By Adamu Adamu
I perfectly concede that majority of public institutions were shamefully dysfunctional before the advent of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. No soothsayer needs to explain to us, it is what influenced President Buhari’s painstaking search for his appointees, especially in critical and sensitive areas. And I have no hesitation with the assertion that almost all of his appointees have proved the essential mark of credibility and activeness in the performance of official responsibilities they are mandated to superintend. But every day, self-serving adversaries, hatch fresh ludicrous plots against them. One observes easily, the proclivity to vilify, blackmail, abuse and even cajole these leaders, despite glaring evidence of faithful and diligent service to the nation.
The current leadership of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) under the Director-General (DG), Engr. Mustapha Maihaja has come under the yoke of such harsh judgments of the perpetual fault-finders. I have every reason to empathize with NEMA-DG, Engr. Maihaja. First, management of disasters, by its very nature clearly defined as emergency and its unexpectedness is what we all know is associated with extreme difficulties. Before the administration of Maihaja, not many of us ever knew an agency like NEMA existed in functionality. Today, NEMA has assumed a positive attitude towards its mandate and a new face under the leadership of Engr. Maihaja. Apparently, the NEMA –DG and his team have devoted their energies and wisdom to a job, which, like the military, leaves them prone to the same risks as the victims they step out to rescue.
Undoubtedly, Maihaja has redefined the soul of NEMA and birthed an agency where response to emergency has become an uncompromising priority of government. It’s not debatable! But I am saddened at the conspiratorial voices and forces of revolt which have vowed to unjustifiably divert his attention from concentrating on his onerous national duties. It’s their favorite past time to contrive mountains of fabricated allegations and test the waters in public domain to weaken his resolve of service to the nation. They strategize to spellbind him out of focus and thereafter, be the first to accuse him of incompetence. And in the dark labyrinths’ of officialdom, the nest of conspirators against Maihaja have unimaginable tentacles, believe it or leave it!
I recounted the ghoulish dance of the House of Representatives adhoc Committee on Emergency and Disaster Preparedness’s predicted probe. It oozed with vindictiveness and vendetta by its replay of the political battles Maihaja had with opponents at his home state. I reminisced the *enticing*(or indicting ) of Speaker of the House of Reps, Hon. Yakubu Dogara’s into conscription, by the undercover forces. His only potent weapon was the high political office he holds in the land. And also allegedly bruised somewhat by the NEMA boss, his readiness to squeeze the juice out of Maihaja, registered openly through a probe committee. And for what I understood, it was for the alleged refusal of the incumbent NEMA leadership to bow to blackmail, campaign of calumny and arm-twisting, by playing the game with princely contracts to adversaries from the agency. It is known in Nigerian local parlance as “playing of ball,” to lubricate the affluence appetite of men of means and power.
When I read the asinine twists of facts in the report of the Reps probe committee, submitted to the House and the submissions of the agency before it, during committee investigations, it smacked more of spin doctors at work. It opened fresh vistas of curiosity. The report unpretentiously muddled up facts or shunned verified clarifications offered by the NEMA management to the panel. I sensed it just aimed at churning out an indicting report that aligned with the known motives for constituting the probe from the outset. I was aghast to listen to staff of NEMA, who were prodded and instigated enough to stage a protest against Maihaja reel out very frivolous and conflicting excuses for the protests. Their utterances in the public trial of Maihaja rather convicted them, instead of the DG as plotted. The graph was not properly ploughed.
NEMA protesting staff claimed they were rendered redundant by the Maihaja’s leadership of the agency. At the same time, the workers were alleging being owed hundreds of millions’ of naira in unpaid claims of overtime. At this point, I knew the devil was strongly at work to discredit Maihaja, even if it means pulling down the gates of heaven. Thereafter, we were told, the unexpected. Reps said, former NEMA-DG, Mr. Mohammed Sani and six senior directors under investigation by the EFCC for an alleged fraud of N2.5 billion, before the parliamentarians usurped the probe, became innocent suspects in the “court” of the Reps committee. It declared them free of any accusation. But much more annoying, the Reps Committee never conclusively investigated any of the items of accusations it leveled on Engr. Maihaja in NEMA or established to finality any decision they sealed in the report submitted to the House Plenary. The report was replete with references to either concerned MDAs or the EFCC or ICPC for what they termed “further investigation.”
I wondered how lawmakers could afford to publicise the results of such a shoddy assignment, discloured by unverified decisions, which ab initio had no substance or element of truth. Obviously, Reps got stuck in its investigations, but claimed certain public officials breached public trust and also, embezzled billions of naira. Happily, Maihaja and his team are not distracted by the interferences. They are ever committed to this national assignment, with renewed determination and the zeal to serve distressed Nigerians even better. But as traducers prefer to unnecessarily berate NEMA and its Maihaja’s management, it has not frustrated the agency as intended. NEMA saved Nigeria national embarrassment by evacuating 2,130 Nigerians stranded in Libya in a multi-agency operation that was swift and splendid.
Barely two months back in Abuja, NEMA rescued scores of construction workers trapped in the rubbles of a collapsed building under construction at the Jabi district of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). The agency’s prompt response to distress calls from the public saved the lives of Nigerians who are eternally grateful to the government of their country. And in the incident a few days back in the Woji locality of Port Harcourt, Rivers state, where a seven-storey building collapsed, NEMA’s intervention rescued alive, 31 persons buried in the debris. And I will deliberately exclude NEMA’s interventions in the amelioration of the hardships of Nigerians scattered in dozens of IDPs in camps around the country. It is from North to South and the ugly trend appears to be in progression with each passing day. We are rather fortunate to have an active NEMA boss who obeys the word “emergency” in its truest sense of responsibility, by coming to the rescue of victims.
We cannot doubt that the season of flooding in Nigeria is just ebbing out. But at least, 12 states, such as Anambra, Kogi, Delta, Bayelsa, Katsina, Kebbi, Niger, Kwara and a retinue of others were severely affected from North to Southern Nigeria. NEMA was there. I experienced the severe incident in Kogi State, and in particular, Kogi/Kotonkarfe LGA of the state for instance. NEMA officials had to even evacuate victims trapped in the fury of high volume of waters even at nights. Several lives were saved and scurried to safety. And thereafter, truckloads of assorted relief materials were supplied to the victims by NEMA to ease their sufferings. In Nigeria, where most public servants feel or do not consider personal sacrifice as service to the nation, such courage and sacrifices by NEMA should be applauded, rather than denigrated.
Nigerians, there are no misgivings about the performance of NEMA under Engr. Maihaja. Most of us often unfairly judge NEMA because we believe for every disaster that has occurred anywhere in the country, there should be no fatalities because an agency called NEMA exists. But descending blocks or concrete of a collapsing building alone, could kill any unlucky victim instantly, even if NEMA officials were part of the supervising officials. What is the source of the rages against NEMA. We must bring our hearts down to judge fairly. Maihaja’s leadership of NEMA has no room for indolence, half-measures in official responsibilities; much more, enslaves itself to the principles of accountability and transparency as core in-house ethics. It is what led to the exposure of the six serving directors indicted over alleged N2.5 billion fraud. But the NEMA boss’ pledge from day one was to reposition the agency to make it responsible to the people and delivering on its mandates timely at all times. I salute the resilience of Engr. Maihaja and his team at NEMA, as their stewardship has positively affected lives of Nigerians across the country.
Adamu contributed this piece from Bauchi, Bauchi State.