Engr Daniel Balarabe Gambo is the acting director of training, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), and in this interview with Gloria Usman and Ruth Choji, he states that the agency has trained people in every discipline in disaster management, while revealing how the agency is working with the ministry of education on plans to include disaster management in its curriculum
What are the qualifications you look out for in people you train?
Actually, my department trains our personnel and stakeholders involved in disaster management holistically. We handle the training of our administrator to ensure that they have the managerial skills in employing people to serve the agency. Our mandate chiefly is coordinating disaster and emergency in the country. So, we are not just looking at training purely “search and rescue” officers, but holistic training, to be able to actualise our mandate. NEMA is made up of six departments – we have the admin department; supply, planning, research and forecasting. We have the department of search and rescue. We have the department of relief and rehabilitation, and we have the department of finance and account. And then, the department of training. When we begin our training programme, we look at all the qualifications you came in with. Whether you are an accountant, geologist and the rest.
Does NEMA employ people from different fields, or it has specific qualifications it seeks?
We employ people from all the spheres of learning, because when you talk of disaster, you need every component of our educational curriculum. You need medical personal, you need camp managers, care providers and so many others. You need civil, mechanical and electrical engineers, you need telecom engineers and the rest. Every aspect constitutes the staff we have in NEMA. We employ some coming raw from school. But then, it is our responsibility to train them to provide the services that will meet with our mandate. We have what we call “train the trainer” workshop, where we train our own staff to be able to train those people who will be able to provide those we need in the field, because we are not first respondent in crises situation. So, when disaster strikes, we invite all the stakeholders on the train.
Who are the stakeholders?
The police, for crowd control and law enforcement; civil defence also assists in crowd control and provision of law and order. They also help us in causality evacuation. We also have road safety as stakeholders, because when there is any disaster, you have to ensure that roads leading to the scene are free from any traffic, but vehicular and human obstruction. We also have the voluntary organisations, like the Red Cross, amateur organisation, and then, faith-based organisations like JNI, CAN and the rest. When we are conducting any training, we look at the relevance of these organisations to the situation at hand.
You mean, NEMA carries along these groups of personnel on every assignment?
No, it depends on the type of assignment. But certainly, you will require civil defence, police, ambulance service, and people who will give care – caterers, and also those that can manage camps and the rest. All form part of disaster management. In disaster management, time is a very important factor, and then, security. Victims will want to ensure that their property is safe. So, in training, we first think of how to save a life, protect the property, and match it to the owner; and the next thing is the environment.
What happens when disaster takes place in rural areas and NEMA doesn’t get there in time? Who takes care of such victims?
NEMA is training emergency grassroots volunteers. We have about 200 volunteers in each local government, where we give them basic tools they need for the job. We use experts in those areas that can impact within a short space of time. The training they need to handle disaster, like resuscitation and securing the environment before experts get there, we give them.
Who funds this training?
NEMA funds the training. And like I said, NEMA wants to ask other donor agencies for ownership, because sometimes, when you say you want to do it alone, people feel they have come to share government money and property, and so, they abused it. We inform state governments that we are coming to train and the rest, and as such, they take ownership and provide certain provisions like venue and the rest, while we give technical support.
How co-operative have these state governors been?
Well, it all depends on the state and what they have gone through. For instance, we just trained the Quick Response Force in Minna. We are also going into training the military in providing such capacity building in support of actualising the cause on which they are established.
But don’t you think it has reached a stage where childern in schools can be taught courses in emergency response?
Yes, we have entered into talks with the ministry of education, where a curriculum will be created. So far, we have disaster management club in secondary schools. This will also be extended down to the primary schools, so that they will understand and appreciate what to do in the event of disaster in their environment; how not to throw refuse in their drainage and how not to play with fire. And also, how to call emergency numbers in cases of disaster.
Do we have emergency numbers, and how fast is the response?
Yes, we do, but people want to see the three-digit numbers; Rivers State is 112, Lagos is 767, while FRSC has 222. We still have other numbers. NEMA has its own emergency number, which is 08000. In most of our workshops, we try to disseminate these numbers, while expecting those that attend our workshops to pass the numbers round, so that others will know them too.
What will it take to handle a disaster like flood in a particular place?
One, you have two types of flood; the flash flood, and the water flood – that a river rises and overflows the banks of the river. In the flash flood, you just see a water, and within a twinkle of an eye, it just overflows everywhere. It has high current, and so, it is destructive. It doesn’t give you enough time to prepare. But in whatever situation, the first thing to do is to move to a higher ground. Then call for assistance. The people you are calling will come with inflated rafts, which they will use to evacuate your property. Don’t stay there, because the current of the water may carry you away.
Which one do we normally have in Nigeria?
Both; we have the two. It all depends on where we are. People in places like Adamawa, Taraba and the rest experience flash flood. But people in Kogi and the rest get the normal flood. You get enough warning that the water is coming towards that direction, and as it traverses towards that direction, the current tends to reduce. So, it is slow, and then, you have other waters coming from other rivers. So, this creates a type of breaking system that reduces the impact of the water.
Nigerians are afraid of the likelihood of another flood. What measures have been put in place to ensure that lives and property are safe?
That is outside my purview. But steps are being taken at the highest level, which is at the presidency level. Training is ongoing at the tactical level at ministries and parastatal level. Communities are being sensitised, and state governments are being contacted to identify higher grounds that communities within them will be taken to, and how support for such communities will be effected.
What will it take for one to be trained by your organisation?
What it will require is that you write us and tell us what type of training you require. And then, we will look at the resource person we have on ground, and invite you for a meeting, to see how we can collaborate with you to put such a training together.