Only 6 Of 275 Rescued Women Pregnant

Alhaji Mohammed Sani Sidi is the director-general of National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). In this interview with PEMBI DAVID-STEPHEN, he sets the record straight on the conditions and plight of the 275 rescued women by Nigerian troops from Sambisa forest, saying only 6 of the women are pregnant.

What has been the experience of NEMA in managing the rescued victims of insurgency?

I must say that the security agencies in Nigeria have done very well in the fight against insurgency. Just recently they recorded huge success by rescuing about 300 women and children from Sambisa Forest who were under the captivity of the deadly Boko Haram. When they were rescued we received a call from the military authority that they were going to handover the rescued women and children to the National Emergency Management Agency. Don’t forget we have about fourteen camps at the beginning of last year in Adamawa State alone, but because of the successes recorded by the military in the fight against insurgency, most of the communities that were under the occupation of Boko Haram have been recovered and now peace have returned so the IDPs are beginning to move back to their various communities making it necessary for us as an agency to begin to reduce the camps. At the moment we have six camps which we call residential camps that are presently hosting about 27 thousand IDPs in Yola in particular and we have over 200 thousand living within the host communities.

We see the receipt of this rescued women and children as just an added responsibility to what we have been doing as an agency with IDPs. We consider them special because they have been under captivity for a long period of time. Obviously most of them are women and 70% are children below the age of five. Out of the 275, sixty three came unaccompanied and that is very worrisome, it is a terrible situation to have children under the age of five unaccompanied, meaning they have lost their parents and we cannot link them with their parent at the moment, six of them came with pregnancy and that is a sympathetic situation.

That contradicts the claims that most of the women came with pregnancy.

That is not correct, it is some people who don’t have information. The speculation out there is that most of them came out with pregnancy. I must put it on record that only six of them came with pregnancy and we must add however that we must be very careful not to stigmatize this innocent Nigerians who were under captivity and came back with pregnancy so that we don’t end up stigmatizing the child that is yet unborn. I think we must respect their rights and be careful by the way we talk about the issue and we should respect their rights.

From your investigation, who is responsible for these pregnancies?

I think we must really de-emphasise the issue of these pregnancies, what is important for us as an agency is the welfare and well being of these women and children, that is what we have been focusing on as an agency. When we received them you recall we received them in the middle of the night and our staff waited for them like for two days because of the logistic of transporting them from Sambisa forest to our camp in Yola. When they came they came very weak and sick. Out of the total of 275, about 158 came very sick, so we had to do an assessment, profile them and some that have serious ailments were transferred to the Federal Medical centre in Yola. Those that can be taking care in the camp within the coping capacity of doctors and nurses that we have were taken care of in the camp.

Can you tell us the nature of their ailments?

Most of them came especially the children with eye diseases, malaria, fatigue, they came looking very hungry, tired and traumatized. You can imagine people living under that kind of horrible conditions they are naturally traumatized. We had to immediately organize for trauma counseling and other requirements like feeding, clothing and even personal hygiene.

Have you been able to carry out any assessment of the true identity of these rescued women?

We have carried out assessment of the rescued women and children and before they were even delivered to us in our camps, the military have done profiling to ensure that they are not security risk and that they are innocent people captured by the insurgents and rescued by the military. What is left for us is to identify where they came from and that we have done and then we have assessed them medically and we shall continue to monitor them, especially the children. Some of them have also sustained various degrees of injuries, from gun shots, bomb blasts and they have been referred to Federal Medical Centre where they are receiving treatment.

What goes into this profiling done by the military and has NEMA been able to carry out its own independent assessment?

Our assessment is limited to their conditions, we are not security agency, they have done their job by profiling them and ensuring that they are not security risks, they could live in our camps like any other IDPs but they are special to us like I said earlier. They are different from the normal IDPs that are resident in our camps because these are people who were under captivity for a long time, they are traumatized so they need counseling, they need support so as to be rehabilitated back into the society.

How would you assess the humanitarian conditions of the rescued women and children?

Emphasis is now giving to the rescued 275 women and children, but before their arrival we have been managing IDPs. Like in Borno we have over ten camps, in Adamawa we have six residential camps and we have IDPs in host communities who are more in number. We have been managing these IDPs for the last five years and we have enjoyed tremendous support from the Borno, Adamawa, Yobe and Gombe state Governments, where we have camps in the North eastern part of the country. Humanitarian activity cannot really be done effectively by one agency, so there has to be collaboration and synergy between all the humanitarian actors. I must say that we have been receiving tremendous support from other actors. We have received training and support for our personnel from the UN system, the Nigerian Red Cross Society has been with us through out these trying periods, they have been in all our camps and all the other state emergency managements agencies and indeed NGOs and civil societies. It has been a close collaboration and I must say they have all done very well.

Is there any peculiar challenge in managing these special IDPs?

Indeed they are special IDPs, because like I have said they are people who need special attention. Most of them are children and our greatest concern are those sixty three children that came unaccompanied and we have to find the ways and means of unifying them with their parent or their families and that is a huge challenge. They can hardly speak, they are small kids just following the other groups looking lost and we are working side by side with all the other agencies working with us to identify their parents.

Has there been any effort to trace their roots?

Certainly, the first step is to establish information centre where people can come give information, where the IDPs too can pass information to the camp management on matters that affect their situation. What I am saying is it is going to take time. Just few days ago some people came and identify their children, they are not among the sixty three but we have other unaccompanied children in almost all the camps. Some time we are lucky we have people coming to identify such children as their parents and once it is established the authority process and hand them over to the parents.

So you are saying some parents have shown up?

Yes but not in the case of the 275 children and women.

What is the proof, because there could be desperation to get parent.

There are procedures of verification and ensuring that the children are handed over to parents in accordance with international best practice.

 How are those that came with ailments responding to treatment?

I must commend care givers in the camp because as at the time they arrived, most of them cannot even stand on their feet. Now they are gradually recovering, even the mothers were so malnourished that they could not even breast feed their children. It was terrible but now we noticed significant improvement and we have other agencies with specialty in nutrition that are assisting the nursing mothers and children to see that they recover quickly.

How good enough is this camp to helping the IDPs get back to their feet?

I must say that the environment which they live is to a larger extent conducive. All the facilities required to live decent life are provided. We have electricity, water supply, sufficient toilets, adequate sanitation and hygiene and most importantly we have enough food to feed the IDPs. Camp will always be a camp and cannot be compared to our normal residences and I am happy the IDPs themselves understand this and are coping with the situation they have found themselves. All the service providers and humanitarian actors are doing their best to provide counseling to the IDPs. We have not had any case where any IDP went to bed without food. The camps are being fumigated on a quarterly bases and we have enough mosquito nets to ensure that they are not infected by malaria as a result of the environment. To a large extent the camps are habitable and the IDPs are happy about it.

How long will this process of camping last?

There is no specific time frame, you live in the camp as long as possible because their communities must be secured before they return. The military will have to inform NEMA that a particular community is safe before the IDPs are prepared to be returned. We have started like when the military informed us that Mubi North and Mubi South in Adamawa state are safe and people can go back. So we went to the community to carry out an assessment along with other stakeholders to ensure that their communities are safe because you cant take somebody from safety to harm. Where they are now in camp is secured so we have to carry out independent assessment in line with international best practices to be sure that their communities are actually safe for them to return. Like seven local governments now in Adamawa state have been declared safe, so the process of return has begun and we are providing support to the IDPs to be able to return to their homes.

How NEMA Manages Disasters in Nigeria

Going down memory lane with focus on  last year, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has been very active in the discharge of its responsibilities through various strategic and pragmatic activities. These include the following:
 
  Spill over of the 2012 Flood responses continued in 2013
The spillover effects of the devastating 2012 flood that ravaged many communities which we continued in the efforts of providing assistance to the affected persons and commenced a special assessment of the situation with development various partners drawn both locally and internationally. The outcome of the Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) is contain in the detailed report which we have submitted to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) for information of the government and further necessary actions.
  National Workshop on Dissemination of Early Warning Message
NEMA organized a National workshop on 26 -27 March 2013 which focused on the lessons learnt from the 2012 flood disaster in Nigeria, disaster management implication of the 2013 NIMET Seasonal Rainfall Prediction and flood preparedness, prevention, mitigation and response.
The workshop recorded a total of 604 participants from Parliamentarians, Federal ministries, departments and agencies, UN Agencies, state Emergency Management Agencies (SEMAs), Local and International NGOs, Red Cross, Academia, CBOs, media, Armed Forces/Para-military organisations, Dam managers/River Basin Authorities, Youth/Women groups, Faith based organisations. A communiqué with far-reaching, multi-sectoral, multi-jurisdictional observations and recommendations was issued at the end of the workshop
 
  Early Warning Letters to the State Governors
Letters on the Early Warning Message were sent to all the State Governors, the Minister of the F.C.T and members of the National Assembly on the Disaster Management implication of the 2013 Seasonal Rainfall Prediction as well as their respective recommendations
 
  Flood Vulnerability Mapping
NEMA in collaboration with Office of the Surveyor-General of the Federation (OSGOF) and National Space Research and Development  Agency(NASRDA) conducted flood vulnerability mapping to identify communities at risk of flooding. The mapping was done based on the 2012 flood extent and elevation of the areas.
Presently, 17 states have been completed, placing priority on the states NIMET  and NIHSA predicted would have more rainfall. The maps have been given to responsible authorities. Mapping of the remaining vulnerable states is on-going.NEMA works closely with State Governments and relevant stakeholders to achieve its mandate for effective and efficient disaster management in Nigeria. To certify the level of preparedness of States and relevant stakeholders, NEMA has evaluated their preparedness actions in response to the recommendations made in the 2013 Early Warning Message.
 
  The Contingency plans for 2013 floods included:
Warehouse Stockpiling/Pre-positioning of relief supplies; acquisition of equipment in readiness for flood disaster; Identification of Vulnerable Communities; Identification of Safer Grounds in all possible affected communities as temporary shelter locations and Sensitization of the populace in identified Local Governments through workshops, radio and television jingles and flyers.
 
NEMA through the zonal offices also embarked on community consultation and mobilization programmes which also provided for massive awareness at the grassroots in various communities.
Our media campaign strategies against the flood included considerable placement of jingles in which were aired on radio and television in both English and most local languages across most states, especially in areas predicted to experience the flood. We also enjoyed the supports of the media which were very consistent in highlighting the predicted imminent dangers.
  Tripartite MoU with NOA and NESREA
This is a tripartite agreement entered into in 2013 between the National Orientation Agency (NOA), National Environmental Standards Regulations and Enforcement Agency (NESREA) and National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to collaborate in the development, implementation and organization of projects and programmes targeted at sensitizing Nigerian citizenry on environmental and other natural and human – induced hazards
 
  NEMA/SEMA Consultative Meetings

In line with NEMA’s mandate to enhance vertical and horizontal coordination in disaster management, the agency has put in place modalities to achieve this goal. One of such is the regular meeting and consultation between NEMAHQ and SEMAs. This meeting is rotated annually among the six geopolitical zones. The first meeting was held at Enugu in March, 2010, followed by Ibadan in November, 2010. The third meeting was held at Yola in September, 2011 while the latest was held in Lafia in March 2013.  
 
  Training and capacity development
NEMA ensure regular training of the staff across departments, units and zonal offices in various accredited training organisations. In addition, simulation exercises which brings together the stakeholders to identify their various roles in coordinated responses to disasters. Some of the major training activities for the stakeholders included:
   The simulation exercise on a terrorist attack on a Road Check Point – ‘Sawake Asara’, Armed Forces Simulation Centre, Jaji, 17th-22nd March 2013
 NEMA in collaboration with UNHCR trained 20 individuals from key National Agencies and NGOs as internationally recognized trainers in Camp Management and Camp Coordination on 2-7 June 2013
  Stakeholders workshop on the use of Space based information for Disaster Management. Date:(30-31)-07-13

  • Workshop on Research proposal Development with University of Oklahoma  “Nigerian integrated Early warning Decision support system” in  Collaboration with Key Stakeholders such as NIMET, NIHSA, and Ministry of Environment etc.
  • Establishment of Seismological Station at University of Abakaliki and FUTA Minna, On going

 
  Development of Joint Humanitarian Action Plan (JHAP) for Nigeria (2013-2015).
In 2013, the Agency in collaboration with UNOCHA commenced the development of the Joint Humanitarian Action Plan (JHAP) 2013-2015. This is a tool to be used by Government and humanitarian community to plan, implement and monitor humanitarian activities in Nigeria. The process is still on going.
  Support for Disaster Risk Management in West Africa sub-region:
The Agency has sent on Secondment to the Gambia National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA), two experts in disaster management for two years starting from 2013
  Lecture at Armed Forces Command and Staff College, Jaji
  In 2013, the Agency delivered series of lectures on Disaster Management to students of various categories at the AFCSC, Jaji to enhance their knowledge
 
  Lecture at National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru
Lecture was delivered at the Institute in 2013 which forms part of its policy development process. Also, students of the Institute were hosted by the Agency in May, 2013 as part of their study tour.
  The Agency participated at the Humanitarian Affair Segment of 2013 ECOSOC in July, 2013 in Geneva. The objective of the meeting was to strengthen the coordination of Emergency Humanitarian Assistance of the United Nations. The Agency participated in two side event and a humanitarian trade fair. The DG presented a paper tittled Humanitarian Perspectives On Regional Preparedness And Capacity Development – The Nigerian Experience Through The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA)
  Hosting the Committee of the West African Emergency Management
Nigeria successfully hosted the annual meeting of the Committee of the West African Emergency Management Agencies. In confirming the efforts being by NEMA, the Director General was elected at the meeting as the chair of the Committee .
  The DG NEMA who is the Chairman of the Association of Emergency Management Agency in West Africa in 2013 led five other delegates to the 68th United Nation General Assembly (68th UNGA). The major highlights of the programmme bothers on DRR activities, Human Right, Protection of Internally Displaced Persons and the review of the Millennium Development Goals. The DG made a presentation on Public Ownership And Leadership In Emergency And Disaster Management In Nigeria at a side event.
 
  USAFRICOM Partnership
The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and United States of America African Command (USAFRICOM) and other stakeholders in disaster management have developed strategic plans for management of pandemic in Nigeria. The documents were officially unveiled by officials of the United States Government and handed over the Federal Government  at a ceremony in Abuja last year. These were the National Influenza Pandemic Disaster Plan, the Military Pandemic Disaster Contingency Plan and the Military Assistance to Civil Authorities (MACA) Disaster Contingency Plan.
  Acquisition of critical rescue equipment
NEMA has taken delivery of some critical rescue equipment which include heavy duty excavator for deployment during emergencies such as building collapses; Mobile Intensive  Care Unit which is a state-of-the-art-ambulances that are strategically stationed with para-medics for prompt responses; multi-purpose emergency vehicles and other equipment. The Agency has also commissioned its first ambulance bay in Abuja under a pilot scheme to strengthen the regular 24 hours standby ERT team at the head office, all zonal/operational offices and other strategic locations in Abuja and environs.
   Volunteerism
The Agency  has mobilized latent hands amongst the professionals (medical doctors, engineers, surveyors, geologist and top executives in the public and organized private sector of the economy) to form Executive Emergency Management Volunteer Corps as complements to line MDA and also to support other Volunteers.
 
Muhammad Sani-Sidi
Director General
National Emergency Management agency
Abuja