Recently, Mustapha Ahmed, the Director General, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), said the 2022 flood disaster was unprecedented in the history of Nigeria, and 2023 would not be different. He appealed that the seasonal climate predictions and annual flood outlook released by NiMet and Nigeria Hydrological Service Agency (NIHSA), should be acted upon. Furthermore, the Director General of Nigeria Hydrological Service Agency (NIHSA), Clement Eze, called for action to be taken early enough to avert any disaster.
Disturbingly, despite warnings by NiMet and NIHSA of possible flood in 178 Local Governments in 32 States, it is worrisome that the activities of the Kaduna State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) seems to be lukewarm. Many are still anticipating to see signs to suggest ongoing multi-sectoral coordination and integration of activities necessary to build, sustain and improve the capacity to mitigate against, prepare for, respond to and recover from threatened or the potential flood disasters. With the current reality, many communities now are in danger of being displaced with families likely to be abandoned to their despondent fate.
Equally worrisome, over the past few months in Kaduna State, to mention a few, there was a communal crisis between two communities in Lere LGA, devastating rainstorm and flash flood that inundated some communities in Kubau LGA, as well as pockets of attacks in Zangon Kataf LGA. It is disturbing and disheartening to hear that the Kaduna State Emergency Management Agency (KADSEMA) has neither visited the communities nor conducted the first or second layer of impact and needs assessment, not to talk of providing relief interventions.
The current reactive approach by the Agency in terms of mitigation, readiness and response continue to weaken its capacity to deliver its mandate as provided in the KADSEMA Law No. 2, 2003. Under Part III, section 6 (sub-section b and d) of the Law empowers the Agency to respond to any disaster with the State and may seek from individuals, organizations and governments both Local and International if it deems fit in each circumstance; and distribute relief materials to needy persons and communities affected by a disaster.
In the past eight years, the Agency has had five Executive Secretaries (ES) with different levels of challenges and performances. However, the effectiveness of the Agency in emergency response seems to be currently dwindling. Could this be attributed to the level of budget allocation and performance? The State 2022 full year budget performance report showed that out of the N236 million revised budget, KADSEMA got an actual release of 67.9%. Similarly, the 2023 first quarter budget performance report showed that out of the N244 million original budget, it got a 7.0% actual release.
Beyond just issues of funding, critical questions need to be asked about the current leadership, coordination and stakeholders involvement in KADSEMA activities. Internally, how proactive is the leadership? Is there a cordial working relationship between the leadership and management staff? How inclusive, participatory and consensus-oriented is the decision-making process? How well are the scarce resources allocated to the Agency expended in compliance with due process? While externally, what is the level of cordial relationship with other government agencies (including Federal), donor agencies, development partners and civil society actors?
From what has been gathered from open sources the current leadership has been trying its best. However, the best seems not to be enough with the current state of threatening disaster seeking to bring pain, suffering and poverty to many households. The last major intervention of note was the prompt response led by KADSEMA in the aftermath of the Abuja-Kaduna bound train attack in March 2022. The Agency was able to coordinate other response agencies.
Aside from that, what can be seen from open sources of information was the visit of SEMA to Ungwan Romi as well as the inaugurated Local Emergency Management Committees (LEMCs, although the LEMCs have been in existence since 2009. Commendably, toll-free lines for all the LEMCs in the 23 LGAs in form of a Close User group (CUG) – aimed at facilitating communications between LEMCs and KADSEMA in the event of any disaster, emergency, and or risks
Notwithstanding the above, policy summersault seems to be a major reason for the current state of the Agency. One wonders what has happened to the implementation of the community-driven State Multi-sectoral contingency plan document, which was an integrated project aimed at addressing the Early Warning system, Hazard Risk Map and Emergency Response Plan. It was the first of its kind that was reviewed, published and launched by Her Excellency the current Deputy Governor. Implementing it would have been easier for the leadership to SUSTAIN and CONSOLIDATE on the progress by his predecessor.
What did the previous Executive Secretaries do differently that despite shortage of funding were able to make the Agency more visible in terms of mitigation, readiness and response? For instance, the immediate past ES, even though he had no background in disaster management, was able to change the trajectory by making the Agency more proactive. This was achieved by strengthening the weak relationship, collaboration and synergy that existed among internal and external stakeholders. The current leadership should consult and learn valuable lessons from past pilots of the Agency.
Disturbingly, feedback from keen observers of the Agency’s activities suggest that stakeholders’ relationship seems to be currently at a low, as many long standing partners are gradually scaling down support to the Agency. This has further weakened the mitigation, readiness and response capacity of the Agency, which heavily depend on partners’ support due to low public funding.
To reposition the Agency, leadership is key. A leadership that is politically, administratively and socially sensitive as well as able to work as a team player with stakeholders across sectors. One that can proactively renew the ideal values of coordination and management of disasters and emergencies in the State. Institutional strengthening and adequate funding will be key to success.
This is a call to the Governor, Senator Uba Sani, to review the activities of this very important Agency and reposition it for improved disaster management. There is no time for delay, we need to avert the looming disaster.
Lets engage, ask the right questions and hold the government accountable.
Yusuf Ishaku Goje