By Salisu Na’inna Dambatta
The establishment of the multi-purpose Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development by President Muhammadu Buhari on August 21st, 2019, is aimed at using the Ministry as a tool for implementing policies to achieve many good goals designed to have positive impact on the wellbeing of millions of Nigerians
For it is common knowledge that the country has a humanitarian crisis in the North East, where millions of Nigerians were negatively affected by the long, medium-intensity Boko Haram insurgency. They recently attacked civilians at a military checkpoint in Auna village, just 20 kilometers to Maiduguri on the Damaturu-Maiduguri highway.
The insurgents massacred scores of innocent travellers at the scene, reportedly abducted others, destroyed nearly 20 vehicles and caused a national grief and an outpouring of condemnation.
President Muhammadu Buhari was so touched as a humane leader whose administration succeeded in rolling back the insurgents by degrading their fighting capability that he directly flew into Maiduguri from an African Union summit in Addis Ababa. He immediately swung into action, commiserated with the families of the victims, the government and people of Borno state. He had engagement with the Borno State Governor, the Shehu of Borno and Borno elders. He assured them in particular and the nation in general that the Boko Haram insurgents would be defeated by the armed forces.
He directed the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development to swing into action and visit Auno, render initial early assistance and commence the process of providing succour to families of the victims and those who lost property during the hideous attack.
In addition to the disruptive and destructive effects of insurgency on the peace and tranquility in most states of the geopolitical zone, the drying up and devastating shrinking of the Lake Chad has destroyed the livelihoods of millions of farmers, fisherman, pastoralists and a multitude of other people who make their living from the value chains of the three disrupted economic life lines. This has disastrous consequence on families.
The degrading of otherwise fertile soil into wasteland by desertification, the turning of a flood plains into sand dunes in the Borno and Yobe portions of the North East, are additional devastating effects of climate change which worsened the impact of the death of Lake Chad on the people living in that part of our country.
While studies based on reliable indices rated the North East as the geopolitical zone with the highest number and concentration of the poorest households in Nigeria, it is good to hear that the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development is devising strategies to squarely work to mitigate the numerous Humanitarian issues there and in other parts of our country.
Indeed, cases of humanirian issues not necessarily caused by insurgency exist in other parts of the country. The displacement of communities by bandits and communal clashes in the North West, the North Central, South South and the South East, are equally catastrophic.
The fact that the Ministry is a specialised institution with qualified staff to design, coordinate or implement policies and strategies to mitigate the impact of man made and natural disasters, is a source of solace for Nigerians.
The pioneer Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouk, the Permanent Secretary and Directors of the Ministry are in a vintage position to watch over and ensure that the agencies and programmes under the purview of the Ministry perform optimally to make the desired impact on the wellbeing of Nigerians.
The Agencies and programmes supervised and coordinated by the Ministry are the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and IDPs; the National Emergency Management Agency and the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons. The rest are the North East Development Commission; the Sustainable Development Goals; the National Social Investment Programme, the vital Department of Rehabilitation for People with Disabilities and the Social Welfare Department which were in the defunct Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development.
The activities of these agencies, programmes and developments are designed to touch lives positively and improve the well-being of those adversely affected by natural, man-made or technological incidents.