Agenda-Setting for Nigeria’s Humanitarian Affairs Minister
By Yushau A. Shuaib
When President Muhammadu Buhari announced Sadiya Umar Farouq as the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, only a few people could truly decipher the gamut of huge responsibilities and critical roles of this super-powerful Ministry.
The idea for the establishment of the Ministry was proposed by the House of Representatives early this year, to take care of the huge humanitarian needs of those displaced by insurgency in the North-East.
Before her ministerial appointment, Ms. Sadiya Umar Farouq was Federal Commissioner of the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons ((NCFRMI)) and had served as a staff of the National Assembly Service Commission before leaving to join politics in 2010.
An astute politician from Zamfara State and former National Treasurer of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Sadiya attended Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria where she obtained a Bachelor of Science (Bsc.) degree in Business Administration (Actuarial Science) and Master’s degrees in International Affairs and Business Administration.
In his Independence Day speech on October 1, President Muhammadu Buhari hinted that the new Minister would oversee the administration’s Special Intervention Programmes.
Speaking on the Special Intervention Programme, which was hitherto under the supervision of the office of the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, the President stated that, “Our ongoing N500 billion Special Intervention Programme continues to target vulnerable groups, through the home-grown School Feeding Programme, Government Economic Empowerment Programme, N-Power, Job Creation Programme, loans for traders and artisans, Conditional Cash Transfers to the poorest families and social housing scheme.
“To institutionalise these impactful programmes, we created the Ministry for Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, which shall consolidate and build on our achievements to date. To the beneficiaries of these programmes, I want to reassure you that our commitment to social inclusion will only increase.”
From this background, therefore, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs has a huge task on her shoulders. During her tenure at the Refugees Commission, Sadiya played a prominent role in the passage of the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) (Repeal and Re-enactment) Bill, 2018 (SB 335), which annulled the extant Act and re-enacted certain provisions to protect the rights of refugees, migrants, and IDPs, in line with international best practices.
The law empowers the Commission to act as the coordinating arm for the effective administration and management of issues pertaining to refugees, migrants and IDPs in Nigeria, while expanding the scope of the Commission to include facilitating the management and utilisation of funds from government and donor agencies.
In one of her public engagements, she had then pointed out that the extant law would address the issues of migration arising from communal conflicts, insurgency, and insecurity, due to the absence of a legal framework to prevent evolving challenges in this regard.
With the establishment of the new ministry, it is expected that the Minister will ensure better coordination of humanitarian services, the protection of relief providers and safety of emergency workers, whilst ensuring the judicious utilisation of resources.
It is undeniable that disaster management and poverty alleviation programmes in Nigeria are currently undertaken without synergy, hence a proper institution-based coordination mechanism is necessary to tackle humanitarian and emergency needs, with the effectiveness required to bring enduring relief to those affected by these situations.
The social development aspect of the mandate of the Ministry would need to consider soft approaches, entailing programmes that would address the roots of insurgency, kidnapping, armed banditry, poverty and disease which have been attributed to various factors, including the political, social and economic.
There is currently a document, the National Counter Terrorism Strategy (NACTEST), which aims to forestall, secure, identify, prepare and implement key objectives and indicators, to effectively ensure the monitoring and evaluation of these soft approach programmes.
The Strategy, developed by international partners, experienced academics and select non-state actors, actually recommends useful programmes for education, economic empowerment and gender issues in vulnerable communities. With its implementation anchored on the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), the Strategy was put together taking into account the root causes of terrorism and other violent crimes in order to apply appropriate solutions to them.
Using the template in its programmes, the Ministry can involve the participation of the civil society, academics, the media, and traditional, religious and community leaders, as it utilises existing structures within and outside government to deliver targeted activities that further the overall objective of stemming the tide of radicalism and economic crimes.
The mandatory registration of local and international humanitarian agencies should also be undertaken, against the background of the alleged suspicious activities of some of them by the Nigerian military. In fact, considering the sensitive nature of Sadiya Umar Farouq’s office in relation to national security, the Ministry should work with the security and intelligence services in disaster prevention and response operations, as well as coordinating the activities of home-based NGOs interested in humanitarian and social development endeavours.
For sure, some of agencies expected to report to the Ministry would likely include the organisation she previously led, the National Commission for Refugees, alongside the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the North-East Development Commission (NEDC), the Border Communities Development Agency (BCDA), Federal Fire Service and, possibly, the Presidential Amnesty Programme.
On the economic front, especially in terms of poverty alleviation programmes, the Ministry should supervise or, in the alternative, work closely with the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), the Ecological Fund Office, National Social Investment Programme (NSIP), School Feeding Programme, TraderMoni and N-Power, which are part of the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP).
The activities of the listed agencies should be streamlined for proper coordination and to avoid the duplication of responsibilities. Proper documentation is equally essential for the humanitarian service providers, interventionist agencies, and Non-Governmental Organisations, including the putting together of an accurate database of the IDPs.
The Ministry requires adequate and competent manpower, including financial and logistics resources for disaster management and poverty alleviation. This will ensure proper supervision and implementation of the various programmes by the existing agencies.
Yushau A. Shuaib
Author “An Encounter with the Spymaster”