By Leonard Aluor
Too many Nigerians speciously think, Government business is as simplistic as opening the gates of their houses, as masters, whenever they come back to the house after late nights. But Government is peculiarly different in this clime.
The uninfringeable truth in this country is that getting off the ground, a newly created ministry, with maximum functional impact and a very sensitive one which oversees the welfare of the distressed or poorest of the masses in Nigeria is not an easy task. In Nigeria, the problem is even more complex; a complexity induced by the “normalized” red-tapism of democratic bureaucracy.
Whoever emerges the Minister of a new ministry has the challenge and a burden hung on the neck more than the ancient Greek Sisyphus imposed on him by the gods. The very first assignment is to grasp, domesticate and functionalize the vision and mission in consonance with the overall agenda of Mr. President and his administration propelling the creation of the Ministry.
There are also other issues, such as office accommodation, internal re-organization of departments and sections and struggling for the release of budgetary votes for the new ministry in an economy stressed by paucity of resources to meet all Government demands. Those who have traversed this path before or privy to it know the workload and frightening experiences.
This was the situation, the Minister of one of Nigeria’s newest ministries’, Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouq found herself in 2019, when President Muhammadu Buhari created the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development (MHADM& SD) in 2019. But the extensively acclaimed administrative amazon faced the challenges fearlessly and with the nimbleness of a knowledgeable public servant aligned to her fame in public service.
It never escaped the attention and awareness of Minister Sadiya that President Buhari attached great premium on issues affecting poor Nigerians, the distressed, the less privileged and the vulnerable citizens. She knew, these cumulatively defined the core mandates of the new ministry in the #NextLevel.
Therefore, the minister hit the ground running and matched on with the force of administrative tornado; concretized and operationalized the new ministry in less than two months on assumption of office. Since then, Minister Sadiya has continued to blaze the trail in various aspects of the mandates of the ministry. She has combed and dusted even forgotten matters and given them fully official attention.
The scope of the new ministry is unarguably large. There is the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), North-East Development Commission (NEDC) , National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons ((NCFRMI), and, National Social Investment Programme (NSIP), with extended branches like the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP), and a legion of other agencies incorporated under the supervision of the ministry.
The signposts of Sadiya’s operations in the ministry, which by every interpretation are very demanding and tedious justifies her appointment by President Buhari to nurture the nascent ministry to maturity. And by every indication, she is innately horned for the manifold jobs on her hands with the easiness and near perfection. The day, anyone knows, she is in the Northeast to supervise disbursement of relief materials to IDPs; the next day, Minister Sadiya is sighted in Lagos personally and her team attending to distraught Nigerians, who are victims of natural disasters or Nigerians whom society/fate has not been kind to them from Septuagenarian ages.
Known for the traits of a compassionate mother, with an enduring passion to come to the aid of distressed humanity and render assistance to the less privileged, they have been her potent weapons, making the very difficult jobs easier for her.
Her efficacy on the job is further enhanced by the enriching experience she gathered while serving as federal commissioner, National Commission For Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons ((NCFRMIDPs) and as a Senior staff of the National Assembly Service Commission, Abuja. These experiences have observably strengthened her over the years.
Famously, Minister Sadiya assigned to herself the task of ensuring NEMA launched the abandoned National Emergency Management Policy document in compliance with the United Nations Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction declaration in the very few months in office. She goaded NEMA into this necessary action because of the realization of the policy as accelerating a wide range of proactive capacity-building measures on disaster risks reduction and humanitarian disaster management in synergy with government and communities prone to such catastrophes.
Minister Sadiya is the first government official to reposition the N-Power scheme under the National Social Investment Programmes (NSIP) window, in accordance with guidelines and directives for the programme, as issued by the FGN. She has disengaged Batches A and B, enrolled between 2016 and 2017 which have overstayed their terminal period of two years for almost same period and depriving others.
She just did an audit of the beneficiaries in batches A and B, only to discover that by the statistics on her table, more than 16, 000 of them had other pensionable Government paid jobs. Yet, they enrolled and collected stipends for the N-Power jobs these number of years in shameless deprivation of other Nigerians. No thanks to FGN’s IPPIS payment system by those caught in the act.
But the central philosophy and motivation for stamping her foot on implementing the government guidelines is to ensure fairness, equity and justice. Her decision will allow the special FGN social poverty alleviation programmes spread to other Nigerians.
And in line with Minister Sadiya’s promise to Nigerians, she has long commenced the process of the enrolment and onboarding of N-Power beneficiaries Batch C. And millions of Nigerians have applied on the official online portal of N-Power to also participate for the skills acquisition and job creation initiative And in accordance with her compassionate nature, she is talking to “private sector bodies to absorb some of the beneficiaries after the completion of psychometric assessment to determine competency and placement into various opportunities.” Though the N-Power baches disengaged have already known the duration of the scheme and aware that they are overdue, but Minister Sadiya has perceived the sudden disengagement as a personal nightmare and therefore scouting for their placements. Its commendable, to say the least!
Therefore, within a year alone, Minister Sadiya initiated the Road Map and Action Plan that will descend and enhance cooperation framework with the ministry, civil organizations and security agencies interactions in Nigeria’s Northeast, where the volume of humanitarian crisis is appalling because of years of a devastating insurgency. The essence is to foster a seamless and collective confrontation and management of disasters and humanitarian crises throughout Nigeria to give immediate succour to troubled Nigerians.
The ministry under Sadiya’s leadership has extended its partnership with international bodies on improving civil-security cooperation (CISEC) in Humanitarian interventions in Maiduguri, Northeast and other parts of Nigeria under the siege of disasters. In the South-South, her binoculars are permanently fixed on the resettlement of the displaced and helpless peoples of Bakassi Peninsula abandoned to their fate over a decade.
In her time, she was in America to also anchor a dialogue with the US-Nigeria Bi-national Commission in Washington DC. The discussions renewed the expectation of partnership with USAID and the World Bank to fund an empowerment programme for persons with disabilities and women in Nigeria.
And in the year, 2020, the ministry is vigorously pursuing the pledge of the United States Government on humanitarian assistance to Nigeria in 2020 worth US$40million. These are novel manifestations which the relevant agencies now fused into the ministry never had the strength and thoughts to pursue.
And in the last 10 years, it’s the first time, Nigeria has contemplated and working towards the comprehensive resettlement of IDPs in the Northeast in 2020. In the pursuit of this agenda for the comfort of IDPs, Minister Sadiya has seen to the foundation laying ceremony for 10, 000 units of housing projects in Ngom, Mafa LGA of Borno state. It is one of the series of President Buhari’s special intervention projects under the North East Development Commission (NEDC). It is spread across the most severe nine LGAs of Borno state with huge numbers of IDPs. While no one prays for these conditions, to affect any Nigerian, but it is exciting that Minister Sadiya has shown care and focus to exit the aftermath of the humanitarian problems.
In addition, the ministry has acquired lands in Abuja and environs for the relocation and reintegration of some IDPs in the FCT and Nasarawa States, targeting several families. Furthermore, it is also new that the management of personal health of IDPs is not abandoned to their devastated lives and circumstantially, wretched souls anymore. Minister Sadiya is aggressively working on their enrolment into the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) across Nigeria and also, the provision of basic amenities in their resettled abodes.
It also astounded many Nigerians that Minister Sadiya, devised a dexterous method of feeding school children during lockdown at homes at the initial strict period of Covid-19. The ministry also provided other palliatives to the less privileged and vulnerable Nigerians, including cash payments to cushion the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic. The formula she adopted reached out to the targeted Nigerians right at their doorsteps and vicinities without hitches.
The workhorse Minister Sadiya inaugurated the Federal Government National Steering Committee for the restructured Multi-sectoral Crisis Recovery Project (MCRP) designated for Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States about two months ago. It’s a foundation for the effective implementation of the Lake Chad Region Recovery and Development Project (PROLAC), sponsored by the World Bank for the cost of $200 million dollars to support the recovery of the Northeast region devastated by Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria. These are not only laudable initiatives or steps forward, but breath-taking indiscriminate reliefs to all distraught Nigerians all over the country. #
Aluor is a public affairs commentator and wrote this from Oduduwa University, Ile Ife.