By Joseph Erunke
Within the one year that she has been on the saddle as Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Hajia Sadiya Umar-Farouq has carried out her assigned task of touching lives positively in different parts of the country to the delight of many.
The establishment of the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development by President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday, August 21, 2019, and the subsequent appointment of Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouq as the substantive minister have become two key developments in Nigeria’s history.
No doubt, they remained among the best decisions made by the president given that the ministry was conceived and given birth to at a time Nigeria was facing severe humanitarian crises and complex threats occasioned by natural and man-made disasters.
The mission of the ministry was to develop humanitarian policies and provide effective coordination of national and international humanitarian interventions, ensure strategic disaster mitigation, preparedness and response and manage the formulation and implementation of fair focused social inclusion and protection programmes in Nigeria with a vision to also create sustainable and inclusive social systems that promote human dignity in the country.
In establishing the ministry, many agencies and social intervention programmes were subsumed under it by the president. They include National Emergency Management Agency,NEMA, National Commission for Refugee, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons,NCFRMI, and National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons,NAPTIP.
Also under the ministry are the National Social Safety Net Programme, the National Home Grown School Feeding Programme, the Job Creation Programme (comprising N-Power & Technology Hubs), the Government Empowerment and Enterprise Programme,GEEP, as well as TRADERmoni and MARKETmoni, the North East Development Commission,NEDC and the Office of the Senior Special Assistant- Sustainable Development Goals.
The pro-poor decision by the president in establishing the ministry was greeted with applause by Nigerians who see the development as a child of necessity. It meant so much to them given that the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in its, ‘Nigeria: 2019-2021 Humanitarian Response Strategy (January 2019 – December 2021)’, estimated that 7.1 million Nigerians remained in need of humanitarian assistance in just three states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe.
Nigeria, like some other countries of the world, is threatened by disaster not only from nature but also from man-made forces. The 2012 floods in the country caused nearly $17 billion in damage and losses. President Buhari had declared a national disaster in the states affected by another flood in 2018.
A combination of the humanitarian crises resulting from conflict, disaster, and poverty affecting almost 90 million Nigerians made the new ministry a child of the necessity for the country. After all, the humanitarian community provided life-saving assistance to almost 5.6 million affected people in 2017, another 5.5 million in 2018, and four million as of October 2019, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Following her appointment, Hajiya Farouq was saddled with the onerous task of spearheading the affairs of the new ministry. Many Nigerians were wondering how she was going to undertake the daunting challenges that were then lying ahead of her. But for those who know her and had come in close contact with her, Hajia Sadiya Farouq was equal to the assigned task.
To the latter also, she came in very handy as a round peg in a round hole, especially considering the successes she recorded during her stint at the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons,NCFRMI,as a Federal Commissioner.
Taking over responsibilities that were initially domiciled in other ministries, departments, and agencies and also providing the much-needed coordination of humanitarian interventions in Nigeria would no doubt be challenging given that the ministry is new.
However, one year one in piloting the affairs of the ministry and given the successes she has achieved so far, one cannot but conclude that it has been more rewarding. For instance-Power: The N-Power is not supposed to be a permanent programme for beneficiaries but as a sort of stepping stone to make the beneficiaries self-employed or gainfully employed.
Due to the fact that there are some 50 million unemployed graduate youths vis a vis the funds available, the beneficiaries are taken in batches for a period of time then they are weaned out to allow for new beneficiaries to be enrolled.
The minister on the assumption of office, took time to critically study the N-Power scheme which she inherited. This has assisted her in successfully pilot to the conclusion the first and second batches of the scheme with a total of 500,000 beneficiaries with an exit plan.
“We are looking at different options of exit for them and we are working with the Ministry of Finance and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to see how we can exit them and support them to go into different skills, she had disclosed.
Besides, as at the last count about 109,823 beneficiaries from Batch A & B have gone on to set up businesses in their communities, underlining and highlighting the impact and importance of the N-Power programme.
Some of them are even currently engaged as aggregators for the Home- Grown School Feeding Programme. Based on this,it is clear that the programme has been a huge success.
“Given the fact that we have some 40 million unemployed or underemployed youths in Nigeria, and that approximately 1.8 million youths enter the job market each year, we must realize that youth empowerment and providing all our youths with jobs is not a sprint but a marathon,” the minister had also said.
Considering the number of youths needing jobs and the economic realities of our country, citizens must be very realistic in their expectations. As it is today, the ministry has exited the batches A and B beneficiaries totalling 500,000 in June and July respectively.
This is in line with the laid down rules for the programme in which each batch is expected to exit after two years. The registration for Batch C commenced on the 26th of June and closed on the 9th of August 2020 with a total 5,042,001 registrations received.
The Batch C of the scheme is about to hit the ground running as already the selection process is ongoing. The minister has repeatedly assured Nigerians that her ministry will ensure due diligence is applied to ensure that only duly qualified applicants are enrolled.
Another programme is the Modified Home Grown Feeding Programme: In line with the earlier directive by President Buhari that her ministry liaises with state governments and come up with modalities to continue the school feeding programme to ensure the children do not lose out on the nutritious foods being provided, arrangements were made where dry portions of food were given to the parents of the children enrolled in the programme at designated places.
Discussions were held through the Nigerian Governors Forum and plans were discussed and it was agreed that take-home rations would be provided to the beneficiaries of the program using the existing structures of the programme based on the urgency of the situation at the time.
This is termed the Modified Home-Grown School Feeding Programme. The daily cost of feeding a child of N70 was multiplied by the number of days in a month and the amount of 4,200 was used to purchase the foodstuff.
Items that were assessed not just for sustenance but also for their nutritional value to children were rice for carbohydrates, beans, and eggs for protein, salt for iodine, palm oil, and tomato paste for vitamins.
For the sake of the exercise, an average of three children per family was assumed. The plan also identified that a typical household in Nigeria has 5.6–6 members with 3–4 being dependent and so each household was assumed to have three children. The data used was transferred with the school feeding programme to the ministry and was from validation exercises from the National Bureau of Statistics,NBS.
During the COVID-19 lockdown, the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Development under Hajia Sadiya Farouq, was actively involved in the distribution of different kinds of palliatives to the most vulnerable in the society. These include refugees and Internally Displaced Persons,IDPs, People Living with Disabilities, older persons, trafficked persons, orphans, the poorest of the poor in communities, petty traders, and other persons of concern.
The palliatives still being distributed across the country, including foodstuffs like rice, maize millet, sorghum, vegetable oil, tomato paste, milk, sugar, and spaghetti. Also, four months of stipends were paid at once to those benefiting from the Conditional Cash Transfer to cushion the effect of COVID-19, loans, and moratorium to trader and market moni beneficiaries.
So far, the ministry under Hajia Sadiya Umar-Farouq has undertaken one form of intervention or the other in all the 36 States of the federation. In spite of the lockdown which had affected the movements of everybody, the minister took time to physically visit Imo, Ebonyi, Delta, Borno, Lagos, Katsina, and Kano states to name but a few for humanitarian interventions. With all these, who will not but concur that the ministry has over-performed beyond its mandate in the one-year of being in existence?