December 14, 2021

Understanding the New Shadow of Buhari at NEMA

By Philip Agbese

Sometime in 2021, President Muhammadu Buhari effected a change in the leadership of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). Not many understood the president’s mind, as it were. Not many also knew that the president wanted more from the operations of NEMA, being that critical government agency saddled with the responsibility of mitigating national emergencies and disasters in the country.

There was also a masterstroke! The establishment of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development. And since then, there has been no turning back in the efforts of ensuring that NEMA fulfils its strategic mandate.

I must add here that heading such a sensitive social intervention ministry is quite a herculean task because it is emotionally, psychologically, and physically demanding. All of these combined is the daily routine of the Hajia Sadiya Farouq, the Honourable Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development.

Two attributes have defined her since she assumed the headship of the ministry; fear of God and the selfless service to the country and humanity. I say these for two reasons. One is the manner she has devoted herself to her job, and two, how she has been able to stay focused despite several attempts at blackmailing her to succumbing to the whims and caprices of a select few.

The Hon. Minister of humanitarian affairs has constantly evolved strategies to position that agency for optimum service delivery. Let’s salute Saadiya for heading a critical agency. Despite the efforts by many to derail her, she has remained focused.

It is on record that Hajia Sadiya Farouq has a penchant for getting results and would stop at nothing to ensure that tasks are accomplished and within record time. She is also known as one that brooks no excuses and, most importantly, abhors acts that undermine the process of the system.

A good example could be seen in the case of NEMA, where she strategically effected a change in leadership that saw to the coming on board of Alhaji Ahmed Mustapha Habib, a seasoned administrator, to lead the critical interventionist agency.

Those in the know of the pedigree of the Director General of NEMA are not surprised with the manner he has handled the affairs of the agency, with active supervision of the ministry of humanitarian affairs, disaster management and social development.

Ahmed Mustapha Habib is a man of ideas. According to feelers from the agency, it was stated that the norm had been jettisoned. It is a new era where every voice counts. And Staffers are tasked with effective service delivery, no matter how lowly placed the agency.

He has also placed a premium on a proactive response to issues, given that the agency is meant to be a rapid response agency in the attempt to mitigate issues relating to human lives and properties. This is indeed brilliant and thus resonates with the agency’s objective in managing disasters across the country.

In less than a year, the operations of NEMA have evolved dramatically and thanks to the leadership provision of Ahmed Mustapha Habib. In my opinion, the Ahmed Mustapha Habib example in NEMA is by every inch an indication that with exemplary leadership, Nigeria would experience sustainable growth and development.

An example of the resourcefulness of the Director General is the recent inauguration of a Technical Working Group on Flood Preparedness, Mitigation and Response to strengthen partnership among stakeholders towards efficient flood management in-country. This might sound strange to the ears because we are not used to such planning, hence the fire brigade approach we employ most times.

I recall that Habib stated that the inauguration of the Technical Working Group was in line with the recent National Consultative Workshop on 2021 Flood, organized by the agency, which drew participants from the State Emergency Management Agencies and relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies.

Another good example is at the practical level, where the Director General has restructured the distribution of relief materials so that there is accountability and transparency in the processes. The NEMA of today is quite different from the NEMA of previous years, where a lack of accountability and transparency has caused untold embarrassment to the government. I can bet that these and many more informed the decision of President Muhammadu Buhari to bring onboard well trusted and principled personalities to take charge of the critical social intervention agency in the country.

And the result has been outstanding in the sense that critical stakeholders have commended NEMA’s disaster management in the country for the way and manner it has carried on with its operations most efficiently and proactively.

These and many more are the hallmarks of the Ahmed Mustapha Habib leadership strides at NEMA. However, it must be noted that this was made possible by also the examples set by the Honorable Minister of the Humanitarian Affairs Ministry and also, by extension, the examples set by President Muhammadu Buhari. It can be thus said that the NEMA of today indeed reflects the new shadow of Buhari.

It is thus a new era at NEMA, and this much the staffers of the agency have acknowledged. They have rated that new DG high in works ethics since the establishment of the agency; they have also applauded his emphasis on rewards for hard work and penalties for questionable acts that would bring the agency into disrepute.

The new helmsman of NEMA has, by his actions, set standards in leadership in the country. He has proven that it is not how long but how committed one can be to discharge his duties and responsibilities. He has also displayed that in whatever we do once we lead with sincerity of heart and purpose, the tendency for success and the buy-in of critical stakeholders in policies and plans are always high.

This is the pleasant situation at NEMA, and it is hoped that in the days, weeks, months and years ahead, the DG would continue to improve the operations of NEMA and not get distracted by the antics of a few whose stock in trade is to cause a distraction in the polity for their selfish interests.

The NEMA DG must stand his ground and always have at the back of his mind that his action and inactions either put smiles on the faces of people who are faced with dire emergencies or compound their situations and lead them eventually to their early graves.

I am convinced that the NEMA DG desires to bring as much as possible comfort to victims of disasters in the country. This much he has displayed and this much he should continue to do in service to the country and humanity.

Agbese is a public affairs analyst and publisher based in the United Kingdom.