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NSEMA, NOA, NEMA Differ On Disaster Management
THE Director-General, Niger State Emergency Management Agency (NSEMA), Alhaji Mohammed Shaba, stirred the hornet’s nest recently when accused the Federal Government of playing politics with the state, in the area of disaster management through the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).
Shaba had advised the Federal Government to reduce the politisation and decision-making in NEMA, so as to allow states and local governments to take decisions that would benefit victims of disasters.
He had held a press briefing on the devastating effects of the recent flooding and rainstorms across the state. About seven people were reportedly killed with no fewer than 300 others displaced in 149 communities. Farmlands, livestocks and other properties have been destroyed in the disasters since the beginning of the current rainy season. Shaba disclosed that the affected communities were in 10 out of the 25 local government areas of the state. He said properties destroyed in the flood were estimated at N500 million. The NSEMA DG stated that the agency needed about N50 million to cater for the victims, even as N2 million had already been expended on the management of the camp established for those affected by the flood.
According to him, the local government areas affected by flood were Mokwa, Lavun, Edati, Chanchaga, Shiroro, Borgu, Bida, Bosso, Munya and Wushishi which, he said, were agrarian communities. He said the floods could cause food scarcity in the country next year. He, therefore, implored the Federal Government to stop politicising activities of NEMA, a situation which, he said, had brought delay in bringing succour to victims all over the country. He claimed that most states could not manage disasters that occur in their domains. The DG stressed that decisions should be taken at the local level in order to benefit the people. According to him, it was only in Niger State that money was given to victims of disasters. Shaba, however, stated that efforts were being made by his agency, in conjunction with the state government, to resettle displaced victims, as camps had been erected for them as a form of shelter pending the end of the rainy season.
But in a reaction, one of the critical stakeholders in disaster management in the country, the National Orientation Agency (NOA), has said that only NEMA had the capacity to effectively reach out to victims of disasters at a short notice or within a limited period. It stated this while speaking through an Assistant Director in the state, Alhaji Mohammed Aliyu, in an interview in Minna.
Aliyu highlighted the scope of operation of NEMA in view of the law establishing it, compared to what the state emergency management agency is doing.
The clarification, according to him, became necessary following the accusation by Shaba that NEMA was not only reporting late to scenes of disasters in parts of the state, but also politicising disaster management, particularly in the state. The federal agency was also accused of distributing substandard relief materials to victims of disasters.
“I have always been a part of the committee on disaster management and to the best of my knowledge, that information is not entirely correct, because we have a responsibility as an agency to present issues as they are,” he stated.
He said further that “we at NOA are a very critical stakeholder of disaster management and in the last two years, we have been partnering with the Niger State Emergency Management Agency (NSEMA) on the issues of disaster education. If you recall, last year, we paid advocacy visits to about eight traditional rulers in the state because we had a prediction that there was going to be excessive rainfall in Niger State and from the report that we received through NEMA, the state was mentioned as one of the states that were going to experience weather situations in the country at the period under review.”
He stated further: “We received the approval of the state governor, Dr. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu, to go round the state with officials of NSEMA on advocacy visit and on our part as an agency, we detailed all our officers in local government areas to continue from where we stopped. So, they were visiting the people from one community to the other, sensitising them on the need to leave the riverine areas and to relocate to the upper land. In addition, we provided a little succour through the agency and also through the office of the chief servant to those who were at that point affected by the disasters.”
He disclosed that NOA’s roles as far as disaster management in the country was concerned bordered on sensitisation.
He, however, explained that the aspect of procuring materials as against providing money by NEMA was as a result of some experiences in the past, especially before the states emergency management came on board.
“NEMA has been on the ground for years and their decision to be providing materials is as a result of the experiences they had over time. When they provided funds, the funds did not usually get to the affected people. So, as a result of that, the Federal Government felt that the most appropriate way to get these relief materials to those who actually need them is to provide the materials and make them available on ground,” he said.
The NOA boss in state pointed out that if people had been following the activities of NEMA in the media, particularly on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) network news, they would discover that when these materials were being distributed to the affected persons, they were always asked to be on a single file and as they lined up, at a glance, one would know that these were people that were truly in need of assistance, even if it was a temporary one from the government.
Meanwhile, NEMA has debunked the allegations that the Federal Government was politicising its activities. It said the allegations of the DG of NSEMA was personal. It stated this while speaking through its Abuja Zonal Coordinator, Mr. Ishaya Isha Chinoko.
The zonal coordinator said disaster management was everybody’s responsibility. He, however, opined that if a disaster is beyond the capacity of a community, the situation should be reported to the local government council. He emphasised that the “local government should address the disaster, but if it is beyond its capacity, it should go to the state.”
He said if a state could not contain a disaster, it is expected to approach the Federal Government for assistance. He further likened the issue of disaster management to an hungry man who has the probability of getting something to eat, provided he approaches the person whom he knows can assist him in sourcing for food, but if the hungry man did not approach the person for assistance, it is most unlikely that the person would know that the man is hungry.
The NEMA Boss however pointed out that apart from Lagos state, no other state in the country has got the assistance of the federal agency more than Niger state, just as he expressed shock that Mohammed Shaba was saying that NEMA was sluggish in rising to distress call.
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