Malam Ahmed Ibrahim Inga is the Director General of the Niger State Emergency Management Agency (NSEMA). In this interview by ADELOWO OLADIPO, he speaks on a number of issues, including recurrent banditry in some local government areas.
How many people were displaced by bandits’ attacks and what is the number of camps in which they are being kept across the affected local government areas?
The people affected by the unfortunate and recurring issue of banditry in Shiroro, Rafi and Munya local government areas of the state are in the thousands. Activities of bandits cut across the local government areas of Niger State and if not for the proactiveness of Governor Abubakar Sani Bello, the state would have been in a complete mess. At a point, the bandits tried to spread their operation to Niger North Senatorial District, otherwise known Zone C, some parts of Niger South Senatorial District, also known as Zone A, Mokwa axis of the state, as well as Mashegu and New Bussa but Governor Bello took all necessary measures to control the situation. All hands are on deck to end banditry in Shiroro and other local government areas of the state.
The number of internally displaced persons that stay in camps varies from time to time because the moment situation improves in their local communities, they go back home. Niger State people, particularly those living in areas mostly affected by the activities of bandits, are resilient. I really salute their courage. We have so many camps created for internally displaced persons and usually it doesn’t take to three weeks before the people go back to their communities once the security situation there improves.
But recently, the IDPs, particularly in Shiroro Local Government Area, accused the governor of never having paid them a single visit despite the incessant bandits’ attacks on them?
Well, I don’t want to join issues with the people because two issues are involved. Some who are complaining are doing so because they are victims. These are victims and they have the right to complain but Governor Bello cannot be doing everything by himself with regard to governance. That is why I am granting you this interview. We are his lieutenants and we are carrying out his instructions. So, wherever we go, we are as good as the governor. And I cannot manufacture anything from my house. Every time he gives us directives or an approval, we take convey his gestures to them. What I want people to understand is that the governor is not idle. He is so much concerned about the welfare of the people. Each time there is banditry and the security strategies need to be reviewed and improved on, he works with the security agencies. That is what he has been doing. The governor has been doing wonderfully as far as the issues of banditry and governance are concerned in Niger State. Our agency is a professional body saddled with responsibility of carrying out our assignments as they are supposed to be carried out. And as professionals, we face some risks on the job. But if we are doing the job and the people are still complaining, we will keep on doing what we are supposed to do because we have compassion for the victims. They are being displaced from their homes and this is unimaginable. They are living in abnormal situations so we have to manage them and take some of their reactions in our stride.
Recently, some people under the auspices of Concerned Shiroro Youths held a press conference in Minna, the state capital, and accused Governor Bello of not showing much compassion towards the victims of bandits’ attacks in the state. They also accused your agency of not providing the IDP camps with food, other basic relief materials as well as medical facilities.
I told you earlier that these are people that are displaced and that they have the right to complain. And if they complain, we really want to see how we can improve their situation. We will look at genuine complaints and address them. As a Nigerian, it is my right to talk but there are limitations. If I say it is my right to talk, that does not mean I should be abusing you unnecessarily. Although it is my right to talk, I should bear it in mind that I have limitations. And now that you have said that their youths were complaining about certain issues, we will have to sit down as an emergency management agency and look into the critical situations that they complained about. We will address them and we have been doing it. They are aware of this because they are part of us as stakeholders in the state.
The wet season is about to set in, how prepared is NSEMA to ensure that more people are not displaced from their homes by floods, particularly in the coastal communities?
We are in liaison with some critical stakeholders and our sister agency, Niger State Environmental Protection Agency (NSEPA), is one of them. I am sure Governor Sani Bello has approved some funds for the waterways in Minna to be 100 per cent cleared and I am sure that NSEPA has competent hands to do that. With this measure taken by the state government, we are not expecting much trouble this year as far as the issue of flooding is concerned in the state. Still talking about floods, looking at the land mass of Niger State, we are surrounded by rivers. We can only intensify our campaigns and sensitisation for people to know the danger of flooding so that those living by the river banks would start planning to move to the uplands and those who are farming very close to the riverine areas would move to the uplands.
Stakeholders have expressed concern about some inadequacies of NSEMA in terms of operational vehicles, ambulances, speed boats, life jackets as well as temporary camps. What are you doing about these inadequacies?
Let me correct the impression that we do not have life jackets; we have more than enough in our stores. Governor Sani Bello has directed that we should fashion a way for the agency to be vibrant and functional and I am assuring you that the process to achieve that is on. I want to also assure you that very soon we are going to unveil so many changes about the agency.
What is the government doing about the issue of resettlement camps for the displaced persons during disaster periods in parts of the state?
I want to inform you that the world over, resettlement centres are capital-intensive and now we are facing serious financial crisis. Even the world’s economy is shaking with the coronavirus pandemic. You will see that things are not going well but we are looking at how we can do it in phases. For now, that is the best strategy we can apply. This is what we are trying to look at.
What would you tell Niger people the raining season is about to commence?
We have witnessed the raining season every year and we at NSEMA are just trying to intensify our sensitisation campaigns. And the message every year is to be careful with how we build on the waterways without approval from the urban and regional planning council, thereby causing blockage of the waterways. But people have witnessed the devastating effects of flooding and they are trying to be more careful by taking the sensitisation very seriously and because of that, we have achieved so much in that regard.
How much money has the Niger State government spent on the procurement of relief materials, food items, medications among others, for victims of rainstorms, floods and other natural disasters in parts of the state in the last five years? And what is the number of people that have been affected in the period under review?
I cannot quantify the amount of money spent so far on the procurement of building materials, food items and relief materials or give you the number of the victims, living or deceased, in the last five years off hand. But the amount of money and the number of victims are enormous. We have a department that is responsible for that. If you need the accurate figures, they can always provide us with it. But honestly, Governor Sani Bello has spent billions of naira as far as palliative measures are concerned in Niger State.
How would you describe the situation at NSEMA since the inception of your leadership at the agency?
The situation now is far better now than before I took over. Although I do not want to blow our trumpet, I say that the governor has done wonderfully as far as interventions are concerned in Niger State. The challenges are enormous but with the resources we have in the state, the governor has done wonderfully. Even Lagos, considered to be one of the richest states in the country, cannot tell us that it has done better than us in terms of interventions. Based on our economic strength, I can even say we have done better than Lagos State. What we are facing here, if it were in Lagos, they cannot do it, I can tell you this. But our greatest challenge is finance. We have a very wide landmass but the resources are not big. The government wants to intervene in every area of our lives, but finance has been one of our greatest constraints. In fact, it is our major challenge.
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