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Sadiya Umar Farouk and the burden of her office

Without any doubt, Sadiya Umar Farouk, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development is in charge of one of the significant Ministries. She is saddled with the job of managing and coordinating national response to many calamities that have almost become a permanent fixture. Because of the omnibus configuration of the Ministry and its expansive scope of work, the job comes with a huge burden.

The Ministry as proclaimed by President Muhammadu Buhari on August 21, 2020 was a major reform initiative designed to recalibrate the way Nigeria deals with crisis of existence that happens from time to time as a result of man-made and natural disasters. For some inexplicable reasons, many people hailed the idea of a separate Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development. It was a necessary intervention to make government more humane. That a sharply-focused Ministry would serve as the major driver for the management of recurring disasters across the country was well thought-out by President Buhari. Before the creation of the Ministry, the missing link in previous efforts had been the lack of co-ordination and synergy among various agencies and between the states and the Federal government. There is no better indicator yet, of the premium the Nigerian government placed on the lives of citizens than this Ministry that is already a year old.

To run a new Ministry is not a tea-party. Unlike her cabinet colleagues who had well established Ministries to run, Umar Farouk did not have the good fortune of an existing Ministry with functioning and running infrastructure to rely on. She had to start from the scratch; literally from scratch with issues as basic as looking for office accommodation and getting her staff together through the civil service bureaucracy for effective takeoff. Without skirting around the issues, she started from ground zero. On assumption of office, undaunted by the enormity of tasks ahead, she picked herself up and plunged into the job. One year after, it is to her credit and that of the management and staff that the Ministry is effectively fulfilling the purpose for which it was established by the President as the main driver of Federal Government’s response to humanitarian services, social development, disaster and other existential threat Nigerians confront from day to day.

For the people of the North East of Nigeria, life has been brutish, laborious and meaningless in the last 10 years as a result of insurgency. Boko Haram’s unrelenting onslaught on the region continues to complicate humanitarian crisis. Terrorists’ attacks have taken the lives of over 30,000 people mostly women and children, communities in Borno State still being ravaged, and over 2 million internally displaced people at IDP camps. Mangled limbs; destroyed schools and worship centres are still tell-tale manifestations of the level devastation unleashed on the North East region by terrorists.

The scourge of banditry in Zamfara, Sokoto, and the entire North West is also creating a new challenge of socio-economic dislocation. When fire outbreaks at sprawling markets like the one at Dugbe in Ibadan, Akesan in Oyo Town and apocalyptic floods afflicting communities across the country are thrown into the mix, the cycle of woes become more staggering. Dealing with these myriad of problems and providing succor to the victims of these disasters, in a manner that recognises their dignity and humanity, became the lot of effervescent Sadiya Umar Farouk.

To even understand and begin to proffer any impactful solution to the legion of humanitarian situations that beset our country requires sufficient brain power. Sadiya Umar Farouk is one of the women who came well prepared for high public office. Fortified with a degree in Business Administration from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and two Master’s Degrees from same University, the Minister is well endowed with the right aptitude to keep her own side of the bargain. In 2008, Umar Farouk bagged a Master’s degree in Business Administration. She followed it up with another Master’s degree in International Affairs and Diplomacy in 2011. It is good to add that the Minister combines brain power with the abundance of her physical attraction. With a missionary zeal, Umar Farouk plunged herself to meet the demands of her office. Within a year in office, her Ministry has become a monument of refuge for the weary, broken-hearted and other afflicted Nigerians through timely interventions and material mobilization to those affected by one crisis or the other.

Under her guidance as the supervising Minister for North East Development Commission, the NEDC has embarked on building 10,000 houses for IDPs in Borno State out of which 1000 units are under construction. On June 26th 2020, Umar Farouk was in Borno on inspection tour of the housing project and other intervention projects that will quicken the recovery for the IDPs and help them return to their communities to start normal life outside the discomfort of camp life. Apart from working very hard with NEDC to rebuild shelters for the displaced, the Ministry under the compassionate leadership of Umar Farouk is also working with the commission to revamp social infrastructure across the 6 states of North East. Recently, the NEDC launched N6billion Education Endowment Fund for the region. This fund will be replenished every year with 10% of annual statutory allocation to the commission and other funding sources.

With education, the Ministry and NEDC believe the problem of widespread poverty, insecurity, absence of opportunities for earning reasonable livelihood and several other factors that are direct and indirect outcomes of the decade-long insurgency in the region will be tackled. For thousands of families that could not send their wards to school due to the insecurity and destruction of schools, a new lease of life has begun. More than 910 schools were destroyed and another 1,500 were forced to close at the peak of the Boko Haram insurgency.These destructions and closures left more than 600,000 school-age children without access to learning. That is almost a lost generation, as far as education is concerned.

Under the Endowment Fund, NEDC and the Ministry set lofty goals. If faithfully executed with the cooperation of the affected state governments, civil society organisations, traditional rulers, religious leaders and multilateral agencies, the fortunes of the region in terms of the educational disadvantageous position, it currently occupies, will be reversed within 10 years. Under its broad framework, the Endowment Fund will regenerate human capital for the region through scholarships, make investment in ICT skills for citizens of the region, rebuild school infrastructure destroyed by terrorists, provide vocational training for the youths and sponsor other training opportunities for those in the Almajiri system, invest in sports development and sustain the education of 2,400 beneficiaries of the Safe Schools Initiative up to tertiary level.

There has been no better way to demonstrate unalloyed and unshakable commitment to the most vulnerable and the disadvantaged than this period of global pandemic. Government imposed lockdowns and restrictions created a lot of inconveniences for all regardless of status. At the peak of the restrictions between April and June, Umar Farouk personally led audacious distribution of palliatives to the very poor without minding the toll on her energy and possible health risk. At the time when most senior government officials were afraid to step out of their homes due to the fear of Covid-19 virus, this Minister traversed almost all states of the country distributing food items and medical supplies. The Federal Government through the Ministry successfully distributed food rations to 29,609 households in FCT, 37,589 households in Lagos and 60,391 households are targeted to benefit in Ogun State.

Despite the country’s fiscal challenges with low revenue, the Minister, in the face of avalanche of ill-motivated campaigns of calumny, is courageously implementing the Social Investment Programmes. The Ministry is currently recruiting the second batch of 500,000 N-Power beneficiaries having successfully discharged the first batch two years after the commencement of the initiative. With same commitment, Trader Moni, Market Moni and Farmer Moni under the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP) are being strengthened to create better impact and outcomes.

Sadiya Umar Farouk has shown courage on her job. While she is laser-focused on confronting the mounting challenges of her office, there are unmistaken deliberate attacks on her person by vested interests who are, apparently, offended by her genuine passion to lift millions of Nigerians out of debilitating cul-de-sac caused by life billows. She has been savaged, her statements mischievously twisted to expose her to mob ridicule and harshly judged for glitches that were not her making. Through all these premeditated attacks she has remained undistracted. Her gaze is on the big picture and her higher-purpose goal.

In a private chat with her during the week on why she is being unfairly assailed, she calmly retorted that she is at peace with herself and conscience as long as she is doing the right thing. She said, “I am not too worried about the attacks. It is part of the burden of public service in Nigeria.

Government officials especially senior officials like Ministers are unfairly subjected to all these attacks. As long as I don’t compromise myself and my position I don’t have anything to fear. I am on the job to execute the vision of the President who believes we must have a more coordinated national response to disaster management and social development instead of agencies operating in silos. I recognize we are in a political environment and there will always be opposition for whatever motivations they have. I am not deterred. I will continue to provide leadership for my team at the Ministry and all the agencies under my supervision. We have a mandate to deliver better service to the good people of Nigeria we are put in positions to serve.”


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