By Danliti Goga
The humanitarian community in Nigeria, comprising national and international institutions and agencies, converged in Abuja on March 22 for what eminently qualified to become an annual commemorative event dedicated to the concerted efforts and celebrated outcomes that constitute the ultimate in humane governance. The concerted efforts of government dedicated to delivering succour, restoring hope and rekindling a sense of belonging to the most distressed, vulnerable and handicapped groups of people in the fringes of human existence showcased alongside moving testimonies of elated beneficiaries, describing marvellous unexpected life-changing opportunities, was an unforgettable take-away from the first humanitarian Open House.
There was the inimitable tribute from James Lalu, the hearing-impaired head of the National Commission for People with Disabilities, who held the huge audience spell-bound with the fluctuating tone of his voice as he conveyed the emotional expressions of excitement and appreciation flowing from up to 50,000 people with disabilities who receive 25,000 or 30,000 naira monthly under programmes of the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development. The ministry organized the Open House themed Coordinating for Durable Humanitarian Solutions: The Journey So Far, to showcase its strategies and milestones and exchange ideas with stakeholders.
Alluding to the treasured value of monthly cash transfer grant of N5000, Lalu declared there are two types of poor people: the executive ones who say five thousand is too small and the really poor people who know that five thousand naira has great impact and is changing lives, as he hailed mother of all disabled persons Minister Sadiya Umar Farouk’s persistence on ensuring the inclusion of persons with disabilities in all programmes. He said the disabled are smart, intelligent and creative people who only need an opportunity rather than the pity of able-bodied persons, pointing out that about 40,000 disabled persons were engaged under the N Power, GEEP and monitoring and evaluation.
More life-changing experiences came from the rural women beneficiaries especially of the conditional cash transfer, showing how poverty gets turned into prosperity through empowerment that creates opportunities to enhance talent and boost income of petty traders. Mercy Joseph spoke of paying school fees and expanding her pap selling while Salamatu Musa liquid soap and perfume making is now selling in neighbouring villages and Monsurat has moved from credit to direct purchase in her egg selling business.
The Home Grown School Feeding Programme was also positively acclaimed for its multiple spin-offs. Mariam Adam of Chanchaga local government area in Niger State gleefully recounted increased enrolment and attendance in schools and income-generating job opportunities among women engaged in cooking and farmers of a wide range of foodstuff. I bought a deep freezer to sell soft drinks and chilled water, others bought grinding machines, she said referring to lucrative spin-offs. The down-to-earth narratives from grassroots people greatly reflected the focal objective of reaching out to the hitherto out of touch communities with a range of basic but essential socio-economic empowerment initiatives that significantly transform lives and give government unprecedented relevance.
The presence of representatives of leading global partners authenticated the recognition and endorsement of the humanitarian affairs ministry pioneering role in synergizing and institutionalizing policies and programmes for robust government intervention in ameliorating the plight of people marginalized in the misery and desolation of human and natural disasters in Nigeria. The ECOWAS representative commended the performance of the ministry as achievements of Nigerians through laudable programmes that give vulnerable people opportunity to revert to normalcy in a dignified and fulfilling manner. This was further borne out by the elaborate and resourceful exhibition by the ministry agencies depicting the institutional capacity and range of humanitarian and emergency services, made accessible for enlightenment and consultation under one roof. Minister Sadiya Umar Farouq explained that the Open House would enhance the ministry coordination and leadership role by facilitating direct engagement with partners, stakeholders and the general public on its activities, achievements, challenges and the way forward.
The launching of the National Policy on Internally Displaced Persons at the event spotlighted the equally important responsibility of the Ministry for policy formulation, bearing in mind its pioneering role as coordinator and implementer of all governments humanitarian and social interventions and the need for policy frameworks to define and institutionalize processes for attaining objectives of its diverse programmes and projects.
The IDP Policy provides such a framework for national responsibility towards prevention and protection of citizens and non-citizens from arbitrary internal displacement meet their assistance and protection needs during displacement, ensure their rehabilitation, return, reintegration and relocation after displacement and spells out principles guiding humanitarian assistance.
Other national policies developed by the ministry include National Policy on Ageing, creating a first-ever Senior Citizens Centre to focus on the needs of the over 70, the National Migration Policy dealing with migration issues and the National Disability Policy which has established the National Commission for People with Disabilities.
The National Disaster Risk Management Policy and the National Social Protection Policy are in advanced stages of administrative and legislative processes.
The panoramic presentation of the Humanitarian Affairs Ministry progressive evolution from a newly created ministry with a vast and cumbersome mandate of streamlining a disparate array of government humanitarian and social intervention agencies and intervention schemes and harmonizing and synergizing them into a coordinated and optimized policy-driven portfolio compliant with global best practices in just three years, remains an outstanding outcome of the Open House.
The prospects for a sustainable ministry giving humanitarian, disaster management and social development policies and programmes the long term agenda and priority they deserve for effective good governance are definitely bright, overshadowing any doubts about survival after the Buhari Administration which will retain the distinction for creating a ministry exclusively charged with responsibility for ameliorating the plight of the poor, the distressed and other vulnerable groups.
It also represents a phenomenal development in the perpetual quest for tangible inclusion of huge populations of marginalized citizens in the delivery of social security and humanitarian services of government, after decades of callous neglect.
All said, the Open House brought the remarkable human impact of the functions of the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development to the town hall glare of global partners, stakeholders and the general public through the emotional expressions of excitement and gratitude by beneficiaries of its programmes. It was a welcome focus on the faceless commoners who are living witnesses of the life-changing reality of the programmes.
Milestones became smile-stones in cheerful tributes to the humane outcomes of transformational governance, aptly defined as Gross Domestic Happiness (GDH) as a measure of success in turning poverty into prosperity, giving ability to the disabled and restoring hope to the displaced, which naturally brings spontaneous smiles to forlorn faces. Happiness of humanity should be the ultimate goal of government.
Danliti Goga writes Kano