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Friday, January 27, 2023

No Opportunity To Divert Relief Materials In Nasarawa – Barr. Allumaga

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Barr. Zachary Allumaga is the Executive Secretary, Nasarawa State Emergency Management Agency ( NASEMA). In this interview with some selected Journalists in Lafia, he spoke on the agency’s efforts towards addressing disaster situations in the state.MoneyCentral’s North Bureau Chief, Nathaniel Gbaoron’s brings the Excerpts.


How do you manage disasters in Nasarawa state?

All that we do is to ensure the protection and the sustainence of human security. It is immaterial the dimension such human security is coming from whether it’s as a result of humanitarian crisis,food shortage or health crisis among others. This agency is responsible for prevention , curative and making sure that some disasters do not occur. We do three things in the process. We make sure the disasters do not occur by way of sensitisation and when it happens, we mitigate some response actions and see how we can sustain the amelioration of the problem as long as possible. As we speak, I have a template which I am suppose to submit to the deputy Governor who is the chairman of the agency . The template is  a schedule of activities for this year 2022.

There is a prolonged crisis between the  herdsmen/ farmers in the state . What is your agency doing to ameliorate the plights of the Internally Displaced persons ( IDPs)?

Let me give an explanation to some basic concepts that people use wrongly which  affects the whole of the process. Whether the crisis in Nasarawa state or the humanitarian crisis we are talking about is about Tiv and Fulani, my position has since being that it is not so. As far as I am concern,  it is criminality. If the Tiv or Fulani are involved in such criminality is a different thing. But that the Tiv deliberately attack the Fulani or Fulani deliberately attack the Tiv is not correct from my  own investigations. Any time there is such humanitarian crisis , the Agency goes round to find out what was the reason for the crisis before we ask the state government to give them any form of relief. For instance, in Ajumaka when 9 Persons were killed last year, leading to the Displacement of about 39,000 Persons mostly Tiv, when we went to the IDPs camps in the state,  I discovered that quite a number of Eggon ,  Mada and even Mwaghavul from plateau state ,  were all in the camps  when I went there to address them. So it was not only the Tiv ethnic group that was displaced. The Ajumaka crisis also affected the Agatu that lived around Rukubi  and Agbashi communities. All those people around those areas were also  affected . One thing  is that  when there is community attack from one Community to the other, what we need to know is the cause of the crisis. For instance, the Ajumaka crisis was caused as a result of some 10 young men made up  of a few Tiv and some fulani  who became a criminal gang especially in vandalising rails and Masts.They collected 10 million from somebody and then decided to go and vandalise rail and mast and the money was given to them but in the course of sharing the Money, a disagreement ensued and they killed one person and that person happened to be a Fulani man. Then the Fulani said the Tiv killed their own and they decided to take it up on the Tiv. So, how would you call that a Fulani and Tiv crisis? I don’t see it as Fulani / Tiv crisis , I see it as criminality. If somebody killed your person, what you are supposed to do is to report the person but the fact that you go back on a revenge mission is nolonger what people call tribal conflict or ethnic crisis. It is criminality and that is what we have been finding out.

Another was in Jangwa . What we found out there was that  a certain dead body of a certain Fulani  man was discovered in the bush and it is  unfortunate that any time a fulani man  is killed, they just believe that It was the Tiv man that killed him. So, the Fulani went and attacked the Tiv and and the whole crisis started. Everybody started running. It created about 9,200  IDPs  and in all these cases the state government intervened. Relief materials were distributed and of course what I recommended for them was just food items. The non food items are the ones they use in sleeping and accommodation; maltresses, mats, buckets among others. No building materials were given by the state government but food and  sleeping items were distributed to the IDPs.

How many IDPs camps do you have in the state? 

There are several camps that were created. When we say IDPs camps, the state government  has done as much as possible especially the former governor , Senator Tanko Al-Makura. He had a policy of  encouraging  people not to go and stay in IDPs camp. Although we have camps in different areas within the state. One it is called  IDPs centre built by the Presidential committee on floods in Shabu. There are currently no People at the Shabu  camp  because we don’t have the kind of People we may want to  take there. Then we have on a temporal arrangement  the primary schools or public facilities where we keep IDPs when ever they start running due to attacks. Some of them stay around the houses of the traditional rulers until normal help comes. The third type of IDPs camp we have is host communities. All those villages in and around Keana Local Government Area. If something happens, they run to Keana, Kadarko  or Giza where their brothers and sisters are  and  begin to stay in the houses of their relations. We go from one community to the other to distribute  relief materials to them. But areas that are designated encamp with camp facilities and Water Sanitation and Hygiene ( WASH)  activities and so on we don’t really have them . That is why when we have a problem, one week or  after you will begin to find the IDPs going back.

There are allegations of diversion of relief materials meant for IDPs by those in charge. Is this true?


We have found a very strong means of delivering relief materials now in such a manner that the question of diversion of items is seriously taken care of. For instance we have the Tiv Development Association ( TIDA) in the state and so we chose to involve the TIDA leadership in our distribution. We get the TIDA leadership to bring their officials and most often they bring their national executive and so we divide the TIDA national executive amongst the communities where we have the IDPs and take them there to distribute the relief materials directly. One vehicle will carry one person from NASEMA and carry another from TIDA . So everybody is represented. When we go, People queue and we distribute to them directly. Note that earlier than now, we were either using traditional rulers or local government executives and that was the reason why there were  the crisis of diversion but now we have decided to go directly to the people. This time around the traditional rulers and the local government executives only stay and watch us while we distribute the relief materials to the IDPs.There is no opportunity for them to divert any relief material. So, the cry that items did not reach the targeted persons is nolonger there.

There is a poor public perception of the agency as one that distributes only relief materials. What other duties do you perform?

There was this flood disaster that took place in Keffi LGA and about 27 People died. What we distributed was sleeping materials such as maltresses, mats, blankets and building materials such as Zinc, Cement, ceiling, roofing nails among others. We didn’t go into just distributing  relief materials because we have to look at the position of what had been destroyed as a result of the disaster and do something that is responsible which can help in alleviating the plights of  the persons that were affected. So we distributed these type of items and we took them directly to the victims of the flood.

Recently in Keffi,  shops got burnt  and we went there with NAYIPA , we did assessment and the recommendation that was given to the state was that some kind of electrical gadgets should be purchased and given for  various installations to help regulate the kind of electricity that is supplied in the area . So, those ones are not just distribution of food items, they are advice on what should be done. Also the TIDA has written to the government asking that people should be kept in clusters communities so that the bigger the community , the more difficult it will be for attacks. The  memo was minuted to us here to advise His Excellency, Governor Abdullahi Sule  on what should be done. So our job does not restrict only to going to find out whether there is disaster and running there with help. We go beyond that.  Hitherto to the coming in of this present government, from time to time, I attended the security council meeting of the state . My reason is to go and advise on how the state government will help reduce the humanitarian crisis in the state because the agency deals with the people directly. Once there is a disaster in a certain community and I get there, we take stock of who and who have been displaced and then find out the cause of the problem. Wit this we get to know more because we are meeting with the people who are affected and who ran away from their communities. The people will then explain to us on what happened. It is that explanation that we use at the state executive council meeting to tell His Excellency on what will help. There is no security architecture put on ground  in this state but when there are security architecture in a state, SEMA is always involved because you cannot do it without SEMA.

How far has the agency been able to manage disasters in the state?

We have so far done very excellently. I think as reasonably as possible I will say thank you to His Excellency Governor Sule. I am very satisfied that my own is only to request and I will always get the approval of what I need . His Excellency Governor Sule is very sensitive to the  plights of IDPs. He has visited two disaster areas that happened  in the state . So he is very sensitive to the plights of people who don’t have and who have lost out . Even if what the agency does is to wait until there is crisis, those crisis are not created by us, they are either natural or man- made disasters and they occur, we go there. So, it is a very excellent work we are doing. People need to go to the camps or where displaced Persons have ran to take refuge then you will see the kind of problems they have been faced with. These are people who have come from their houses and their comfort zones and they are forced to stay in a place that is not conducive without water, toilet facilities or where to sleep. So if you find any person bringing  any item that will provide succour to the IDPs , then I think it is a good one . The fact that government take cognisance , the fact that you ran out of the crisis affected to a safer place  means that something is already been done. It is when the people are ignored completely that there will be a problem.

We have other forms of disasters that took place in the state during the year. Fire disaster had been pretty minimal compared to what happened in the previous years. In 2020 , we had about 75 cases of burnt houses. In 2021 till when the harmattan season started around October of last year, we had stories of houses and shops burning. In 2022, we had the market fire incident in the garage in Lafia LGA. Also the corner shops fire outbreak in Keffi and about two  houses in Lafia and Nasarawa Eggon LGAs.We try to sensitise the people towards making sure that things like that don’t take place. One of our challenges is that people don’t listen to warnings. Although some of these disasters are natural consequences. They are events that we can not stop from happening. The cause of the recent fire outbreak at the Lafia was due to carelessness. In the garage, there is no electricity , so the issue power failure was not there but a certain woman had a shop where she cooks food . So when she finished cooking on that day, she  locked the shop and went home. According to her,she poured water on  the naked fire to quench it  but apparently it didn’t quench and the fire came back again. Her neighbour who sells soft drinks had just received allocation of soft drinks worth N2. 6 million. He brought out the cash to pay to the company’s agents who brought the soft drinks but they said  that they do not collect money in the night because the bank was closed by then. They asked him to keep the money for the next day . The next morning was when the garage caught fire. So the money was burning and People were seeing it burning but nobody could enter. This type of disaster is caused as a result of carelessness from residents. So I preach that people should be very careful so that we don’t get into some of these crisis. We also have this humanitarian crisis still ongoing along Toto area. We have been trying to see how we can resolve it. From time to time we meet with the leadership of the Bassa and the Igbira  on how they can create peace among themselves so that peace can return. We don’t want  this crisis to keep lingering. Infact it was because of this that the religious terrorists called Daru-salam found their  way  around Toto to be able to terrorise people in the area and travellers .

So part of our duty is to sensitise the people on what they need to do. For last year we had an easy go. The usual yearly flood associated with the rise in water level in River Benue didn’t happen  despite all the warnings, it didn’t happen. So we pray it should continue like this but we won’t take the issue of flood for granted . We will go round and make sure that we tell the people to take care  of themselves and their environment. The challenges we are having is that people living in flood prone areas have not accepted to leave their houses and go to safe ground when flooding starts. We have identified safe places where people can move to if the floods comes . So we will continue to sensitise the people on that. Meanwhile we have a board of stakeholders and then all the other agencies that have to do with disasters or human insecurity are part and parcel of the board. We have the Ministries of health, Women Affairs, Agriculture, Environment, Works and Housing among others. They are all invited for stakeholder’s meetings and then we put up a template on what we are going to do  during the year.

Sometimes the synergy that is supposed to exist between partners is not good enough. Some people will want to pull out due to one reason or the other. For instance, if there is disasters particularly in health prone areas , such disaster is an emergency then you have set up a committee and SEMA is not part of it, then how can the agency come in? But SEMA should be part of these campaigns. How about the monthly environmental sanitation. It is not all about standing on the road to enforce the sanitation exercise. You need to go to places where you know that there are environmental issues, give notice to the people  to enable them come out and clean their houses but if they don’t come out, their environment won’t be clean. You may still have to send people even after the sanitation exercise. So I call for better synergy between the various stakeholders working  in disaster situations in the state.

What is the level of partnership between the agency and   Non – Governmental Organisations?

That is one of the things we do, of course we partner with NGOs . For instance, the UNDP or humanitarian Organisation is trying to ameliorate the problems we have on ground towards making sure that the humanitarian crisis or humanitarian security is highly ameliorated and they get into various areas. We are fortunate this time that the UNDP  is working in the state. They have asked us to train some IDPs particularly the youths and women in craft and entrepreneurship skills for the purposes of getting people who will go out and sustain and create employment for themselves as well as train others. So various items were given for us to select. So the agency can select and collaborate with them . Some of the things they said  was that we should mobilise  young People whom they will  teach in the area of  auto mobile works on how to repair vehicles, generators among others. The other one is how to lay bricks , carpentry and the rest of them. The ones that we found relevant and easy for our people because it’s a three months programme is tailoring. They said we should train 166 persons which 40% most be women. We have calculated that and then we have also identified our IDPs who will be part of the programmes . What we have done is that we have about 39, 000 IDPs that are on our record even if they are not in the camps, we know where to get them. So from them we will select this 166. We have contacted TIDA to give us the names . We also have an offer coming from the National  Commission for Refugees to train 200 people on computer. What is the joy here is the end result. For the people who are going to participate in the commission’s entrepreneurship training in computer, laptops will be given to them at the end of the training and for those people who will learn tailoring, sewing machines will also be given to them at the end of the training. That will create an enabling environment for the IDPs to move to the next stage and engage themselves in positive ventures.

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