Nigeria can now boast of having a vibrant policy document on disaster risk management, following painstaking work done by a group of stakeholders at a two-day validation workshop organised by the federal government with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
As part of the 8th country programme of the FGN/UNDP Plan of Action, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has developed a number of policy documents, amongst which is the National Disaster Risk Reduction Policy – in collaboration with the UNDP.
The two-day workshop in Lagos was designed to concretise and finalise this document, with the support of UNDP. After the validation of the policy document, the Project Technical Adviser (UN Development Programme) to National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Mr. Seth Vordzorgbe said the implementation of the National Disaster Risk Management (NDRM) policy was imperative for effective disaster management in the country.
The NDMP contains government’s policy on challenges toward reducing risks from hazards, and states its commitment to risk reduction. It is a 10-year policy on disaster risk management for effective handling of disasters, and it is reviewed every five years.
The NDMP outlines a streamlined set of guidelines for decision making on how to achieve desirable outcomes in disaster risk management. The policy guides the development and implementation of disaster management policy and programmes at the state and local government levels, particularly the promotion of safer, and more secure and resilient communities.
Vordzorgbe, a crisis, development and agriculture management consultant, promised to include stakeholders’ views in the final document and urged them to ensure the implementation of the policy to enhance effective management of emergencies and disasters in the country.
Discussing the importance of the policy document to the states, the Executive Secretary of Imo State Emergency Management Agency, Mrs. Uche Ezeonyeasi called on NEMA to pay advocacy visit to some state governors to sensitise them on the importance of funding SEMAs.
Ezeonyeasi said SEMAs were established but needed to be strengthened to help the agency achieve its mandate.
The Director, Ogun State Emergency Management Agency, Mr Abdul Hakeem Ashimi urged NEMA to release the final policy document to State Emergency Management Agencies (SEMAs) for implementation.
Ashimi said he was hopeful that the policy, when implemented, would reduce disasters in the country.
Also, Mr. Sanusi Usman, Executive Secretary, SEMA Zamfara, called for the assistance of NEMA in managing emergencies and disasters in the state. “We can be overwhelmed with handling disasters at times so NEMA should come to our help.”
In addition, a director from FCT Emergency Management Agency, Mrs. Florence Wenegieme called for a national number that people could reach in case of emergency.
According to her, the 112 already in use should be upgraded to a national number.
Wenegieme said disaster management should be everybody’s business, not only NEMA and SEMAs.
At the opening of the workshop, the Director-General of NEMA, Mr. Mustapha Maihaja said the document would be of immense value to stakeholders.
According to Maihaja, who was represented by Mr Benjamin Oghenah, Deputy Director, Disaster Risk Reduction, the document was expected to promote nationally integrated strategy that would strengthen community resilience against disasters.
“It will in reality address several under-served areas of disaster management that have not been adequately covered in the practice of disaster management in the country.
“Such areas range from adoption of resilience as a guideline for disaster management to the addressing of disaster management and conflict interface.
“It has been a long but meticulous journey getting to this stage and I thank you all,” he said.
He said when the document becomes fully operational, it would help to increase awareness and understanding of disaster and strengthen multi-stakeholders governances system for disaster reduction management.
The document, he said would enhance preparedness capacity to reduce exposure, vulnerability and impacts of hazards events or conditions, and would increase social, economic and environmental investments to strengthen resilience to disaster through hazard risk reduction.
The General Manager of Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Mr. Adesina Tiamiyu urged stakeholders to intensify sensitisation on risk reduction in the country.
Tiamiyu said people needed to know what to do and who to call in case of disasters and emergencies.
“For example, there is a policy that guides everybody on what to do and who to call in case of disaster abroad; if it works there, it should also work here.
“We (stakeholders) should collaborate with each other to sensitise the citizens on what to do and support the State Emergency Agencies (SEMAs) to deliver on their mandate,” he said.
Prof. Andrew Obafemi, Director, Centre for Disaster Risk Management and Development Studies, University of Port Harcourt, urged SEMAs to be proactive in responding to emergencies in the country.
Obafemi, however, called for support for NEMA, SEMAs and other agencies working in the sector to respond effectively to manage disasters in the country.
Also, the Corps Marshall of Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Dr Boboye Oyeyemi, told stakeholders that the Corps had intensified efforts to ensure safety of Nigerians during the yuletide.
Oyeyemi said as part of the “Ember-month programme”, the corps had re-activated emergency rescue ambulances, camps, help areas and roadside clinics.
“We have started sensitising Nigerians on what to do on unplanned journeys, night journeys and what to do in case of accidents and emergencies,’’ he said.
Oyeyemi, who was represented by the Chief Route Commander, FRSC, Chinekeokwu Cyprian, urged Nigerians to call 122 in case of any emergency.
Also, the Inspection General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, encouraged various societies and communities to help protect lives and properties of citizens.
Idris, represented by AIG Rasheed Akintude, said the stakeholders should not limit the collaboration to experts alone, adding that every Nigerian should be involved in the management of risk reduction.