By Abubakar Jimoh
Sentiments apart, there is no doubt that disaster management efforts in the country is currently receiving unprecedented breakthrough, thanks to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and it principal, the Director-General, Alhaji Muhammad Sani Sidi. No wonder, Sani Sidi was recently honoured with Public Officer of the Year awards by one of the country’s leading Newspapers, the Sun.
Going by the available facts, Sani Sidi has been able to overturn the approaches to disaster management in the country, using strategic values systems that have helped to save thousands of lives and property worth billions of naira.
Through these efforts, the agency has been able to develop, improve, and sustain cordial relationship with stakeholders, especially specialized volunteers on disaster management in the country.
Under the leadership of Sani Sidi, most of the activities of the agency are undertaken under collaborative efforts with other response agencies and volunteers who are also trained to provide supports whenever required. The volunteer groups include those for top level officers in the public and private sectors known as Executive Volunteers, The Grassroots Volunteers at community level and Youth Volunteers. The successes of the volunteers are noticeable in public awareness campaigns and response to emergencies.
Haven realized that quality education and awareness campaigns are major pillars towards disaster risk reduction, NEMA under Sani-Sidi has expended more resources in training and retraining of staff and stakeholders through regional seminars, conferences and simulations exercises. There is also tremendous public awareness on disaster management through effective media relations and strategic relations with relevant response agencies.
The improvement in early warning alert by NEMA has assisted in great measures in reducing risk from excessive rainfall that have resulted to massive flooding this year alone. Though lives and property have been lost, those that had adhered to the early alert from the agency were saved.
While preventive strategies are antidotes to avoid occurrence, timely response to disaster occurrences are now the hallmark of NEMA going by their response to bomb explosion sites, collapsed buildings, flooded communities among others. While NEMA rescue officers search for victims, relief and rehabilitation teams provide succour to the affected communities.
NEMA’s success story in the last five years is not limited to managing challenges in Nigeria, but also with the international communities. The agency has rendered various types of assistances and supports to mostly African countries. For instance relief materials were provided to victims of explosion in Congo Brazzaville, while The Gambia benefitted from deployment of skilled NEMA emergency officers to support in setting up similar agency in that country. In the same vein, stranded Nigerians during the political crises in Arab countries were successfully evacuated and united with their families in Nigeria. Egypt, Tunisia and Libya were cases in point.
It is pertinent to note that while NEMA offices are in only six states representing each geopolitical zone of the Federation, Sani-Sidi finds it necessary to improve the capacities of the stakeholders, especially the volunteer groups. The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) is a beneficiary of the gesture. The NEMA-NYSC Emergency Youths Vanguard (EYV) has received financial and moral supports for their programmes and projects.
For instance, such assistance helped this writer to realise some projects including pamphlets, Zebra crossing, school quiz, relief donations and advocacy visitations during the NYSC days.
Many stakeholders’ initiatives have been developed and sustained from the NEMA-EYV collaboration. A concrete example of these is Youths Against Disaster Initiative (YADI) which is an opportunity for young Nigerians to be advocates and champions of disaster risk reduction in their communities. The initiative was influenced by encouragement of Sani-Sidi, who insists “Disaster Management is everyone’s business.”
YADI was created through the collaborative efforts of the youths who have been critically involved in sensitization campaign against disaster during their service year at the realm of NYSC. The Initiative majorly aims to: create a framework for sensitizing and enlightening the youths on public safety, security consciousness and disaster risks management across the country; educate and empower youths on public safety, disaster risk reduction, especially in preparing, responding and mitigating natural and man-made disasters through effective collaboration with stakeholders.
In view of the above, it is therefore not surprising that NEMA under Muhamad Sani-Sidi has continued to receive accolades for the way and manner it manages disaster situations in the country. In order to sustain the tempo of disaster management in the country, Sani Sidi was reappointed by President Goodluck Jonathan in 2013 for second tenure upon the completion of his first tenure.
It is expected that Muhammad Sani-Sidi would use the next half of his tenure to sustain, if not improve on what have so far been accomplished in the areas of disaster management in the country.
Sani-Sidi was born on 12th August, 1966 in Jere, Kagarko Local Government Area of Kaduna state. He started his education career in 1973 at L.E.A Primary School, Jere where he obtained his School Leaving Certificate in 1979. He attended Government Secondary School, Minna for his West African Secondary Certificate (WASC) between 1979 and 1984; He enrolled into College of Advanced Studies, Zaria for his IJMB “A” Level between 1984 and 1986. He bagged B.sc (Hons) in Business Administration from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in 1989. Masters in Business Administration (MBA) and Masters in International Affairs and Diplomacy (MAID) between 2000 and 2001, and 2001 to 2002 respectively from the same institution.
He began his working career at Ministry of Finance, Katsina state, where he served as Data Entry Officer for one year mandatory NYSC Primary assignment in 1989 to 1990. Senior Manager (Supplies) at National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) in 1990 to 2003. He became Special Assistant to Honourable Minister of Finance, Abuja in 2003 to 2007. He was Honourable Commissioner, Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Kaduna state in July, 2007 to 2008; Honourable Commissioner, Ministry of Works & Transport Kaduna state in 2008 to 2010; Honourable Commissioner Ministry of Culture & Tourism Kaduna state in July 2010 to September 2010; Director General, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in September 2010 to date.
He is a member of many national and international professional bodies such as the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM), USA; International Emergency Management Society (TIEMS), Belgium; Institute of Civil Protection and Emergency Management (ICPEM), United Kingdom; World Society of Victomology (WSV), Germany; and Institute of Corporate Administration, Nigeria.
Alhaji Sani Sidi has received several awards to his excellence in public service. These include Fellowship Award for Distinguished Professional Contribution by the Institute of Corporate Administration, March 2011; Award for Exemplary Leadership in Disaster Management by Conference on Disaster, Safety and Management, March 2011; Outstanding Chief Executive Officer by Thisday Newspaper Special Report, April 2011; CEO of Best Emergency and Disaster Management Agency of the Year by African Leadership Magazine, London, June 2011; Human Rights Friendly Public Official of the Year by Human Right Writers Association of Nigeria, December 2012; Public Officer of the Year by the Sun Newspaper, January 2015.
Also, his distinguished public service had captured the attention of Kaduna State Government which specially appointed him to oversee the affairs of various public sectors and several other committees.
He has represented the country in several Conferences and Seminars both in Nigeria and international communities such as Member of Delegation to the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Meeting in Kampala, Uganda; Member, Study Tour on Debt Management to Australia in January, 2005; Member Delegation, EU-ECOWAS Meeting in Dakar in July, 2005; Africa Development Bank (ADB) Annual Meeting, Abuja in 2005; Member Delegation to Annual Meetings on Africa Capacity Building Foundation, Paris in 2006; Member of Delegation Nigeria Nigeria/Xenel Meeting in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; Member of Delegation Nigeria/UAE Investmant Mission, Abu Dhabi, UAE; Leader of Nigeria’s Delegation, Third Session of Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reductions, Geneva, Switzerland in 2011; among others.
Abubakar Jimoh is the National Coordinator, Youths Against Disaster Initiative (YADI)