RIGHTSView, By EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO: Disaster Management: Reflection on Abuja Declaration

Posted by News Express | 12 August 2015 | 3,491 times

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As you read this in my column, about one hundred Nigerians and a sprinkling of some foreign citizens resident in Nigeria and working in the thematic area of disaster risk management have rounded off a 48-hour brainstorming sessions, facilitated by the nation’s foremost disaster prevention and management agency – National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) – headed by one of Nigeria’s most resilient public officials, Alhaji Mohammed Sani Sidi. 

The final outcome of the two days’ summit is to be known as the Abuja Declaration on Disaster Risk Reduction/ Management. This is a post-Sendai framework for disaster risk reduction of 2015-2030, adopted at the Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction held between March 14 and 18, 2015 in Sendai, Miyagi, Japan. The event in Japan was the culmination of a quarter of a century of global commitment to disaster risk reduction, which spanned the period, from 1989 to 2015.

There is no doubt that the current director-general of NEMA, who heads the management and staff of this very vibrant and visionary institution has led the institution to become a global player, highly regarded in the area of disaster risk reduction; and has even introduced the specialised studies of Disaster Risk Management at post-graduate levels in universities across the six geopolitical entities.  

Interestingly, yours faithfully was at the Abuja event during which various high quality technical papers were delivered by erudite scholars, drawn from several higher institutions and representatives of sub-regional, continental and the global body, the United Nations. At the opening event, Mr Alhassan Nuhu, a director of NEMA, gave a succinctly rich vote of thanks, just before commencement of the first technical session: Abuja Declaration on Disaster Risk Reduction. The man at the helm of affairs in NEMA, Alhaji Sani Sidi, outlined the historicity of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. He noted that the inclusion of Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) as a thematic area in disaster management is based on the United Nations’ proclamation of the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNR) in 1990; the Yokohama World Conference on Natural Disaster Reduction in 1994 and, successor of the aforementioned framework, the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR). The NEMA boss drew the attention of the audience to the fact that in the year 2000, which saw the adoption of the aforementioned and, more recently, the Hyogo World Conference on Disaster Reduction (HWDCDR), which came into being in the year 2005. The targets were for sustainable environmental advancement and mitigation of the adverse consequences of climate change. 

He recalled that the last framework, in a very fundamental dimension, marked a shift in the understanding and practice of disaster management Worldwide. This culminated in the famous Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA), which he explained is a 10-year plan that has progressively been observed and implemented meticulously from 2005, to end this year, and it is designed to make the world safer from natural disasters and hazards. 

The framework was unanimously adopted by the UN General Assembly in the Resolution A/RES/60/195, following the 2005 World Disaster Reduction Conference. He further offered more light on the fact that the post-2015 framework for disaster risk reduction was adopted at the recently concluded Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction during which NEMA led a powerful team of Nigerian disaster risk reduction managers, who attended and, indeed, made meaningful contributions. I know, as a matter of fact, that civil society organisations (HURIWA was not invited or sponsored to attend which we would have obliged) from Nigeria attended. I ran into the team from Federal Ministry of Environment in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, who were on their way to the summit and the calibre of scholars I saw in that team is no less formidable. 

Participants agreed to address disasters around the globe with renewed vigour and a sense of urgency, in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication to be integrated into policies, plans, programmes, and budgets at all levels and considered within the relevant framework. It’s interesting to note that the current management team members of NEMA are, indeed, Positive Change Agents. They are working in tandem with the Federal Government of Nigeria, headed by President Muhammadu Buhari, in actualising the statutory and thematic mandate for which the agency was set up by law. 

Aspects of the Abuja Declaration on Disaster Risk Reduction include, but not limited to: the comprehensive understanding of disaster risk, because for any policy at both governmental and non-governmental levels to create the needed positive impacts towards achieving disaster risk reduction in Nigeria, there is the imperative need for fuller understanding of disaster risk in all its dimensions of vulnerability, capacity, exposure of persons and assets, hazard characteristics and the environment.  As the saying goes, “you can’t give what you don’t have.” (Nomen dat quod non habet). Secondly, the need to strengthen disaster risk governance to manage disaster risk. Others include: to invest in disaster risk reduction for resilience and last, but by no way the least, enhancing disaster preparedness for effective response and to build back better in recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction.  

Importantly, yours truly notes with joy, that the current Federal Government has started very well by encouraging the management and staff of NEMA to continue to take the lessons of disaster risk reduction to all corners of Nigeria. Mr President must be commended for realising the profound managerial skills of the current team at NEMA. We encourage the states to try to replicate the very activist roles that NEMA has consistently played in taking lessons and strategies for disaster risk reduction to all segments of our society. Disaster management is everybody's business. Therefore, all government officials and non-governmental persons and organisations must key in into the good works that NEMA is doing, right from the national to sub-national levels. State governments should also mobilise local government and community-based groups, including faith-based societies all around Nigeria, to partner actively with NEMA, to achieve the holistic goals of science-based disaster risk reduction. Together, we can minimise the monumental damage usually caused by disasters especially, if these happen when actions are not activated to mitigate the consequences.  

RIGHTSVIEW appears on Wednesdays and Saturdays, in addition to special appearances. The Columnist, popular activist Emmanuel Onwubiko, is a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission and presently National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA).


Source: News Express

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