For the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and its Director General, Muhammad Sani Sidi OFR, 2014 has been a year of encomiums.
It isn’t that they were not recognized and extolled in the previous years, but the share number of awards and recognitions from very diverse entities this year has been remarkable. It is even more exhilarating that some of the awards are from the very critical segment of the society – the Fourth Estate of the Realm!
It is not easy for an emergency management agency or its chief disaster manager to earn people’s trust. Emergency or disaster management is very volatile. People easily forget efforts made by disaster managers to prevent or reduce the risk of disasters when disaster strikes. In the emergency situation that unfolds, the disaster manager is easily scapegoated for the mayhem. It is how well the response to the immediate crisis is handled that matters at this point. The major plank of disaster management – risk reduction is hardly rewarded, notwithstanding that since the late 1980s the international community has placed emphasis on strategies for reducing disaster risks and impacts. Specifically, the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) 2005-2015: Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters is aimed at substantial reduction of disaster losses, in lives as well as the social, economic and environmental assets of communities and countries.
NEMA through many plans such as National Disaster Management Framework, National Disaster Response Plan, Search and Rescue and Epidemic Evacuation Plan, etc, and programmes such as Grassroots Emergency Volunteers Corps (GEVC), Executive Emergency Volunteers and Emergency Management Vanguards (EMV), among others, has been moving along with the rest of the world towards natural disaster prevention, preparedness and mitigation. While these plans and programmes aim to improve disaster response by all stakeholders and build community resilience to disasters, they are largely unsung. Perhaps this is because the benefits are not as dramatic as disaster occurrence. The accolades have been for timely response to disasters and humanitarian assistance to victims of disasters. Disaster response thus remains the most visible aspect of emergency management.
Jonathan Baker, Principal of BBC College of Journalism obliquely explained why it is disaster response that more easily wins hearts and minds than DRR when he said in the book, DISASTER THROUGH A DIFFERENT LENS: A guide for journalists covering disaster risk reduction; ” whether we like it or not, the way a media organization responds to a disaster will be driven first and foremost by how strong they think it is. To put it crudely: How bad is it? When reports come in of a catastrophe, the journalistic instinct will be to ask questions like: How many people are dead, injured, made homeless?
Stories of catastrophes make big headlines, putting the disaster manager in the limelight for good or bad. But risk reduction efforts that would have prevented the catastrophe from happening will not be lead stories – yet that is what is required to build resilience to disasters.
It must, however, be conceded that response to emergency situations, when emotions and anxieties are running high, is easily the most visible aspect of disaster management. Almost all the awards given to NEMA in 2014 reflect this fact. But while no award is worthier than the other, as they are all based on thorough scrutiny and appraisal of NEMA’s activities. Some of the awards and the reasons given for the recognition are:-
National Productivity Order of Merit Award
The National Productivity Order of Merit Award was conferred on NEMA by the National Productivity Center, in August, 2014. This is because “the Agency has been very visible and its impacts effectively felt in crisis situations such as incidences of building collapse, air crash, market fires and flood, amongst several others across the country. The Agency’s prompt and continuing intervention in the present humanitarian challenges in the North east as a result of the Boko Haram insurgency and other activities such as delivery of humanitarian assistance to sister African countries, were also taken into consideration for the award.”
Humanitarian Icon of the Year 2014
The Institute for Humanitarian Studies and Social Development awarded the Humanitarian Icon of the Year 2014 to the Director General of NEMA, Alhaji Muhammad Sani Sidi OFR, for outstanding humanitarian services. AFROCULTOUR on its part presented a medal of honour and award of Humanitarian Personality of the Year for “timely response to humanitarian crises in Nigeria and for effectively discharging the Federal Government’s responsibilities to Nigerians in emergency situations.”
2014 Most Outstanding Parastatal of the year
The NIGERIAN PILOT in nominating NEMA as 2014 MOST OUTSTANDING PARASTATAL OF THE YEAR said the nomination came “after rigorous and painstaking scrutiny and assessment of over 20 nominees by the Editorial Board in consultation with the Editorial Advisers and other stakeholders in the media industry.”
The nomination, the newspaper said, “is in recognition of the tremendous and commendable achievements NEMA has made under your able leadership to alleviate the sufferings of people affected by various forms of disasters across the country. We particularly note the succor offered to victims of last year’s flood disasters and those presently displaced as a result of security challenges in the North-East and communal clashes in the North-Central, especially Benue, Nasarawa and Plateau states.”
Certificate of Service Delivery
The Coalition of Civil Society Group delivered a certificate of performance in service delivery to NEMA on 30th December, 2014, “after a thorough evaluation of projects in your institution.” The group took advantage of the “Freedom of Information Bill passed into law to carry out this independent national assignment without your consent.”
Outstanding CEO of the Year
The SUN NEWSPAPER is also honouring the Director General, Sani Sidi for outstanding performance. It is pertinent to mention that these newspapers and organizations are only following in the footsteps of others who had accorded similar recognitions of the achievements of NEMA under the leadership of Muhammad Sani Sidi. THIS DAY Newspaper in a special report in 2011 awarded the DG the Outstanding Chief Executive of the Year; African Leadership Magazine of London accorded the DG the CEO of Best Emergency and Disaster Management Agency of the Year while Human Rights Writers Association recognized him as Human Rights Friendly Public Official of the Year. He was recognized by Leadership Newspaper and the Independent Service Delivery Monitoring Group, too.
Surely, NEMA deserves these awards. But, while most of these honours are in respect of responses to emergency situations – bomb blasts in Jos, Bauchi, Kano, Kaduna, Nyanya, Madalla, etc; Flood disaster of 2012 and humanitarian relief operations in the North east as a result of the huge displacement of people by the Boko Haram insurgency; cattle rustling and conflicts between Fulani herdsmen and farmers in Benue, Nasarawa, Plateau and elsewhere, it should be mentioned that the Agency has also been on full throttle in efforts to build the resilience of communities and the nation to disasters.
As we go into the new year when the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) 2005-2015; Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters expires and the international community comes up with a successor framework to consolidate the risk reduction gains made over the years, we need to embrace the significant shift of attention from the preoccupation with disaster response to addressing the root causes of disaster. It is only then that we can achieve substantive reduction in disaster losses and build a resilient nation and communities which is an essential condition for sustainable development.