By David Onmeje
Natural and human-made catastrophic events appear to be steadily increasing in intensity and frequency. Proper preparation, response, and recovery are vital if humanity and its vital systems are to cope with this and survive large-scale disasters. Like I have mentioned in numerous forums, one of the keys to effective disaster management is developing the tools, processes and best practices to manage natural disasters while also fully understanding that each disaster comes with its challenges and the solution for combating it differs from case to case. It is also crucial to anticipate these disasters and not just wait for it to happen before anything is done.
And this much has been exhibited so far by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in the management of disasters in Nigeria. The recent floods experienced in some parts of the country gives us a vivid example of how proactive NEMA has been in recent times under the headship of Engr. Mustapha Maihaja.
Not only did NEMA promptly rise to the occasion, but it also indeed saved the country the wanton loss of lives and properties. And this did not happen overnight but rather was the end product of meticulous planning, risk assessment and management on the part of the Agency. This template utilised by NEMA combines a careful planning and a well thought out process which has become the hallmark of the operations of NEMA since Engr. Mustapha Maihaja took over the reins in 2017.
I will give an example; The National Emergency Management Agency recently organized a national consultative workshop on climate Risk Mitigation, Preparedness, and Response. The workshop brought together stakeholders to discuss critical issues arising from the challenges of climate change and its attendant effects that include flood and drought. What does this tell us?
This highlights the need to incorporate planning with a workable strategy in whatever we do. Planning in the sense that we must come to the realisation that at some point, we would be confronted with unpleasant situations that would require a high level of proactive handling to mitigate or address the situation. Also strategy in the sense of knowing what to do, when and how to get it done effectively. And this has been the story and work ethic of NEMA under the stewardship of Engr. Mustapha Maihaja.
To say that NEMA hasn’t been proactive in the handling of emergency issues in Nigeria would be tantamount to telling everyone that Nigeria is a state in the United States of America. Funny as this sound, it states the undeniable and modest achievements recorded by NEMA in the past two years. Not only has he surpassed expectations, but he has also shown displayed a high level of dedication to duty and an overall contribution to the Nigerian cause.
The exploits of Engr. Mustapha Maihaja in NEMA has been emphasized in numerous forums.Permit me to also lend my voice in eulogizing him. In my opinion, an individual such as Engr. Mustapha Maihaja deserves some commendation given his track record. I say this for the very reason that when praise is rightly dished out, it would not only serve as a psychological boost for him to do more, while also providing an incentive for other public office holders to give their best. And for an agency such as NEMA, whose core mandate revolves around a critical constituency makes it more laudable that its director general has indeed risen to the occasion to provide purposeful leadership.
And again, one of the many ways the DG of NEMA has so impressed me was in the setup of Emergency Operational Centres (EOCs), across the six geopolitical zones and Abuja and the activation of the National Contingency Plan. The EOCs is to facilitate prompt search and rescue operations as well as humanitarian supports in the twelve (12) states worst affected by flooding.
The Emergency Response Centres will be responsible for planning, organizing, directing and supervising deployment of resources with the affected state governments and local authorities and communities. In my opinion, this is also brilliant because the objective would be to localize the responses and expedite intervention to save lives and facilitate quick recovery. Suffice to mention that this is what is obtained in most western climes.
In my opinion, Engr. Mustapha Maihaja is deserving of a National Honour because his leadership style has impacted positively on the lives of ordinary Nigerians. This is also on the heels of the fact that he could have carried on with business as usual by ignoring early warnings, feeding fat on the system, diverting funds meant for resettlements and emergency operations and the likes. But no, instead, he decided to tow the path of honour by been proactive and ensuring that effects of disasters such as the recent flooding are mitigated.
What more can we ask for as a people? If other political office holders can carry on in like manner, then Nigeria would indeed be a better place, and be on the path to sustainable development. And if the actions of Engr. Mustapha Maihaja does not give us hope; I wonder what can. And if he is not deserving of National honour and recognition , I wonder who else deserves it.
The DG of NEMA has demonstrated a capacity for hard work and patriotism. And one that should be rewarded. But for the numerous interventions of NEMA in addressing the floods that ravaged some parts of Nigeria, the casualty figures would have been mind-boggling. This is also aside his various introductions and offerings since he assumed leadership of the agency in 2017. I recall that some say he has the Midas touch. Some even say he is a workaholic. While I agree with both assertions. I would instead say he is merely patriotic.
Onmeje writes from the United Kingdom.