Emergency management is too critical an issue that no sane country can afford to handle frivolously. No doubt, this basic reality underpins the establishment of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) by Federal Government of Nigeria.
As a rapid response agency, it was meant to mitigate the effects of national disasters like fire outbreak, flooding, accidents, bomb blasts and other humanitarian crisis confronting the country.
The question, however, is has NEMA lived up to expectations? Since its establishment, the agency has functioned relatively well until recently, when it was plunged into ceaseless internal crisis which is threatening its existence.
I am extremely surprise and feel very disappointed at the scandalous activities in the agency less than one year of the appointment of the current Director-General of NEMA, Eng. Mustapha Maihaja.
During the past administrations of AVM Mohammed Audu-Bida (Rtd) and Mohammed Sani-Sidi, NEMA gave special attention to capacity building programmes for its emergency workers, trained volunteers who were very handy during emergency situations and responded speedily to emergencies and casualties.
What more, it procured and utilized modern tools for emergency response such as Multipurpose Emergence Response Vans, Mobile ambulances, Mobile Intensive Care Unit (MICU), Air Ambulance and Helicopters which have all been grounded by Maihaja.
The determination and passion of staff were high and never diminished because they were motivated with incentives. Sadly, the reverse is now the case.
It’s been one trouble or the other since April 2017 that the present NEMA boss took over the management of the agency and it would interest you to note that the present crisis rocking the agency became manifest as soon as the administration came into being.
NEMA officials have been embarking on incessant strike actions in demonstration of their grievances and to press home their demands and as I write, the workers have continued the nationwide strike action, the first ever in the history of the agency since June 19, 2018, vowing not to sheath their sword until the Federal Government investigates the scandalous activities of the agency.
Among the issues that r precipitate the stresulted ikes included but not limited to the NEMA DG’s payment of N400 million Demurrage for N414mn Chinese Donated Rice; his diversion of over N15 billion funds approved for food intervention in North East, Flood Intervention in 16 States and relief for Libya returnees.
Maihaja has also been accused of high handedness- running the agency like a personal business, he does not do proper consultation or follow due process in carrying out his responsibilities and has pays no significant attention to the issue of staff welfare and training.
The NEMA boss’s refusal to release funds provided by the FG for various intervention programmes, purchase of work tools and running of their activities, refusal to settle about N2.8 billion liabilities, including the N655 million outstanding claims by some staff, redeployment of a top union member and alleged refusal to pay contractors that supplied goods to the agency includes the issues under contention.
In spite of the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osibanjo wading in promptly last year to curtail the indefinite strike called then, by directing Maihaja to negotiate with workers, most of the agreements reached at the meeting are yet to be implemented.
Some account officers who raised eyebrow on the unethical practices in the agency were said to have been witch-hunted by the NEMA DG . Instead of changing his attitudes, he maliciously recommended and suspended top management officers of the agency and redeployed the account staffs to other departments and zones.
Even when the House Committee on Emergency Management of the National Assembly passed a resolution for their immediate reinstatement, the suspended NEMA directors and officers are yet to be recalled and reinstated.
It didn’t just stop at that, Maihaja allegedly sent names of directors and other officers of NEMA to Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for investigation and prosecution on baseless allegations.
All this, to me is not only a national embarrassment but portends grievous consequences to Nigeria’s image before the international community.
My concern is that the Federal Government has refused to heed to the welling calls by the protesting workers to probe of these scandalous activities of the leadership of the agency.
The protesting workers have alleged redundancy, poor conditions of service, mal administration and incompetence on the part of the present management of the agency and to me, it is ridiculous that a man who lack the requisite managerial skill fundamental for running a sensitive and critical organization like NEMA would be appointed to such position in the first place!
Mr President should not continue to look away while NEMA continues to wallow in its present ‘dead’ state. Maihaja has questions to answer on what his administration has done with the ‘appropriate funding from the government.”
Another issue of concern to me is that it is the poor masses that are at the receiving end of the current ineffectiveness of the emergency agency.
Mr President must realize that the failure of NEMA is his failure. He cannot sit down and fold his hands while the agency burns when it should be alive to its responsibility of emergency management especially with the present challenges of Boko Haram, Herdsmen terrorist attack and the attendant wanton killing and destruction of property that is constantly displacing many Nigerians.
This is good opportunity for Mr President to prove not only to Nigerians but also to the international community’s who are watching, the genuineness of his commitment towards fighting corruption which is one of the cardinal focus of his administration.
Political opponents, observers and other Nigerians have accused the President of being selective in his fight against corruption. By continuing to ignore what is happening in NEMA, I am afraid, Mr President is giving credibility to this insinuations.
Is Maihaji above investigation? If Mr President does not have any clandestine interest to protect here, then it is high time, he gave heed to the agitations of the protesting NEMA workers.
I think, getting first hand information from the emergency workers would offer Mr President a genuine insight into the happenings in the agency. If Maihaja cannot manage the agency as expected, someone with proven character, outstanding experiences, requisite academic knowledge and capacity of managing a sensitive and critical organization as NEMA, should simply be appointed to take his place.
Adama Achimugu, a graduate of Mass Communication wrote from Nasarawa State, Nigeria.