The rains have descended with a relentless vigor, making their presence known to all. Mustapha Habib, the Director General of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), in his weekly social media update on September 17, 2023, emphasized the deluge of rainfall. He stated, “The rains are falling in torrents and testing the resilience of our efforts over the past few months in downscaling early warning signals and disaster preparedness to the grassroots.” Indeed, NEMA’s unwavering commitment to proactive measures during this rainy season is evident.
A Message of Preparedness and Proactivity
For those who have been following the news, NEMA has consistently conveyed a message of preparedness and proactivity in anticipation of the flooding that often accompanies heavy rainfall. This messaging is anchored on four crucial pillars: Preparedness, Mitigation, Response, and Recovery.
NEMA’s proactive stance not only aligns with disaster and emergency management best practices but is also rooted in recent history—a testament to the agency’s commitment to learning from past experiences to prevent their recurrence.
Learning from 2022: A Year of Devastation
Nigeria endured its worst flooding in 2022, a year marked by torrential rains intensified by the adverse effects of climate change. The period between July and September 2022 witnessed catastrophic flooding, exacerbated when the Lagdo Dam was opened on September 13, 2022. The consequences were dire.
The damage assessment painted a grim picture: over 4 million Nigerians affected, 665 lives lost, more than 2 million people displaced, 355,986 houses damaged, and 944,989 hectares of farmlands destroyed. It was a devastating blow.
Despite ample warnings and information about the impending disaster, local governments, states, and communities were slow to react, prompting the government to place blame on their inaction.
A Commitment to Prevent Recurrence
Mustapha Habib Ahmed, as the head of Nigeria’s apex disaster management agency, vowed that Nigeria would never again witness such devastation. In making this commitment, Ahmed recognized the unpredictable nature of natural disasters, especially given the influence of climate change.
While humanity may always be at the mercy of the elements, the application of technology and the knowledge derived from it empower us to better prepare for such events. Mustapha Ahmed firmly believes that by embracing innovative technologies, data-driven approaches, and cutting-edge solutions, disaster management agencies like NEMA can significantly enhance the efficiency, accuracy, and timeliness of their disaster response efforts.
Leveraging Technology for Preparedness
NEMA’s partnership with the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMET) and the Nigerian Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) exemplifies this commitment to technological advancement. NiMET and NIHSA provide invaluable support through technologically aided Seasonal Climate Prediction (SCP) and Annual Flood Outlook (AFO). These tools have become essential in gauging the impact of rain on the country.
In its 2023 Annual Flood Outlook (AFO) with the theme “Flood Prediction and its Impact on Socio-Economic Livelihood of Nigerians,” NIHSA issued a stark warning, designating 178 Local Government Areas (LGAs) in 32 states and the Federal Capital Territory as “Highly Probable Flood Risk Areas.”
Knowledge as Power: NEMA’s Awareness Campaign
NEMA has harnessed this knowledge to launch a comprehensive awareness campaign aimed at disseminating early warning measures to local communities. This campaign encompasses a range of activities, including television and radio jingles and programs, the clearing of drainages, and readiness for search and rescue missions.
Additionally, NEMA has prioritized capacity-building initiatives, targeting state and sub-national actors in emergency and disaster management preparedness and mitigation. On September 15, 2023, two cohorts comprising mid-level officers from State Emergency Management Agencies (SEMA) joined forces with NEMA officials in a training workshop under the theme “Disaster Management and Preparedness Institutional Capacity Strengthening.”
Strengthening Collaboration for Resilience
Collaboration is a cornerstone of NEMA’s strategy for building a robust disaster management system. NEMA not only emphasizes inter-agency and national/sub-national collaborations but also actively seeks partnerships with multilateral agencies, particularly the UN system in Nigeria, to benchmark its efforts against global standards.
Esty Sukoyo, Deputy Head of UN-OCHA Nigeria, underscored the significance of effective collaboration among national and international agencies during her speech at the NEMA/SEMA training in Abuja. She emphasized UN-OCHA’s pivotal role in global humanitarian efforts and disaster response coordination.
The Role of the National Emergency Coordination Forum (ECF)
In August, NEMA reconvened the National Emergency Coordination Forum (ECF), comprising diverse stakeholders. This forum recognizes coordination and collaboration as fundamental components of disaster management, essential for fostering partnerships and inspiring trust and confidence among communities.
Empowering Communities for Swift Response
NEMA, through its regional offices, has been actively involved in training community members and students as first responders and emergency workers. Collaborations with organizations like the Red Cross and medical faculties of universities have been instrumental in building a pipeline of emergency workers.
These efforts are beginning to yield positive results. This year, when the Lagdo Dam was opened, vigilant monitoring and preventive measures ensured that no significant damage occurred. While the rains have intensified, leading to some damage and community displacement, NEMA’s proactive engagement has kept the death toll minimal, a far cry from the triple-digit figures of the previous year.
A Hopeful Outlook
As the rainy season continues to intensify, there is hope that Nigerians will be spared the scale of devastation witnessed in 2022. NEMA’s unwavering commitment to proactive measures, technological advancements, and collaborative efforts underscores its dedication to ensuring the safety and well-being of the nation during these challenging times.