrigation.

In addition, Justin Uwazuruonye in 2010 reported that excessive heat and dust could further result in the upsurge of diseases such as meningitis and asthma. Millet the main crop in the north would experience crop failure and losses culminating into localised production shortages. The situation could lead to low food supply at market and household levels, unusually high food prices at harvest, reducing food access for the most affected population.

While low water levels in rivers and pounds will lead to low production of dry season farming and fishing, resulting in poor income. Low hydro power generation could hamper economic activities due to decline in electricity production earlier than usual.

In a bid to minimize the impact of this hazard on households in the vulnerable areas, Alhaji Sani Sidi in 2010 has gone into technical partnership with National Space Research and Development Agency (NSRDA) and United Nations Space Based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UNI-SPIDER). This led to the adoption of space-based technology to assist in obtaining instant information that could enhance disasters prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery.

The space technology is used to display spatial location of the drought vulnerable communities, visualize the potential risk points of interest, highlight the possible save areas for the evacuation purpose in case of emergency, and take inventory of critical facilities available. After this, earlier warning alert is issued to the population at risk.

YADI recommended that all levels of Government should make good drinking water available for both man and animals in water deficit areas, through the provision of sufficient wells or boreholes in the affected communities.

While urging farmers to start planting at the appropriate period, consciously use their food reserve, and improve feeds during the growing season in accordance with guidance and advice of state agriculture services. Traditional rulers and community heads across the country should encourage the herdsmen to make adequate provisions for their animal feeds against dry season; through massive storage of animal feedstuffs during the growing season.

Traditional rulers and community heads should institute alternative means of conflict resolution, especially between their farmers and herdsmen to avoid undesirable elements that could capitalize on the insecurity in the country to attack innocent citizens.

In addition, YADI advices traditional rulers to encourage active participation of their community members in the ongoing NEMA’s campaigns and sensitization on Disaster Risks Reduction (DRR), which includes mitigating against the upsurge of desertification and drought across the country.

Among such measures instituted by Alhaji Sani Sidi since 2010 are constant seminars, workshops, public education and enlightenment involving advocacy visitation to states and grassroots, purposely to build disaster-resilient communities against the impacts of global warming.

Upholding ecological management practices such as planting of trees, shelterbelts to protect soil from wind and water erosion are found to have been effectively adopted in various developing nations like Bolivia, Mali, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, among others in combating their environmental challenges.

Nigerian Communities are advised to follow their counterparts and put in place appropriate ecosystem management to conserve major ecological services; and abide by ethical use of natural resources to meet the socioeconomic, political and cultural needs of current and future generations.

Encouraging local participation and community education on environmental matters and land use innovation is a proven solution to tackle the hazards of drought and desertification. This should include adequate sensitization concerning various aspects of drought and water scarcity to predict, and articulate local methods and strategies which could help to minimize the effects of drought and desertification.

Following a study conducted in 2009 by University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka to mitigate communities’ vulnerability to the effects of climate change, it was discovered that through community-based participatory risk assessment, the community coping capacity would be enhanced to share responsibilities to reduce risk, and take decision to battle water scarcity and seasonal droughts.

In area of education and enlightenment to enhance local skills and methods, farmers’ needs must be fully understood or met by the scientific community, especially the needs to adequately reduce the training to local language that every farmer and community members can understand. This will encourage a wide participation and achievement of the training objectives.

Effort should be made to reduce desertification by developing sustainable sources of income for rural women as an alternative to their commerce in wood. These alternative livelihoods in the words of include vegetable gardens, literacy and financial education, training in soap making and in making energy-efficient stoves for rural women.

The benefits of such project have been highlighted in the words of the Coordinator Malian Rural Women Development Programme, Johanna Togola in 2009 that diversification of the communities income sources, and reduction in wood-cutting, will mitigate the future threat of intensified climate change and weather-related hazards such as flooding, landslides, drought and desertification.

Empowering the communities with education about the environment, and giving them the skills to diversify their livelihoods is an environmentally conscious way that can lead to significant success in effecting change. The States’ Environmental Agencies can organize environmental education for the desertification and drought vulnerable communities to address challenges of deforestation, erosion, cutting wood, farming, and water, as well as to improve stoves and planting trees.

Communities must therefore avoid unethical land use practices like overgrazing, overexploitation of plants, trampling of soils, and unsustainable irrigation.

Moreover, instituting poverty eradication programs in the degraded communities will be a welcome development to secure the socio-economic and environmental conditions for prosperity, stability and equity. This can be achieved through the joint effort of local communities, regional organizations, governments, Non-Governmental Organizations, and other related stakeholders.

Abubakar Jimoh is the National Coordinator, Youths Against Disaster (YADI), and lives in Abuja.
abujimoh01@yahoo.com

BY: ABUBAKAR JIMOH

Women are hitherto maginalised from community discussion and development planning in many Nigerian communities.

A recent survey conducted by the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) revealed that to attain a full-fledged sustainable community-based development, there is need to involve the knowledge and energies of women.

Similarly, Founding Director of the Brazil Network for Human Development, Thais Corral said: “Without women fully taking part in decision making, leadership and implementation, real community resilient to climate change and disasters simply cannot be achieved”.

On the whole, more women died than the children or men as a result of gender inequalities. Their roles as mothers compel them to consider the safety of their children and the assets before their own survival.

It was reported by Disaster Emergency Committee in 2009 that women spent their lives within their households and had very limited experience interacting with others outside this private space. Consequently, during the initial response to disaster, women find it difficult to access relief and rehabilitation support, as they are not involved in the distribution process.

Building women’s resilient to disasters is a vital process of empowering them as participants in the community decision-making. This can only be achieved in the country through what the Director General National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Alhaji Muhammad Sani Sidi in 2011 termed ‘Participatory Vulnerability Analysis’ (PVA). PVA gives women space for raising awareness, sharing experiences, skills-training, and forming participatory women group and community groups.

Besides, hazards can be effectively identified, accessed, prepared for and respond to through non-discriminatory collaboration between men and women for safer communities. Whereas with the acceleration cases of disasters in Nigeria it is important to see women not as person to be helped but as participating subjects in building a community resilient towards disaster risk reduction. This is because women are not only the victims but agent of change.

It is worthy of note that real community development change and effective development must include women as planners, sources of knowledge, decision-making and implementers. Women involvement could be ensured through the creation of Participatory Rural Approach Projects that would take into consideration, other social factors of the community such as age.

One of the vital areas community women can contribute towards disaster preparedness, prevention and sustainable development is the Sustainable Agricultural Projects (SAP), which are presently booming across the Pacific. To ensure the workability of this, the State Emergency Management Agencies (SEMAs) and Local Government Emergency Management Committees (LEMCs) must work closely with vulnerable rural communities in order to identify their real problems and constraints.

The SEMAs and LEMA can establish SAP among community women using their local methods and technology. Taking cognizance of this will help to accomplish disaster-resilient related benefits like improvement in quality of soil, more use of drought resistant crops, improved irrigation systems, better management of pests and diseases, evaluation of tissue plant cultures, terraced and planted hillsides to prevent landslides and runoff, and support for widespread home gardens for better access to nutrition food.

Globally, it is undoubtedly that community women are endowed with traditional knowledge and practices to improve land-use and natural resource management. It was in view of this that ISDR in 2009 noted that as the essential managers of natural and environmental resources, and key frontline implementers of development, women have the experience and knowledge to build the resilience of their communities to the intensifying anticipated natural hazards.

Also, a survey conducted by Association des Jeunes de Zammour (AJZ), Tunisia in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in 2004 confirmed that the participation of women was particularly important for identifying local knowledge for reducing desertification. Using the women participatory approach, sophisticated awareness can be initiated among Nigerian women in the desertification prone communities like Borno, Jigawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Yobe, Kano, Katsina, Sokoto/Zamfara and Kebbi.

While on its own part, Youths Against Disaster Initiative (YADI) encourages SEMAs and LEMCs to initiate in the communities such disaster-resilient techniques as rainwater harvesting, innovative irrigation, and increase the areas’ biodiversity and plant cover to reduce risks of hazards likely to be exacerbated by climate change like crop losses from drought, desertification and landslides triggered by extreme weather.

Abubakar Jimoh is the National Coordinator, Youths Against Disaster Initiative (YADI), lives in Abuja.
abujimoh01@yahoo.com

YOUTHS AGAINST DISASTER INITIATIVE (YADI)

PRESS RELEASE
Following the sudden death of a medical doctor and two others of an ailment called Lassa fever at Benue State University Teaching Hospital, Makurdi, a registered Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), Youth Against Disaster Initiative (YADI) observed that:
1. In the last five years, Lassa fever has become a deadly epidemic gradually spreads across Nigeria, resulting to unpleasant health and socio-economic implications.
2. Apart from individuals, several medical personnel are reportedly dead in various parts of the country as a result of contact from infected patients.
3. Inadequate community awareness and sensitization has accelerated the cases of Lassa virus in various parts of the country, especially the rural areas.
4. The outbreak of Lassa fever will intensify on the ground that little or no concern has been made so far by the state and local governments to help their people know more about the causes and preventions against the deadly virus.
The Group recommended as follows:
1. Adequate community awareness and sensitization on the preventions against Lassa virus remains a crucial proactive measure.
2. Farmers and others in communities should stop drying grains on the road shoulders along the highway to avoid contamination with the urine and faeces of rodents that feast on them.
3. Health workers in the affected communities should make constant use of safety gloves and protective vests while attending to their patients.
4. Henceforth, infected patients should be isolated from unprotected persons until the disease has ran its course
5. All levels of government must partner with health and disaster management stakeholders to setup community sensitization and proffer infallible preventive measures against Lassa virus.
6. Provision of adequate specialist healthcare centres in both urban and rural areas to assist in early detection and medications against the virus.
We commend the rapid intervention of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Federal Ministry of Health, Nigerian Medical Association, and other stakeholders; while encouraging them to strengthen their ongoing awareness against Lassa fever in rural communities to curtail further outbreak.

Abubakar Jimoh
National Coordinator, Youths Against Disasters Initiative (YADI)
+2348036304860

BY: ABUBAKAR JIMOH
“We hope! We hope that there will be a better mobilization of interventions to prevent rather than having to respond. In too many places we find ourselves involved in humanitarian response that could have been prevented. So there has to be more focus on development and helping people to cope, survive and build their lives and their livelihoods, rather than allowing them to become so fragile that any shock causes them to become dependent on aid”, says the Operations Director of United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), John Ging in a recent interview.

Over the years, disaster management in Nigeria has been perceived by many as mainly humanitarian relief supplies with huge funds expended annually on perennial emergencies making the some state governments to pay little or no attention to the key phases of disaster management—preparedness and preventions.

With the accelerating cases of global warming from which Nigeria is presently taking her own share, there is need for a conventional orientation to disaster management, which in the words of Olusegun Ojo & Adedayo Ogundimu (2008) involves the conceptualization of ideas and mapping out of strategies to influence the development planning process.

More importantly, community empowerment through the enhancement of local capacity of the people concerned using the available materials and strategic methods in their domains and inculcate in them useful skills and knowledge to help the community respond adequately to hazards when they occur is an informed choice for positive action to avert disaster-related problems.

Just as disaster management stakeholders must remember that an empowered community is a veritable tool for sustainable development actions. The Director General of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Alhaji Muhammad Sani-Sidi once reminded us that inadequate preparedness and lack of sustainability in our development options result to a major disaster.

Similarly, it is no doubt that if the State Emergency Management Agencies (SEMAs) and Local Emergency Management Committees are skillfully installed, mobilised and deployed by the state and local governments respectively, their involvements and participations will constitute immense forces of social change that could bring about effectiveness and sustainability in the states and grassroots’ response to manageable hazards and grossly, national development.

Since the occurrence of hazards takes place in a community and the people must suffer the impacts of the hazards, equally the degree of resultant damage by such hazards would depend on the vulnerability and community level of preparedness. In this case, one could ask, why must we wait for disasters to strike before we provide avertable humanitarian reliefs?

To achieve effectiveness in the conventional orientation to disaster management, there must be a formalized sensitization of the state and local governments to recognize that disaster management is not limited to humanitarian aids, but also helping the victims to plan and mitigate against the effects of disasters. By so doing, the local leaders in their socio-economic and political realms would be made to accept primary responsibility to protect their communities from disasters.

It was in a bid to attain the above position that Youths Against Disaster Initiative (YADI) advises the state and local governments to realize the fact that they cannot count on help coming from other jurisdictions in the first 24 hours of a catastrophe. For a sound and effective disaster management, it is recommended that local authorities are prepared to take charge of the initial management of the emergency for at least 72 hours when help may come from elsewhere.

At various levels of government, we cannot deny the fact that to set a well formalized and institutionalized administrative capacity experienced staff, personnel training and retraining programmes are seriously required. The possibility of this is doubtful without the establishment of effective and well-funded SEMAs and LEMAs throughout the 36 states in the country.

Surprisingly, it was reported in NEMA’s 2010 Annual Report that only 23 out the 36 states have SEMAs backed by law; while most of them have no financial provisions or administrative structures to enable them function effectively. The major arms of government are mandated to facilitate the full implementation and integration of emergency management programmes at the state and community levels.

While lamenting on ill-funded and unequipped disaster management administrations by state and local governments, Clementinal l. Aisueni in 2010 reported: “It is difficult for the NEMA’s training department to fully coordinate and monitor the training of the staff of the Agency and other stakeholders at the six Centres for Disasters Management and Development Studies. In the year 2010, the department did not enjoy the solicited support of State Emergency Management Agencies (SEMAs) and the Local Emergency Management Committees (LEMCs) towards sensitization on Disaster issues. The usual reason from them is lack of fund for collaboration with NEMA”.

Indeed, in 2010, NEMA appealed to the World Bank for support in the recovery process. The collaboration led to the agreement that the Bank would strengthen the capacities of NEMA and SEMAs in Disaster Damage and Loss Assessment, and help the country to get a better overview of the economic impacts and disaster resilience.

While on long term basis, apart from giving the high level of independency to SEMAs in disaster management, it was expected that the World Bank, NEMA, SEMAs and other national and state agencies will strengthen their partnership in disaster response and risk reduction to reduce the vulnerability of Nigerians to natural hazards.

Apart from the World Bank’s assistance, there exists Ecological Fund monthly allocated to each state from the Federation Account by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC). However, the Youths Against Disaster Initiative (YADI) recently gathered that the long era of mismanagement and corruption, which could be largely attributed to state governments have discouraged the establishment and effective operation of SEMAs and LEMAs in some states.

Strengthening the operative capacity of the states’ emergency response, SEMAs must seek effective collaboration of the existing disaster management stakeholders in the states as required in section 8(1) of the Act establishing NEMA in 2001, which stated: “There is hereby established for each State of the Federation, a State Emergency Management Committee”.

Sub section 2 of the Act elaborates that the State Committee shall consist of the Deputy Governor of the state who shall be the chairman; the Secretary to the State Government; one representative each from the State Ministry of Women and Social Welfare, the State Ministry of Health, the State Ministry of Works, the State Fire Service, the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria, the State Environmental Protection Agency, the Nigerian Police Force, the Federal Road Safety Commission, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, the Nigerian Red Cross Society, and National Maritime Authority in coastal States.

Also, to establish workable and meaningful volunteers at the grassroots level, the states must equip and mobilise LEMCs with disaster management training and skills to enable them provide assistance at all phases of disaster management including prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. LEMCs on their own parts must ensure constant running of the emergency training and engagement, registration and development of the volunteers’ databank.

The training for LEMC in each community should focus on the objective of the Vulnerability and Capacity Analysis (VCA), which is to conduct a detailed and comprehensive hazards, population and infrastructure vulnerabilities and capacities as well as risk analysis to support mitigation, preparedness and response, taking advantage of their local methods and resources.

In his opinions on the Capacity Analysis towards Disaster Risk Reduction, Charles A. Agbo (2010) provided a strategic approach that, it is becoming increasingly clear that livelihood strategies are intricately linked to coping capacities. In his analysis, livelihood and coping capacities are inter-related; as modern day mitigation and preparedness options are tied to the household production, consumption and exchange capacities.

Furthermore, it was in support of the above Kayode Fagbemi (2010), encouraged the master trainers at grassroots levels to access and address major risks affecting the communities; determine the people vulnerability to those risks, and their capacity to cope and recover from disaster; help the communities to understand the hazards they face; assist them in taking the necessary measures to improve the situation, based on their own skills, knowledge and initiatives; and prepare the people against hazards and prevent them from turning into disasters.

The trainers must as well understand that to achieve the community’s acceptance of the training and skills brought to them by the government, they must be ready to identify the unique cultural background, the environmental attributes as well as other internal resources through which problems have been solved in each community and be ready to accommodate these community-specify features to the Disaster Risk Reduction Interventions; as advised by Alhassan Nuhu in his 2012 Media Retreat Lecture on Disaster Management.

The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UN/ISDR) introduced Participatory Community Appraisal (PCA) (i.e. involvement of community members) as a useful method of disaster risk assessment when the community actively engaged in debate about the formal evaluation of risks. PCA would help to facilitate the documentation of local knowledge and interpretation of risk synthesized with outside approaches and captions. It would allow for positive response and active participation by the community, since the interaction is done at the community level.

Finally, giving cognizance recognition to the roles of community leaders in awareness and sensitisation on the community vulnerable hazards is a preventive opportunity against proactive disasters. Community leaders would help to notify their people, their neighbouring communities and if necessary local government of the possible consequences of the identified risk.

Abubakar Jimoh is the National Coordinator, Youths Against Disaster Initiative (YADI), lives in Abuja.
abujimoh01@yahoo.com

YOUTHS AGAINST DISASTER INITIATIVE (YADI)
PRESS RELEASE
Following the devastated explosion of a pipeline on Saturday as a result of vandal activities, killing about 50 persons at Arepo Village in Ogun state, a registered Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), Youth Against Disaster Initiative (YADI) observed that:
1. In the recent times, Nigeria has experienced loss of thousand lives and billions of naira property arising from various pipeline vandalisms.
2. Most of the pipeline disruptions have been attributed to the unemployed youths, who are in search for means of survival; as the stolen oil quickly making its way onto the black market.
3. Inadequate check against black market activities has created a large market opportunity for vandals to dispose their stolen products.
4. Pipeline vandalism would continue to sabotage the government development projects, as unemployment rate accelerates in the country.
5. Sabotage and theft through oil siphoning has become a major issue contributing to serious environmental degradation and persistent fuel scarcity in Nigeria.
The Youths recommended as follows:
1. Effective measures must be promptly embarked upon towards the creation of massive employment opportunities and poverty eradication by all levels of government.
2. Nigerian governments and other stakeholders must work to save the environment by improving security to reduce the illegal activities.
3. Before starting fueling, defueling, or internal transfer operation, oil industries are encouraged to check all machinery and piping systems for tightness and leaking glands.
4. Installation of the modern Pipeline Telecontrol System for adequate control and monitoring of oil process equipment and transfer from one station to another.
5. Implementation of proper punishments against black marketers and anyone found guilty of pipeline destruction.
We commend the rapid intervention of the search and rescue team of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Nigerian Police Force, Fire Service and Red Cross Society of Nigeria, who have helped to keep the environment safe against further disasters.

Abubakar Jimoh
National Coordinator, Youths Against Disasters Initiative (YADI)
+2348036304860

BY: ABUBAKAR JIMOH

Recently, at Annual Media Retreat on Disaster Management held in Abuja, the Director General of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Alhaji Muhammad Sani-Sidi revealed that in the face heightened tragedies resulting from bomb explosion and other related emergency situations in the country, some state and local governments are failing in their constitutional responsibilities on disaster management despite the contingency funds placed at their disposal by the federal government.

Although, it is part of responsibilities of NEMA as the national coordinating agency to formulate policy on all activities relating to disaster management in Nigeria, organise plans and programmes for efficient and effective response to disasters in the country, the states are lagging behind in their roles of making disaster everyone’s business and the need to become first responder in the event of emergency.

Furthermore, NEMA must be seen to be coordinating and promoting research activities relating to disaster management as well as monitoring the level of preparedness of all organizations or agencies that are involved in disaster management in Nigeria.

Similarly, under section 8 of the amended Act 50 establishing NEMA in 2001, the agency is mandated to liaise with State Emergency Management Committees (SEMCs) to assess and monitor “where necessary”, the distribution of relief materials to disaster victims. It was in bid to achieve these objectives, access preparedness and performance, and ensure calculative and effective efforts towards disaster management at state and grassroots’ levels that called for the advocacy visits of the Director General to six geo-political zones across the country.

Surprisingly, during his visitations, Sani Sidi observed that there was over-reliance of states and local governments on NEMA to help perform their constitutional duties and said “this have intensified the risk of manageable hazards to disasters in some grassroots.”

He therefore described non-existence of State and Local Emergency Management Agency (SEMAs & LEMAs) in some states and local councils as one of the major challenges facing disaster management in the country.

His words: “It is regrettable that apart from Lagos state and few others, in many states SEMAs and LEMAs are not in existence. I discovered during my advocacy visits to them that they are identified only by name not by functional vehicles, offices and personnel. They are not funded. In fact, you would find out they have only have Special Advisers on Disasters with neither funds nor personnel for effective operation and preparedness against disasters. How can it work?”

Besides, following the Nigeria’s devastating floods in 2010, NEMA appealed to the World Bank for support in the recovery process. The collaboration led to the agreement that the Bank would strengthen the capacities of NEMA and SEMAs in Disaster Damage and Loss Assessment, and help the country to get a better overview of the economic impacts and disaster resilience.

While on long term basis, apart from the giving the high level of independency to SEMAs in disaster management, it was expected that the World Bank, NEMA, SEMAs and other national and state agencies will strengthen their partnership in disaster response and risk reduction to reduce the vulnerability of Nigerians to natural hazards. These benefits along with the ecological funds are underutilized by these levels of government that result to transfer mere hazards to NEMA to manage.

In addition, section 8(1) of the Act stated: “There is hereby established for each State of the Federation, a State Emergency Management Committee”. Sub section 2 of the Act elaborates that the State Committee shall consist of the Deputy Governor of the state who shall be the chairman; the Secretary to the State Government; one representative each from the State Ministry of Women and Social Welfare, the State Ministry of Health, the State Ministry of Works, the State Fire Service, the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria, the State Environmental Protection Agency, the Nigerian Police Force, the Federal Road Safety Commission, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, the Nigerian Red Cross Society, and National Maritime Authority in coastal States.

Consequently, the Act makes it as part of the duties of SEMCs to notify the NEMA of any natural or other disasters occurring in the State; respond to any disaster within the State and may seek assistance from the Agency if it deems fit in each circumstance; carry out disaster management activities in the State as may, from time to time, be recommended by the Agency; and be accountable to the Agency for all funds accruing to it for purposes of discharging its functions under this Act.

It could be recalled that in the 2011 Annual Report of NEMA, Sani-Sidi stated: “There is no disaster without vulnerability to a natural or human-induced hazards. Disaster only occurs when people’s vulnerability exposes them to a hazard. While nothing can be done about certain hazards such as flood, windstorm, ocean surge, earthquake and other similar natural phenomena, people and community have leverage over their vulnerability to hazards.”

More importantly, the level of vulnerability of hazards at state and grassroots’ levels will determine the necessity for NEMA’s interference. For manageable hazards within the capacity of the state and local councils, the SEMAs and LEMA would have to discharge their Constitutional responsibilities on disaster management appropriately and make effective use of the ecological and other funds in their disposal. The states are expected to set a pace and ensure functional administrative capacity at grassroots level for the Local Emergency Management Committees (LEMCs) to operate.

Abubakar Jimoh is the National Coordinator, Youths Against Disaster Initiative (YADI), and lives in Abuja.
abujimoh01@yahoo.com