Labaran Saleh, NEMA: Disaster is a crisis situation causing wide spread damage which often exceeds the coping capacity of the affected community or people. The possibility of occurrence, time, place and severity of some incidents can be reasonably and in some cases accurately predicted by technological and scientific means.
Whether natural or human induced, disasters cause deaths, injuries and displacement of victims who depend on humanitarian service providers.
In trying to provide succor to victims of disasters, especially those who are displaced, government, humanitarian organizations and well meaning individuals commit funds and materials that are distributed to the victims. In Nigeria, the insurgency in parts of the North East is one major security challenge that has been consuming the nation’s human, material and financial resources. Report from a recent Data Tracking Matrix (DTM) survey by the International Organization for Migration and National Emergency Management Agency reveal that there are presently about 2.1million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), out of which insurgency is responsible for about 1.8million in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states. Some of these have also fled to other contiguous states and neighbouring countries such as the Republics of Cameroun, Niger and Tchad.
As usual, relief interventions are made by governments, groups and individuals to alleviate their sufferings. However, there have been doubts about the transparent management of the humanitarian aids. This had arisen from reports of alleged diversion of relief materials from reaching the desired beneficiaries.
However, it must be noted that the task of catering for such a large number of IDPs during an economic recession is no doubt herculean. This is more so because no special financial allocation has been given to NEMA, the coordinating agency for disaster management in the country. The agency which has the mandate to formulate and coordinate policies and resources for efficient disaster management in the country, has received commendation for job well done and sometimes criticisms.
It is pertinent to say that not many are aware of the coordinating roles of NEMA and the involvement of many ministries, departments and agencies of government as well as many other local and international NGOs and Agencies of the United Nations in Nigeria. The task of providing care for 2.1 million victims of disaster is quite enormous. This may be why the federal government has taken a step further by the recent directive for scaling up the humanitarian coordination through the special ministerial task force chaired by the Minister of Budget and National Planning with membership including ministers of relevant ministries.
The coordinated responses by the Federal and State governments have often been misunderstood leading to uninformed allegations and misinformation. This could affect the morale of the humanitarian workers and agencies confronted by this herculean task. Whereas NEMA represents the Federal government, the states through their own State Emergency Management Agencies (SEMAs) have been doing a lot that deserved commendation rather than condemnation. There may be some instances of misconducts in the handling of reliefs in some states, but these are always dealt with after thorough investigations.
Despite inadequate funding, investigation reveals that NEMA has been delivering foods and non-food items to the IDPs on a monthly basis, depending on the amount of funds available to it. The agency usually hands over the items to states that receive them on behalf of the IDPs and subsequently releases the items to the camps for distribution. The onus, therefore, is on the state governors to investigate the activities of their officials with a view to clearing any suspicions.
It is heartwarming that various international donors are contributing to the welfare of the IDPs. The Federal Ministry of Budget and National Planning is now the clearing house for all international interventions. NEMA has clarified that it has not received donation of aid from any international organizations as these are often channeled directly through their branches and affiliates here in Nigeria. NEMA can therefore not be held accountable for the acts of international organizations operating in the country.
Humanitarian service providers should be encouraged and possibly celebrated because of the risks they take in attending to victims of disasters especially insurgency. In a depressed economy, it is difficult to source enough funds to meet the needs of the large numbers of IDPs who need help.
We should join hands with the government through donations by well-meaning individuals and private organizations to provide the much needed relief and rehabilitation to our IDPs.