SADIYA: Humanitarian services like never before
By Ola Adebayo
The Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development is a necessity. It could not have come at a better time, the same way the Hajia Sadiya Umar-Farouk leadership could not have been better appreciated. The ministry, last month, celebrated the first anniversary of its creation.
And, of course, its impact on Nigerians. But is there really need for such fanfare? In a saner clime, there might not be need for such, because it’s a governmental policy, irrespective of the administration in power, to have some kind of stimulus for their people as exemplified in Europe during the on-going Covid-19 pandemic.
But Nigeria, like many other African countries, is yet to imbibe such a social scheme to the point that it becomes a national policy. So, when a government decides to set aside a chunk of its budget to raise, assist and sustain the vulnerable within the society, such should be commended.
Sadiya, until her appointment, wasn’t known as such to the general public, neither was she known to have held any public office. Her entrance, obviously, rattled a lot of people, particularly those close to the seat of power who had positioned themselves for appointments.
As a matter of fact, it was that disappointment that brought about the rumored romance between her and President Muhammadu Buhari. It was even taken to a ridiculous level of widely circulated invites for a pending wedding. As usual, gullible members of the public bought the dummy wholeheartedly. Laugh Out Loud (LOL).
Why was that? To bully the President to drop the young lady and, for the lady, in case the President went ahead to appoint her, to buckle under public pressure and turn down the appointment, forgetting that Baba, as he is fondly called, is a man of conviction.
Buhari made his announcement and she got the appointment. And Sadiya went about doing her job. But how did she get the job in the first place? As stated earlier, if Baba believes in something, especially with proven record, he goes for it. Sadiya has proven record. She was the National Treasurer of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC, one of the parties that formed the All Progressives Congress, APC).
For three years that she held sway as Treasurer, no indictment of wrong doings as she accounted for every penny spent. This, in my view, endeared her to the President. It wasn’t difficult therefore when the President was looking for somebody without blemish to superintend the new ministry, her name, without hesitation, came up.
Looking back, one year after, Nigeria and indeed Nigerians have cause to celebrate and thank Sadiya and, more importantly, President Muhammadu Buhari.
Sadiya’s appointment, as stated, jolted some people which partly explained why her first few months in office were quite turbulent, as one issue after the other, all controversial, were raised to question her integrity, capacity and capability. That was expected though. But shortly after, it’s been a smooth ride.
Under the ministry, there is the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRMI); National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA); National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP); North East Development Commission (NEDC); Social Investment Programmes (SIP); and Office of the Senior Special Assistant- Sustainable Development Goals, all running even more efficiently now.
Yes, there are hitches here and there; that is expected, but it’s been far better than it was, say two, three years back.
Sadiya is leveraging on the experience and capacity of these agencies to carrying out certain functions, while providing leadership and coordination.
N-Power, among all the ministry’s programmes, appears to be the much talked about as it generates lot of controversies. This is perhaps because the beneficiaries are graduate youths and their presence in the social media amplifies whatever they say about the programme to the larger society. You can’t have as much as over 109,000 beneficiaries from two batches of the programme and expect everything to be hitch-free. The third batch of the programme has since commenced with over five million entries received.
Under NPOWER, the ministry achieved a net lowering of the youth unemployment figures despite population growth. Same with the Government Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Program (GEEP), a government tool to address the challenges of credit and financial inclusion for the over 37 million Nigerians at the base of the economic pyramid who are involved in active commercial activity, but have never had the opportunity to access loans.
It is executed by the Bank of Industry (BOI) under the direction of the ministry, leveraging extensively on data, technology, mobile phones and a network of 4,325 agents deployed in all the 36states and the FCT. The ministry, through GEEP, has continued to provide incremental loans of between N10, 000 and N300,000 to traders, artisans, enterprising youth, agricultural workers and other micro-service providers; under its flagship programmes, TraderMoni, MarketMoni and FarmerMoni.
The programme has empowered over 2.3 million such micro-enterprises with interest-free loans to grow their businesses, making it the largest public microcredit program worldwide. It has about 4,325 Agents in 36 states + FCT; 2,678 Clusters or Markets, Traders & Farms; 4,988,926 enumerated and verified applicants (out of a total pool of 9.3 million registrations). Introduction of GEEP has brought over 352,000 new bank account users with 1.95million new Mobile Wallets with N36.3billion disbursed with 2.2million beneficiaries. There are still 2.7million candidates on the waiting list
So far, the ministry has carried out interventions, in all forms, in all the 36 states of the federation, including Abuja, the lockdown notwithstanding. Four months of stipends paid at once to those benefiting from the Conditional Cash Transfer to cushion the effect of Covid-19, including provision of food stuff like rice, maize millet, sorghum, vegetable oil, tomato paste, milk, sugar and spaghetti, have made the programme a toast of everyone.
There is also the Take- Home Food Rations for Households of Children enrolled in the National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme consisting of rice, beans, vegetable oil, palm oil, tomato paste, eggs and salt. The ministry also affected the lives of IDPs, people living with disabilities, older persons, trafficked persons, orphans, the poorest of the poor in communities, petty traders and other persons of concern positively.
While there are many laudable programmes yearning for execution in the ministry, there appears little the ministry can do given paucity of funds. And Sadiya admitted so during so the first-anniversary celebration when she said, “This ministry still has lots of plans targeted at providing more humanitarian aid to vulnerable Nigerians, but these plans are being hampered by scarcity of funds which is a general challenge of every government establishment.
“Within one year, we have provided succour to vulnerable groups and people of concern, who were affected by disasters, floods, violence, and the Covid-19 lockdown.
“We have also empowered youths and women.
“I am happy to say since the creation of the ministry, we have been able to coordinate all humanitarian needs in the country and intervene in the lives of Nigerian citizens.
“I also want to place it on record that it would have not been possible without the support from the agencies under the ministry, our local and foreign partners and other concerned NGOs who have passion for service to humanity”.
On complaints against the ministry regarding responses to issues, Sadiya said she understood and appreciated them. She added, “ I can assure you all Nigerians that the ministry will adopt a proactive rather than reactive approach to all kinds of humanitarian disasters even as we continue to involve CSOs, NGOs, development partners and the private sector in all our interventions.
“We will also leave our doors open to hear constructive criticisms on our interventions because we are responsible to the people of Nigeria and we believe that there is no system that cannot be improved”.
My advice: Madam Minister, while you must be commended for coming this far, you have, however, a lot still yet to achieve. You will have a lot of distractions, which is expected, but your focus should and must be the national assignment to ensure the vulnerable in our midst are taken care of. I wish you all the best in this thankless assignment.