Analysis – NEMA: Building Disaster Resilient Communities in South-East NigeriaFeatured Contributors/Columnists, Latest News Friday, February 19th, 2016
By IGNATIUS OKPARA, Enugu
Disaster, be it natural or human- induced had over the years remained one of the greatest obstacle and cog in the wheel of progress of mankind, as it has wrecked serious havoc on nations of the globe, whether developed or developing, including Nigeria, the acclaimed giant of Africa.
When occurred, it leads to widespread of human, material, economic, or environmental losses, which sometimes exceed the ability and capacity of the affected victims or community to cope with.
Be it flood, erosion, fire, wind storm, communal crisis, among others, disaster, like the almighty death, is anti-human, and friendless hence,it could knock at the door of both the rich and poor at any time without any pre notice.
Nigeria as a nation, will not forget in a hurry the pains and anguish victims of the 2012 deadly flood disaster went through in parts of the country.
It would be recalled that the flood, which overwhelmed the federal government, consumed scores of lives, as well as damaged properties valued several millions of naira in parts of the nation, including states in south east Nigeria, especially coastal communities in Anambra.
Like other vulnerable states in Nigeria, the three states under the watch of the south east zonal office of NEMA, namely, Anambra,Enugu and Ebonyi, has also had their own fair share of both natural and inhuman instigated disaster in the recent past.
Since the establishment of the south east zonal office of the agency in Enugu, the capital of Enugu state some years ago, NEMA, as the federal government outfit, charged with the responsibility of coordinating resources towards efficient and effective disaster prevention, preparedness, mitigation, and response in Nigeria, has continued to respond promptly to all manner of disasters in the said states under its watch in the region.
The leadership of the establishment in the zone, had over the years, undertook disaster risk reduction measures to mitigate the impacts on victims and communities.
It is a common knowledge that disaster has rendered most communities in Nigeria including those of South east, homeless, as well as turned some victims into refuges in their own father land.
Although, disaster could be natural, but most often, the human induced incidences seem to be more prevalent in most communities, especially in developing nations as Nigeria, where existing environmental laws of the land are not respected rather, are violated with impunity by citizens.
For instance, it is no longer news that indiscriminate building, and erection of unapproved structures on waterways, which often leads to blockage of water channels and drainages, had over the years, led to serious flooding in many cities and communities.
The issue of sand excavation and bush burning, especially in rural communities in south east Nigeria, had also done severe harm to the people over the years, as it has continued to paved the way for deadly gully erosion which now ravages and threatens most areas in the region.
However, it is against the backdrop of the disturbing disaster trend in Igbo land, that the newly appointed south- east zonal Coordinator of NEMA, Mr. Martin Ejike Udeinya, has decided to embarked on an aggressive sensitization/ awareness campaign on disaster issues in communities within the three states under the zone’s watch.
According to him, raising awareness, and partnering with vulnerable communities, will afford the people, especially the rural dwellers, the opportunity of learning about practices that are anti- environment which are capable of creating room for disasters in their areas.
He said his office will also collaborate with all key stakeholders in disaster management in the zone’s areas of jurisdiction which include,Anambra, Ebonyi and Enugu, with a view to jointly addressing the issue in the states.
Unveiling his administration’s blue print during his maiden press conference recently in his office in Enugu, Udeinya, disclosed that he is going to make the NEMA Director- General, Alhaji Muhammad Sani Sidi’s vision of building a culture of preparedness, prevention, response and community resilience to disaster in Nigeria, as well as synergy with relevant stakeholders his watch word in the zone.
He noted that disasters are complex problems, which requires a collective response from a wilde range of key stakeholders,including non-governmental organizations NGOs, Civil society organizations CSOs, the media,private sectors, communities, with government at all levels coordinating and facilitating their activities.
The new South- east NEMA boss, who also harp on the need for functional and effective State Emergency Management Agencies, SEMAs in the zone, posited that when disaster resilience communities are build, it would enable the people assist in mitigating disasters in their respective areas.
Said Udeinya: “For us to achieve our sets goals and vision of our D-G, we intend to collaborate with the three state governments under our zone namely, Anambra, Enugu and Ebonyi, and synergise with all the relevant agencies in the business of disaster management”.
“We are going to collaborate with the fire service people, Federal Road Safety FRSC, and other relevant security agencies.
He said: “We will train the FRSC personnel especially on basic first aid,how to bandage wounds, reduce bleeding, among other things during road accidents”
“We also intend to mobilise all the non-governmental organizations in the field of disaster management, and other professional groups, including the National Union of Road Transport workers NURTW
Udeinya, a communication guru, also hinted that apart from embarking on the proposed enlightenment campaign in vulnerable communities, especially coastal areas in Anambra state, plans are equally afoot by his office to strengthen the existing disaster risk reduction clubs in primary and post primary schools in the zone, as a way of catching them young on disaster issues.
While calling on all relevant stake holders in disaster handling in the zone to join hand with his office in realising his set goals, Udeinya, appealed to government agencies charged with land approvals to always carry out their duties in line with laid down environmental laws of their respective states.
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