In this piece, PAUL OKAH x-rays the achievements of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development (FMHADMSD) as its pioneer minister, Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouq, bows out; taking into cognisance the challenges the minister will bequeath to her successor.
It is Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 that says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…,” a quote that has become popular in buttressing the time-frame of human activities.
When the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, was created by President Muhammadu Buhari on August 21, 2019, it was with the clear objective of providing humanitarian needs and succour to disaster victims, the less privileged, the downtrodden and lifting millions of Nigerians from biting and excruciating poverty.
President Buhari appointed Sadiya Umar Farouq as the pioneer Minister, following her giant strides and records of achievements as the Federal Commissioner, the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRMI).
For Sadiya Umar Farouq, being appointed pioneer minister of the ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, upon its creation in 2019, came with a lot of challenges she braced up to surmount within the lifeline of the Buhari’s administration.
On May 29, when President Muhammadu Buhari would be handing over power to Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Farouq would also have relinquished her position as Buhari is expected to dissolve his cabinet for the incoming administration to constitute a new government.
In retrospect, more than three years in the saddle, Farouq did her best to achieve the federal government’s ambition of lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty through the National Social Investment Programmes (NSIP) comprising the National Home Grown School Feeding Programme (NHGSFP), the job creation unit (N-Power), the National Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) and the Government Enterprise and Employment Programme (GEEP), among other humanitarian interventions.
Legacy projects in Zamfara
On Monday, May 22, while representing President Muhammadu Buhari, Farouq commissioned the National Housing Programme at Kuraje Area in Bungudu local government area of Zamfara state, said the housing project, comprising 80 two and three bedroom low cost bungalows for low income earners in the state, was undertaken by Buhari’s administration in phases since 2016 for the good people of Zamfara.
Umar Farouq also commissioned SDG’s Projects at Federal Government Girls College (FGGC) ,Gusau, and the Primary Health Care Centre at Unguwar Dallatu in Gusau LGA, thanking President Buhari for completing the renovation of the classrooms, medical laboratories, students hostels and ICT Centre in her alma mater FGGC, Gusau, which was executed by the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
She said: “With the support of the Zamfara state government, who provided the land, this place which was once unused land, has come alive and will now provide shelter for ordinary Nigerians. This is a good example of some of the developmental possibilities that inter-governmental collaboration can produce. I am optimistic that with the provision of more lands, the federal government certainly can do more. Of course, the progressive ideals of our government seek to achieve one primary objective, which is to improve the human condition. This housing project has achieved that in many ways.
“My Ministry will continue to ensure that these schools are supported adequately. Through the National Home Grown School Feeding Programmes, we will enable adequate and timely provision of food for primaries 1-3 pupils which will enhance enrolment in primary schools.”
Ministry, GAIN sign Mou on nutrition
On May 22, the FMHADMSD and Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on nutrition for the National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme (NHGSFP).
Sadiya Umar Farouq, who was represented by the permanent secretary of the Ministry, Dr Nasir Sani-Gwarzo, at the event which took place in Abuja, said the MoU was another milestone for the NHGSFP.
She said the approval of the Policy on National Home Grown School Feeding Programme by the Federal Executive Council and the signing of an MoU on nutrition is a step forward towards realising the objectives of the School Feeding programme in Nigeria.
She said: “I am really happy that this is happening at a time when this country is transitioning to a new administration. They will require this kind of documentation to build upon because people will change, leadership will change, but once the documentation is right, we are on the right cause. The MoU is not just going to be a symbolic signing, but a strategic one.
“The Ministry will continue to work towards achieving its separate, but yet mutual objectives of building resilience, and empowering people. Another strategic importance of the MoU is that the GAIN will go down in history as one of the first organisations to partner with the government in institutionalising this process.”
In his welcome remarks, the national coordinator, National Social Investment Programme, Dr. Umar Bindir, said the NHGSFP, under the NSIP, is gradually maturing and it is attracting partnership internationally, which is an indication that the Ministry was doing the right thing.
Earlier, the Country Director, GAIN, Dr. Michael Ojo, stated that the signing of the MoU would help to set the stage on how the Ministry and GAIN can collaborate better over the coming months and years.
The Team Lead, NHGSFP, Aisha Digil, said the milestones were achieved as a result of the good leadership provided by the Minister.
Over 15m Nigerians impacted through humanitarian programmes
Speaking during the 23rd edition of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration’s scorecard series, Farouq said the ministry has so far impacted the lives of over 15 million families through the NSIP “which has been the key instrument in uplifting the lives of the poorest of the poor individuals in the country.”
She said: “The NSIP has provided assistance and hope to millions of Nigerians. Let me once again list them as the National Homegrown School Feeding Programme, N-Power, CCT and the GEEP. The programmes were all initiated by the Federal Government as part of an intervention programme to cater for the welfare and well-being of vulnerable Nigerians. The NHGSFP has already captured and fed over 9.9 million pupils across the 36 states of the federation, including the FCT.
“The ministry, through the N-Power Programme has supported over 1.5 million unemployed youths across Nigeria. The ministry has provided and supervised the distribution of relief materials to victims of recent food disasters across the country. It may interest you to know that I don’t even know the beneficiaries of the CCT programme. It is a transparent programme that I don’t even know the beneficiaries in Zamfara state where I come from because the beneficiaries are the poorest of the poor who are selected by members of the community.”
Evidently, the major challenge facing the ministry is increasing efforts aimed at rescuing Nigerians out of poverty as the impact is not felt much among over 200 million, with the majority still living in abject poverty.
Despite the numerous achievements of the Minister, many challenges she encountered while in office are still there for her successor to also experience.
Speaking with our reporter, a senior staff of the ministry, who asked not to be mentioned in print, said Farouq tried her best possible to reposition the Ministry, but that challenges were overwhelming, including internal wrangling, external factors and civil service bureaucracy.
He said: “From day one, after being named minister by President Muhammadu Buhari, Farouq hit the ground running. She was everywhere trying to help the president achieve the administration’s mandate of lifting over 100 million Nigerians out of poverty.
“However, challenges in running a new ministry are simply enormous and overwhelming. The teething challenges of a newly established ministry were there, no matter how much the minister tried to overcome them. The Humanitarian Affairs ministry is considered the most important ministry of the Buhari’s administration due to its being the closest to the grassroots and the downtrodden people.
“There are delays in the release of funds by the Ministry of Finance to clear the backlog of stipends owed NSIP beneficiaries, including N-Power and the National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme (NHGSFP). Who bears the brunt of criticism owing to delays in payment of beneficiaries? That’s right… Minister Farouq. Characteristic of her, she never joined issues with anyone even in the height of provocation. You can recall the media splash in the 2023 budget and the spat between the Ministry and the Finance Ministry over budget inflation.
“Again, the civil service bureaucracy handicapped Farouq to a great extent. Here is a Minister who meant well for the poorest of the poor and downtrodden Nigerians, but never saw many of her good plans materialise due to civil service bureaucracy and bottlenecks that needed surmounting.
“There are a lot of challenges in the Ministry and I don’t sincerely envy whoever will be her successor. In fact, I think Farouq will remain the best minister the Ministry will ever produce for a long time because she worked with all her might to deliver on her mandate. It is noteworthy that, despite the numerous challenges, she still repositioned the ministry. Therefore, I won’t be surprised if she gets higher appointments even outside the country. She simply surpassed expectations and her achievements cannot be ignored by honest, reasonable people.”