Emergency Here, Emergency There

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Lekan Fatodu

The Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) has just raised the alarm on predictable flooding in which 11 states in the country were listed as potentially in danger of flooding. And promptly, the National Emergency Management Authority (NEMA) has come out to allay any fears by the public and to reiterate government’s readiness to effectively mitigate any flooding crisis.

It is perhaps important to mention the states here, which are Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Benue, Borno, Cross River, Delta, Kaduna, Kwara, Nasarawa, Yobe and Zamfara.

Interestingly, NiMet, having considered measures the larger society can put in place to forestall preventable disasters that usually lead to humanitarian catastrophes, advised “Governments, communities and individuals in these vulnerable parts to take proactive actions, such as clearing water channels and drainages, and also avoid activities that block the free flow of water.

“Closer attention should also be paid to NiMet’s daily weather forecasts and alerts. It is further advised that relevant agencies should perfect their emergency evacuation plans and activate them as soon as necessary,”it added.

What I find most striking in this development is the emphasis laid on the collective roles of everyone including the citizens in securing our environment.

The fact is NEMA, the nation’s disaster management body, is over-burdened with the demand of the overwhelming number and deplorable conditions of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) across the country, daily occurrence of collapsed buildings and road accidents amongst others. Therefore the agency truly needs the support of equally committed, proactive and responsible institutions and citizenry in averting all these emergency situations.

Following is an abridged version of a piece I did months backwhich I have found relevant to this discourse.

While NEMA under the leadership of Mr. Sani Sidi has shown unusual competence in the delivery of its duties and has earned garlands for the agency’s exemplary performance and responses to both human-induced and natural crises in Nigeria as it obtains in many civilised climes, most Nigerians have often displayed sheer inhumaneness at the instance of these unfortunate occurrences. This stands in contrast to the voluntary altruism usually demonstrated by the citizens of those countries that are regularly compared with Nigeria in such crises.

When London woke up to the horror of a series of coordinated suicide bomb attacks on 7th July 2005, the whole of Britain rose to assist the victims, and to mitigate the spread of the ideologies of terrorism. And the country’s emergency service and heroes of the 7/7 bombing who risked all to help hapless fellow citizens that were caught in the carnage got deserved adulations for their efforts afterwards.

That is the type of concerted humanitarianism that is required and expected of citizens of a nation facing satanic terrorism and devastating natural disasters.

Right now, Nigeria is confronted with arguably the worst humanitarian challenge since the civil war that left the world in utter shock just the same way the spectre of the Boko Haram sect and militant groups is presently troubling Nigerians as well as the international community.

Chillingly, the demographic survey of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) conducted by NEMA in collaboration with the International Office for Migration (IOM) reveals that 52 per of the IDPs population are female and 48 per cent are male. Children of less than 18 constitute 56 per cent of the IDPs population and more than half of them are five years old or younger.

During his two-day visit to Nigeria couple of months ago, the United Nations Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki Moon could not conceal his concern for the 1.5 million IDPs in north-eastern Nigeria and the horrible humanitarian consequence the situation portends. He also echoed the predicament of the Chibok girls who had spent over 500 days in captivity as disturbing.

Still, the conditions of the IDP camps across the country remain an eyesore. Their occupiers’ cry for basic necessities of life as little as clothing, food and water continues to receive little or no attention from the immediate society. And this has led to growing concern for the pregnant women and new births amongst them who will be most vulnerable should there be an outbreak of diseases in any of these centres. Can we dare talk about the promise of an atmosphere for learning and the process of integration when the basics are not there?

Unsurprisingly though, the privileged ones amongst us are moving on with their lives as if nothing has happened, this occurrence leaves a disgraceful insignia on our sense of care as a people.

In actual fact, nothing validates the measure of our collective sense of humanity than the response we as a society have so far given to the needy amongst us.

The picture of Melinda Gates, the wife of the world’s richest man, Bill Gates, carrying a bucket of water along with two women in Malawi is a simple idea of what it means to be humane. That’s a scenario I doubt can ever be emulated by the high and mighty in the Nigerian society. And this, I suppose, rather unfortunately, is the missing link in the government’s commitment to serving its people especially the most vulnerable.

Thus, the level of assistance being offered by NEMA as extant laws demand, and the agency is adjudged to be doing well, should be complimented by collective positive citizen-efforts to get greater results.