In today’s world, one of the biggest challenges to human existence is human and natural disasters – wars, floods, fires, famine, security challenges such as terrorism and insurgency, banditry and kidnapping. As expected, these disasters have devastating impacts on the affected communities and usually cause humanitarian crises.
Most disasters when they occur, may not have been foreseen, therefore stretching the capacity of relief agencies or response institutions.
Nigeria has had its share of disasters with huge humanitarian challenges. In response to these challenges, various agencies of government were established. Despite the existence of these agencies, there was gap in the coordination of emergency challenges in Nigeria.
To mitigate damage and enhance pro-action and proper coordination of relief agencies, President Muhammadu Buhari created the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development and assigned Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouq to hold brief.
As is obvious, the creation of the ministry brought together relevant agencies under one roof namely, National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons, NCFRMI, National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, NAPTIP, the North East Development Commission, NEDC, the National Social Investment Programmes, NSIP and Office of the Senior Special Assistant on Sustainable Development Goals.
The mandate of the ministry is to ‘develop humanitarian policies and provide effective coordination for national and international humanitarian interventions; ensure strategic disaster mitigation, preparedness and response; and manage the formulation and implementation of fair, focused social inclusion and protectionprogrammes in Nigeria’.
With prior experience as Commissioner, National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons, NCFRMN, Sadiya Umar Farouq literarily hit the ground with many agencies to coordinate but no office and no structure on ground.
Rather than being deterred by the enormous tasks before her, she mobilized necessary resources to ensure the assigned responsibility is achieved. While the minister was in the process of consolidating on her coordinating efforts, a major global health disaster, COVID-19 pandemic enveloped the world. This global challenge has domestic implications for each country around the world with unprecedented humanitarian crisis.
With the new ministry and the minister’s understanding of her role, she took the challenge and immediately, proactively mobilized stakeholders through coordination, collaboration and monitoring of relevant agencies and international organizations, donor agencies, NGOs in support of national objective of cushioning the effect of the emergency situation and its attendant impact on lives and livelihood.
There is no gain saying that the creation and role of the ministry became even more significant during the COVID-19 pandemic. It made it easy for the President to respond appropriately and give a clear directive on how to provide humanitarian services to the poor and vulnerable in the society. She provided the necessary leadership and coordination to agencies under her ministry, for delivery of relief and assistance to disaster victims and internally displaced persons.
In executing her brief, the minister, rather than being an arm chair leader giving instructions from the comfort of her office, has taken full participation at various intervention centres across Nigeria. She has been the face of compassion in the cabinet, reaching out with a caring hand to the vulnerable and the weak even when not appreciated.
Some of the work the ministry has done include implementation of the National Social Investment Programmes which are all targeted at the poor and vulnerable people. One of such inherited programmme is N-Power aimed addressing youth unemployment and improving their access to social interventions as well as their capacity for small scale enterprises and skills acquisition.
Another people-focused programme is Government Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Programme aimed at addressing the challenges of credit and financial inclusion for the over 37 million Nigerians at the base of the economic pyramid who have no opportunity to access loans. The programme which is executed by Bank of Industry (BOI), and supervised by the ministry leverages extensively on data, technology, mobile phones and a network of 4, 325 agents deployed in all the 36 states and FCT.
The Ministry under its flagship programmes TraderMoni, MarketMoni and FarmerMoni has continued to provide incremental loans of between N10,000 and N30,000 to traders, artisans, enterprising youth, agricultural workers and other micro-service providers.
While not losing focus of the overall mandate and long-term objective of the ministry, the minister, since the outbreak the pandemic in early 2020, has been hands-on in reaching out to the most vulnerable and mostly forgotten people. Her commitment and passion further brought to the fore, the importance of the ministry of Humanitarian Affairs.
In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the President issued a directive for the conditional transfer of N5,000 pet month to the very poor and vulnerable households to provide financial relief and support against the hardships occasioned by the global lock down. Four months stipends (totaling N20,000) were transferred to beneficiaries upfront to enable them establish self-support schemes that not only support them through the pandemic, but help graduate them out of poverty.
It is also to the credit of the ministry that the National Social Register which comprised 2.6 million households prior to the Covid-19 era, is being expanded to more individuals and households.
Interventions and palliatives have not been limited to cash and financial incentives, but also include food rations distributed across the country and the FCT. Hajiya Sadiya Farouk was the most visible minister having ‘hit the road – going from state to state across the country delivering President Buhari’s relief items for Covid-19 lockdown.
As have been noted by other commentators, despite misinformation, disinformation, fake news about her and the ministry, especially during the heat of the pandemic, she has continued to be hands-on, committed, strong-willed, determined, dedicated minister with a compassionate hand over the Ministry for Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development.