By Jacob Ezra
The flooding experienced in some parts of the country had devastating effects. People were displaced, sources of livelihood were destroyed, and in some instances, lives were lost. Indeed it was a challenging period in the country as socio-economic activities were also disrupted.
Flooding, like other natural disasters, are sometimes beyond our control; however, what is imperative is the preparedness to mitigate the effect of such disasters in affected communities, and the emphasis has always been on mitigating and minimizing the loss of lives and destruction of properties.
This brings me to the recent operations of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). I have had some reservations about the preparedness of NEMA to address natural disasters in the country. This is on the heels of the not-so-pleasant news that has characterized its operations in times past, where the agency was bedevilled with numerous issues that undermined its operational effectiveness.
The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) was established via Act 12, as amended by Act 50 of 1999, to manage disasters in Nigeria by formulating policies on all activities relating to disaster management and coordinating the plans and programmes for efficient and effective response to disasters at the national level.
The recent flooding experienced in parts of the country and the response by NEMA are noteworthy. For once, we saw a well-coordinated disaster management regime that indeed buttressed the point that the leadership of NEMA got it right with how it responded to mitigate the disaster.
I recall sometime last year when Ahmed Mustapha Habib was appointed as the agency’s director general. There were reservations in some quarters concerning his ability to deliver on the job considering the agency’s sensitivity in the country. I also recall that one of the first decisions made was to understand the issues that hindered NEMA from carrying out its mandate effectively.
It is therefore not surprising that in a year; an agency that had been bedevilled with numerous issues is now refocused and strategically positioned to address national emergencies in the country. I gathered that this feat didn’t come on a platter of gold, as much effort went into making NEMA what it is today. Of course, the transparency and accountability aspect was very critical and meant that leadership must be by example.
I believe the NEMA DG understood this complexity hence his emphasis in this regard which has paid off handsomely with the era of diversion of relief materials and other essentials for victims of disasters in the country now a thing of the past. The DG was also able to establish that it wasn’t business as usual with the agency’s funds.
Those in the know of the new regime in NEMA would attest that since the coming of Ahmed Mustapha Habib, the operations of NEMA, which was literally on life support, have bounced to life with structures and mechanisms that address malaise, redundancy and operational ineffectiveness.
NEMA today is a hub of activities that has bolstered confidence in stakeholders and development partners. The handling of the recent flood disaster is an example of what Nigerians should expect moving forward. This is not to say it is Uhuru. However, the indices point in the right direction with regard to our preparedness for mitigating the effects of emergencies brought about by natural and artificial disasters across the country.
What Ahmed Mustapha Habib did differently is the provision of purposeful leadership, which has consequently translated to the many gains recorded in the operations of NEMA. This also reinforces the notion that sound leadership is essential in our quest for sustainable growth and development in the country.
Those in leadership positions must rise above sentiments and self-gains in discharging their duties. They must see the bigger picture, which remains in the country’s interest and consequently understand that leadership is about service in every sense of it.
The Ahmed Mustapha Habib example at NEMA is a commendable one. He has displayed foresight and a solid commitment to introduce and sustain laudable reforms in emergency and disaster management in the country. This is yielding the needed results as we are all witness to how NEMA coordinated efforts towards mitigating the effect of the flood disaster.
We saw search and rescue efforts at their best. We also saw the effective distribution of relief items to affected communities very transparently, unlike in times past. We also have witnessed renewed support from the international community through the donation of relief items for flood victims across the country.
Ahmed Mustapha Habib no doubt redefined governance through his leadership strides at NEMA. The onus lies on critical stakeholders to support this visionary leader burning with a passion for service to the country.
InEzra, a public affairs commentator wrote this piece from Yenegoa.