Opening Remarks By The Director General, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Alhaji Muhammad Sani Sidi, At The Annual Consultation Of The Regional Committee For Disaster Management In West Africa (GECEAO) At The ECOWAS Secretariat, Abuja Nigeria 4th -6th June, 2013 Protocol:
It is my pleasure and privilege to welcome you all to this very important occasion, the annual consultation of the Regional Committee for Disaster Management in West Africa (GECEAO), 2013. The impressive turnout of delegates to this milestone event goes to express our devotion and unfailing commitment towards ensuring that disaster management in the ECOWAS sub-region is put on the right direction.
There is no doubt that this year’s consultation among disaster management stakeholders of the ECOWAS community has become quite significant given our recent experience on wide ranging and increasingly complex cross-boarders emergencies in the sub-region. You will agree with me that cross fertilization of ideas in a forum like this, mutual support, sharing of experiences, assets and expertise among ECOWAS countries has become necessary as we strive to brace up to the challenges of emergency preparedness, response and recovery in west Africa and beyond. I therefore, wish to commend the laudable efforts of ECOWAS, the UN-OCHA, the IRCRC and all individuals and organisations that worked assiduously towards the success of this annual consultation hosted by Nigeria.
Ladies and gentlemen, you will agree with me that climate change related challenges have significantly increased the occurrences of disasters across the globe in recent years. Such disasters which are more pronounced in developing nations with weak capacity for adaptation have quite often resulted in large scale devastation, loss of lives and significant ecological dislocation. Similarly, economic losses from disasters, both natural and human induced, have become a recurring phenomena. In 2010, United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction estimated losses from natural catastrophes and human-induced disasters amounted to a staggering 222 billion dollars-more than triple the amount of losses in the previous year.
Nigeria, as a nation, has also recorded its own experience of the negative impacts of climate variability in the recent past. The wide-spread flood disaster of 2012 which occurred in 23 States of the Federation, affected 7,705,398 people, displaced 2,157,419, caused the death of 363, destroyed 597,476 houses and resulted in unprecedented ecological damage. The 2012 flood was a glaring testimony to the growing intensity of climate change related disasters in Nigeria and indeed the West Africa sub-region. Extreme weather conditions, including excessive rainfall, severe windstorm, heat-wave and droughts have become more frequent with adverse effects on the economy, environment, food security, lives and livelihoods. Indeed, the world is increasingly becoming a hostile place to live in. Unlike the developed nations where, proportional losses due to disasters are in decline, people in the developing countries including the ECOWAS nations, are increasingly vulnerable, to the extent that they account for a large percentage of global disaster related losses and secondary hazards.
Ladies and gentlemen, permit me to acknowledge that, developing strategic partnerships initiatives with sister African countries on disaster risk reduction and emergency preparedness, is in line with NEMAâ€™s drive to foster regional cooperation among ECOWAS countries. In this regards, NEMA has over the years developed a well trained workforce and acquired strategic facilities and assets that can easily be deployed beyond the shores of Nigeria for timely and effective emergency response, mitigation and recovery. These include;
i. A world class trained personnel in comprehensive search and rescue operation for rapid response to disasters and emergencies.
ii. A mission control centre with the capacity to provide full satellite based coverage to the West African sub-region and real time coordination of search and rescue operations for air crashes, maritime and other related emergencies.
iii The Agency has established six Centers for Disaster Risk Management and Sustainable Development Studies in six Universities in the six geo-political zones of Nigeria. The centers had since 2010 commenced post graduate studies in Disaster Risk Management and Sustainable Development. Citizens of ECOWAS countries are welcome for admission into these University Centers.
iv. The training of 15 project managers among NEMA stakeholderâ€™s personnel for the processing of satellite imageries and dissemination of information to end users in the event of a disaster.
v. The acquisition of critical search and rescue assets including Intensive Care Unit ambulances, helicopters and fixed-winged air ambulance for deployment within Nigeria and beyond.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, permit me to use this opportunity to strongly advocate for the development of a stronger regional mechanism for disaster risk reduction and emergency preparedness among ECOWAS countries. It has become necessary for the ECOWAS nations to work towards building regional drought, flood and epidemics early warning system and search and rescue platforms that will enhance our cooperation on effective and sustainable emergency management. I want to assure you of the full support and cooperation of NEMA towards developing a regional framework for mutual support and cooperation on effective emergency preparedness, response, mitigation and sustainable development of the ECOWAS nations. Let me call on the Emergency Management Agencies of our sister ECOWAS countries to avail themselves with the training opportunities in Nigerian Universities to improve their capacity for service delivery. I once more thank you for participation in this forum and wish you a happy and fruitful deliberations while not forgetting to take timeout to explore the beautiful city of Abuja and enjoy the friendship and hospitality of Nigerians.
Thank you all and God bless.