Managing Disaster In Niger Delta
Managing Disaster In Niger Delta
By Igbotako Nowinta
“In all of this, the civil society must continue to play its roles as the survival of democracy relies on the virility of the civil society. Civil Society must lead the campaign in favour of fiscal federalism and true federalism in Nigeria… We must continuously demand for political accountability too to avert the derailment of good governance and democracy” – Quoted in OGBENI RAUF AREGBESOLA (In the footsteps of Obafemi Awolowo) Page 107.
The rains are here again with its attendant flooding. We will remember that in 2012 flood ravaged some parts of the country leaving many dead and several others homeless with properties worth billions of naira destroyed in the process. A lot of persons were sacked from their homes and their farm-land as well as other sources of livelihood destroyed.
We saw how the federal, states, local Government Councils as well as other groups responded to the flood in terms of setting up relief camps, distribution of relief materials, providing food and health care for affected persons, empowerment among other things.
Were the federal, states, local government councils as well as other groups prepared for the flood and other natural disaster that occurred? Could they have done better in terms of protecting lives and properties if they were adequately prepared? If such incident happens again, how will the situation be handled? These are some of the questions that came up during a two day Regional Workshop on Disaster Management, recently in Benin City.
The workshop was organised by the Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), in collaboration with the Edo State Ministry of Environment. The event was used to present the base line study on Natural Disaster Management Strategies in the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria, conducted by ANEEJ, to key stakeholders in the region.
Participants at the Workshop commended ANEEJ, Edo State Ministry of Environment and the Royal Norwegian Embassy for putting together such an important event, and sued for synergy between government and Civil Society Organisation (CSOs) to tackle disaster management issues in the region. They observed that the 2012 flood incidence was the first of its kind and it took stakeholders unaware which necessitated the need to put in place proper Disaster Management Strategies so as to adequately prepare for future occurrence.
The workshop urged the federal government to come up with long term plans to deal with disaster management in the country, and to adequately fund the Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NIMET) to meet international best practice State Government in Niger Delta were called upon to take necessary steps to enact laws to back State Emergency Agencies (in state like Edo) and make appropriate budgets to manage disaster in the states and focus more attention on prevention of disaster in the Niger Delta. Local Government Councils in the region were urged to put in place emergency management units that people can easily reach/contact in case of future incidents of flooding and other natural disaster.
State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) and State Flood Committees were called upon to make public the report of the 2012 flood intervention so that stakeholders can make their input to adequately prepare the region for future occurrence while states and local government councils were called upon to educate affected communities members on how to engage in public advocacy to draw government attention to flood situation and other natural disaster that may occur in the future.
The workshop called on all states in the Niger Delta region to take a cue from Delta State and put in place emergency preparedness and response plan so as to facilitate emergency response. Civil Society Organisation were tasked to train flood victims and media on how to engage in public advocacy to draw governments attention to flood and other disasters in the states. Civil Society Organisations were also urge to commit to establish the Niger Delta Disaster Management Network to coordinate its operations and inter face with government agencies and other bodies handling disaster management. They are to strengthen government communities engagement through the Niger Delta Flood Victims Network.
The Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ) was called upon to take the lead to develop a three-year action plan on how to promote public awareness and public policies on disaster management in the Niger Delta region.
It is imperative to state that participants for the workshop on Disaster Management were carefully selected, as they cut across state Ministries of Environment, State Emergency Management Agencies, State Flood Management Committees, Local Government Councils, persons affected by 2012 flood, Civil Society Organisations, Academia, and Media Personnel from Edo, Delta, Bayelsa and Ondo States.
For over 10 years ANEEJ has been working in the Niger Delta and has managed activities across the Six Geo-Political Zones of Nigeria. Working with local communities, Civil Society Organisation, the Private Sector, State and National Government, ANEEJ focus has been on sustainable development, institutional building, the alleviation of poverty and economic empowerment.