February 10, 2021
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By Olu Ojewande

It can boldly be said that no administration in the history of Nigeria has been as determined as the President Muhammadu Buhari Administration to leave behind a true legacy of commitment to the poorest and most vulnerable Nigerians. The first demonstration of this commitment manifested itself in the launch of the National Social Investment Programme, which has since 2016 grown to become the largest social welfare programme in Africa.

Another major demonstration of this commitment came in 2019, when the President created the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development (MHDSD). To take charge of this Ministry the President appointed Sadiya Umar Farouq, who was at the time the Federal Commissioner of the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRMI).

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Since she was sworn in as Minister overseeing that very vital Ministry on August 21, 2019, Sadiya Umar Farouq has worked hard to translate into reality the President’s vision of lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty over the course of ten years.

At the time, nobody knew that the world was entering into a global pandemic that would see the greatest disruption to human existence in many decades, and would put so many lives and economies at great risk. With the benefit of hindsight, the presidential decision to create this Ministry has turned out to be a most apposite and foresighted move.

Since August 2019 the new Ministry has hit the ground running, pursuing its mandate and vision of ‘Service to Humanity’. As a new entity it has faced its teething challenges, but it has continued to rise beyond them. The Ministry is responsible for coordinating all of the humanitarian interventions of the Federal Government of Nigeria, and works with a wide range of stakeholders across the Government and the private sector, including local and international organisations and civil society organisations, to fulfil this mandate.

Under the leadership of Honorable Minister Umar Farouq, the Ministry has taken the Coronavirus pandemic not just as the unexpected challenge that it is, but also a veritable opportunity: an opportunity to deepen the foundations of the Federal Government’s humanitarian interventions, and to build poverty-alleviation systems that are truly resilient and responsive.

The Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development has the following agencies under its umbrella: National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRMI), North East Development Commission (NEDC), National Agency for Prohibition and Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), National Commission for Persons with Disabilities (NCPD), and the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Sustainable Development Goals (OSSAP-SDGs).

In addition, there is the National Social Investment Programmes (NSIP), which has the following four components: Home-Grown School Feeding Programme (HGSFP); Job Creation Unit (N-Power); Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT); and the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP).

The newest agency under the oversight of the Ministry is the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities (NCPD), established following Presidential assent to the establishment Bill by President Buhari in January 2019. It has since fallen upon Minister Sadiya Umar Farouq to operationalize the Commission, which she has successfully done by getting presidential approval for the constitution of the Commission’s inaugural Management Board.

In February 2020, a year ago, the President approved the constitution of a National Humanitarian Coordination Committee (NHCC), co-chaired by Minister Sadiya Umar Farouq, to liaise with law enforcement agencies to ensure improved security and also more efficient coordination of humanitarian interventions especially in the North East of the country. A year later H.M. Sadiya Umar Farouq was appointed by the President as Co-Chairperson (alongside the Minister of Education) of an 18-member Presidential Steering Committee on Alternate School Programme (ASP), established to target Nigeria’s out-of-school children with “an innovative and flexible approach-of-schooling.”

Recent achievements under her watch include the following: the announcement of one million new slots for the next Batch of the N-Power programme (Batch C); the launch of an Empowerment Portal in collaboration with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), for exiting N-Power beneficiaries in Batches A and B; the rollout of the Federal Government’s Special Cash Grant for Rural Women (125,000 rural women nationwide benefiting from a 20,000 one-off grant); and flag-off of the Rapid Response Register (RRR) which will enable COVID-19 cash transfers to Nigeria’s urban poor. Other milestones include the onboarding of 5,000 independent monitors for the National Social Investment Programme (NSIP), as part of efforts to improve transparency of implementation.

Specifically, during the first wave of the Coronavirus pandemic, the Ministry got approval from President Buhari for a 3-month moratorium on all GEEP loans (TraderMoni, MarketMoni, etc). The Ministry also secured presidential approval to Increase the number of GEEP beneficiaries by 1,000,000 and increase the beneficiaries of the Home-Grown School Feeding by 5,000,000.

The Ministry equally oversaw the distribution of tens of thousands of tonnes of food items from the National Strategic Grain Reserves, Nigeria Customs Service, and other sources, and has transparently detailed the details of these interventions on its official website.

Also as part of Covid-19 intervention efforts, the Ministry collaborated with FCT, Ogun and Lagos States, as pilot States for the implementation of a modified version of the National Home Grown School Feeding Programme, involving a “Take Home Ration” given to parents and guardians of benefiting school children.

The work of the Ministry is a national one, every part of the country is being touched and impacted, in line with the President’s vision. And the testimonials keep rolling in. More than 109,000 Batch A and B beneficiaries of the N-Power Programme have gone on to establish thriving small businesses from their stipends. Millions of Nigerians have benefited and are benefiting from grants, loans, relief materials, jobs and other benefits. Nigeria is steadily entrenching an enduring culture of government-driven social welfare and investment, like the developed world.

The journey ahead is no doubt a long on, but it promises to be greatly rewarding and impactful, as Minister Sadiya Umar Farouq works to achieve the Buhari Administration’s vision of creating sustainable and inclusive social systems that promote human dignity in Nigeria.

–  Ojewande writes from Lagos

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