By Abubakar Danladi
There is no gainsaying that the best and brightest is needed for public service. When Jack Lew said “I think there’s no higher calling in terms of a career than public service, which is a chance to make a difference in people’s lives and improve the world”, he might have had Muhammad Sani-Sidi in mind.
As the race to the Kaduna State Government House gathers momentum, the former Director-General of National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Muhammad Sani-Sidi, OFR, has thrown his hat in the ring. The people of Kaduna don’t deserve less than a quintessential public administrator like Sani-Sidi. He is a disaster management guru; a politician with heart flowing with milk of human kindness. He has turned a political gladiator and unarguably the man to beat by any candidate produced by any of the political parties in the next governorship election.
The gentleman, whom many have described as an accomplished administrator, has indicated interest to slug it out under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state. He is confident, just as everyone that keenly follows the political developments in Kaduna are without doubt that Sani-Sidi is the only man with an enviable profile that can unseat the ruling party in the state. He is an uncommon achiever who has been tested and trusted. Delegates at the party’s primary election cannot but give him a nod to fly the party’s flag. He is a strong advocate of people-oriented governance. He sees and believes that any public service without putting the people at the centre is a misplaced priority. His exemplary lifestyle is his unique selling point.
No wonder the clamour for Sani-Sidi to become their governor became a daily song in the lips of the people of Kaduna until he finally succumbed. This is not unconnected with his intimidating profile and the robust relationship with the common man on the street. In him, there appears a new hope and a breath of fresh air.
He appears to be the most qualified to become the next governor of Kaduna judging from his political antecedent and vast experience in public. As at the time he was appointed as NEMA’s DG, he was a member of the Kaduna State Executive Council where he served variously as the Commissioner for Environment and Natural Resources; Works and Transport as well as Culture and Tourism. During same period, he was also assigned at various times to supervise the ministries of Health and Finance.
His leadership qualities, especially in the area of disaster mitigation and management, began to manifest while he was in the state cabinet.
Thus, he was credited with the successful demolition of unhealthy and defective structures that were hazardous to the people of Kaduna State and was also responsible for the prompt and timely interventions of the state government in curtailing the spread of contagious diseases.
He, at various time, chaired the committees on decongestion of Kaduna metropolis; removal of carcasses in public places; decongestion of the federal highways, particularly Tafa and Mararaban Jos; and the cleaning and clearing of garbage in Zaria.
Prior to his appointment into the Kaduna State cabinet, he served as Special Adviser to the Minister of Finance between 2003 to 2007, having been a senior manager in the then National Electric Power Authority (NEPA).
While he held sway as NEMA’s boss for seven years, his charisma, team spirit, intellect, humility and transparency endeared him the more to his co-subordinates. His landmark, uncommon achievements and record had since set a new and uncomfortable standard for his predecessors.
Through his position and selfless leadership at NEMA, he redefined stewardship and kept the agency’s vision and mission alive. Some of his progress included expanding the coverage of NEMA through its zonal operation offices. The initiative enhanced its timely response to sudden onset emergencies throughout the country. Above all, the move took disaster management to the people after all disasters like politics are all local.
During his stay at NEMA, the wide ranging and sustained accolades showered on the agency by the people was indeed a testimony to the level of confidence placed on him. He was able to galvanise NEMA in partnership with its stakeholders to develop a national contingency plan to guide timely response to any sudden onset emergency in the country. The NEMA helmsman was applauded near and far for the feat. The stride brought a speedy transformation in disaster management.
Sani-Sidi elevated the agency from mere coordination of its stakeholders, but also involves them in its capacity building programmes, especially manpower development and the simulation of various disaster scenarios to test their level of preparedness, identify gaps and improve on their response plans.
Through a purposeful leadership, Muhammad Sani-Sidi, sustained the training of members of staff of the agency and the conduct of various simulation exercises to test the preparedness and response capacity of NEMA and its stakeholders and recorded unprecedented industrial harmony. It is simply stating the obvious that NEMA became the face of the Federal Government and the trailblazer of disaster management and resilience not only in Nigeria but in West African sub region.
He has the potential to revolutionise the socio-economic fortunes of the state. While many human and natural resources remain untapped in Kaduna, Sani-Sidi has plainly made known his blueprint to swiftly swing into action to change the narrative. And the residents of the state have reposed their confidence in the public servant and declared him as capable of placing Kaduna once again on the roadmap to economic boom.
His achievements as the Director-General of NEMA are too numerous to recollect all. It can’t be forgotten so soon how Sidi, on behalf of the Federal Government helped in supporting the country’s sister West African countries such as The Gambia to establish a National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) through the exchange of information, trained personnel and capacity building. His international relations prowess also puts him ahead of others aspirants in the Kaduna gubernatorial race. He knows how to project the image and potentials of the state to the international communities and attract direct investments to Kaduna.
Under Sani-Sidi’s watch, NEMA hosted the COSPAS-SARAT programmes, the international satellite search and rescue station at the Nigerian Mission Control Centre (NIMCC) located in Abuja and the two Rescue Coordination Centers (RCCs) in Lagos and Kano. The NIMCC Unit receives and disseminates processed distress alert signals from ocean bound vessels and aircrafts across the entire West Africa Sub-Region to relevant stakeholders for timely intervention in accident situations.
Under a robust disaster Mitigation programme, NEMA undertook sensitisation and public awareness campaign on Disaster Risk Management and peace building to enhance communal resilience in Nigeria and conducted the National Capacity Assessment of Emergency Preparedness and Response (EPR) and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) in Nigeria.
The agency through the governorship aspirant, in collaboration with stakeholders at federal, state and local levels sustained the dissemination of information on NIMETs Seasonal Rainfall Prediction (SRP) and NIHSAs Annual Flood Outlook to enhance flood disaster preparedness and mitigation. NEMA also Sustained advocacy visit to State Governments to promote the establishment of State Emergency Management Agencies (SEMAs) which has resulted in the growth of the numbers of States (and the FCT) having SEMAs with requisite legal backing, manpower and funding from 10 to 31 in the past five years.
He repositioned NEMA to achieve an active collaboration with the United Nation Systems and International development partners for enhanced emergency preparedness, response and mitigation. This culminated in the selection of Nigeria by the United Nations (UN) to host the fifth African Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, held for the first time in West Africa. It also included a ministerial segment in Abuja between May 13 and 16, 2014 in consideration of Nigeria’s success towards the implementation of the Hyogo Framework of Action (HFA), a UN General Assembly resolution on building the resilience of nations and communities to disasters. In line with its international collaboration, NEMA Organized a high level Executive Brief for senior level Emergency Response organization at state and national levels at the Bournemouth University Centre for Disaster Management.
Another feat that stood Sani-Sidi out was in the area of contingency prepositioning of relief items and sustained rapid humanitarian response to ongoing emergencies across Nigeria especially during the unprecedented floods of 2012 and ensuing insurgency in the north east. During these periods, the Agency provided a consistent leadership in camp management and coordination of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
NEMA signed a MoU with the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) of The Gambia on collaboration on Disaster Management through exchange of information, assets and personnel and hosted the 7th Annual Consultation of the Regional Committee for Disaster Management in West Africa (GECEAO) in Abuja between June 4 and 6, 2013 and the election of Nigeria as the Chair GECEAO. During the period, Sani-Sidi led NEMA to spearhead and succeeded in the formation of African Disaster Management Platform (ADMAP) for effective collaboration on disaster management in Africa. At the same time, NEMA established Seismological Stations at Ebonyi State University, Abakalaki and federal University of Technology, Minna and concluded a vulnerability capacity analysis (VCA) study of six states and FCT in Nigeria.
Under response and recovery issues, he ensured that NEMA recorded an enhanced and timely search and rescue and evacuation of persons affected by various disasters including building collapse, air crash, market fires and floods among several others across the country while at the NEMA call centres were established for round the clock reception, processing and dissemination of distress calls from members of the public, for prompt emergency response.
Under the stewardship of Sani-Sidi, NEMA established and inaugurated a Humanitarian Coordination Forum (HCF) in collaboration with the UN Resident Coordinator (RC) for the review of ongoing humanitarian concerns and planning appropriate mechanism for interventions. The agency also sustained humanitarian support to the victims of the ongoing insurgency in the north-east and the communal crises in several states of the country and the establishment of the Vulnerable Group Care Unit (VGCU) to provide support to women, children, the sick and the elderly.
During the period of the Sahel crisis, under the able leadership of Sani-Sidi, NEMA procured and delivered humanitarian relief assistance to Niger, Mali, Congo DR and The Gambia in collaboration with the Foreign Affairs Ministry. NEMA also undertook emergency relief and humanitarian assistance to women and children in crisis hit countries of Mali, Kenya, Guinea Bissau, South Sudan, Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), Congo (DR) and Central African Republic (CAR). At the same time, NEMA successfully accomplished the repatriation of stranded Nigerians from Libya, Mali, Gabon, Saudi Arabia and the Central African Republic (CAR) as a result of the outbreak of the Sahel crises and the various civil conflicts.
It wasn’t surprising to many when the ex-DG was elected as the President of the ECOWAS Regional Committee for disaster management in the West Africa. The election was in recognition of the progress made by Nigeria in advancing the cause of disaster management and providing exemplary leadership for the countries in the region.
He is a member of Institute of Civil Protection and Emergency Management, International Association of Emergency Managers, The International Emergency Management Society and the World Society of Victomology. He has received several commendation and awards, including that from the Institute of Corporate Administration and the Conference on Disaster, Safety and Security Management and the award.
He also earned the African Business Leadership Award given to him and NEMA as the Best Emergency and Disaster Management Agency of the year 2011 by African Leadership Magazine. Furthermore, his outstanding performance earned NEMA the recognition and award of being the “Most outstanding public Institution in Nigeria”, which was presented September 2011 by Independent Service Delivery Monitoring Group in collaboration with African Independent Television.
Sani-Sidi, a dynamic and proactive administrator hails from Kaduna State, has two Masters Degrees in Business Administration and International Relations and Diplomacy.
He is married with children.
* Alhaji Abubakar Danladi, a political analyst writes from Kaduna