The National Emergency Management Agency has activated its emergency Search and Rescue Teams to be on full alert in the event of any emergency situation during the yuletide season.
The Director General of NEMA, Muhammad Sani-Sidi, made the disclosure in his office at the weekend while receiving the communique of the 2012 Annual Media Retreat of Journalists and Information Officers on Disaster and Emergency Management in Nigeria.
Sani-Sidi said: “All Search and Rescue Officers of the NEMA and that of other response agencies as well as trained emergency volunteers throughout the federation have been put on alert in case of any untoward development between the Christmas period and the New Year.
“The activation of Search and Rescue officers to be on full alert has been the tradition of the agency in its collaborative efforts with other agencies and volunteers in responding to distress situation.”
The NEMA boss also lamented the inability of the Nigerian Communications Commission to provide the country with a three-digit National Emergency call line as obtained in other cuntries.
He said: “We are waiting for NCC to work out the emergency toll free number as soon as possible to help us on disaster management.”
Sani-Sidi also noted that most states have lukewarm attitude to the subject of emergency management and combating disasters by not complying with legal mandates to establish their state emergency management agencies.
He added that in the case of those that have established, most of them are yet to become functional because they are not adequately funded.
He tasked journalists to take governors and local government chairmen to task on the need to establish functional emergency management bodies.
He stated that every Nigerian now looks up to NEMA to respond to emergencies and combat disasters whereas only situations beyond the capabilities of state and local emergency outfits should be referred to NEMA as the national body.
He also stated that disaster management will soon be included in both primary and secondary schools curricula in the country as a result of efforts of his agency.
He explained further that students have graduated from the six post graduate departments that NEMA funded in the six geopolitical zones across the country.
On the 15-point communique, the NEMA boss promised to implement most of the recommendations, especially those pertaining to creation of information centres at emergency scenes to create synergy in dissemination of information and reportage during emergencies.
Sani-Sidi also promised to improve partnership with the media on dedicated programmes and columns in electronic, print and even online media.
Below is the communique submitted to Sani-Sidi after the Media retreat:
COMMUNIQUE ON 2012 ANNUAL MEDIA RETREAT ON EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT
This is the Communique of a Two-day 2012 Annual Media Retreat on Emergency Management organised for Journalists and Information Officers on Disaster and Emergency Management which was sponsored by the National Emergency Management Agency. It was held at the Rockview Hotel, Wuse 2, Abuja between December 20 And 21, 2012.
1. Continuing in the tradition started in 2008 when the Journalists Against Disaster (JAD) and Media and Information Committee on Emergency Management (MICEM) were birthed in Kaduna, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) sponsored a retreat of journalists covering disaster and emergency management and information officers of emergency responder agencies.
2. Participants were drawn from across the country as represented by officials of Journalists Against Disasters (JAD) in the six geo-political zones and the Federal Capital Territory and also agencies like Defence Hq, Nigerian Red Cross, United Nations, Federal Road Safety Corps, Nigeria Police, Civil Defence Corps, Academia among others.
3. Lectures were delivered on various aspects of emergency management and the role of the media in minimising and mitigating the effects of natural and man-made disasters which are ever on the increase.
Having carefully and painstakingly taken stock of events, incidents and happenings as pertaining to disaster and emergency occurrences in 2012 and how they were handled by NEMA and reported by the print, electronic and electronic media; and having extensively deliberated on all issues directly and tangentially related to information dissemination and management, participants observed that:
1. NEMA has been quite visible in the various media during the year under review.
2. The Agency has issued prompt statements, releases and addressed press conferences on issues relating to its mandate.
3. Despite its visibility, there is still a general lack of understanding of the statutory roles of NEMA by the general public and the media.
4. That NEMA’s relationship with the media has been more through press statements and releases than press conferences.
5. That on the whole and on a scale, reportage on disaster and
emergency has been largely fair and objective.
6. That there is synergy amongst the response agencies on information management.
7. That there has been an absence of a single platform to coordinate and process information on disaster and emergency.
8. In 2012, there has been lack of regular meetings of MICEM,
notwithstanding the frequent outbreak of disaster and emergency incidents throughout the year.
9. That security and response agencies do not regularly allow media access to disaster and emergency scenes and in some occasions media practitioners are victims of intimidations and harassments from security forces
10. That most activities of response agencies come at short notices. Some media invitations within the year were actually received few hours to the occasions
Convinced that public education is a necessary condition for NEMA to attain its mandate and that this can largely be achieved through the media, participants recommended that:
1. That NEMA should organise and anchor a monthly press briefing on disaster management, to be addressed by DG or any of the response agencies on a rotational basis, especially on topical emergency issues that require clarification.
2. That Quarterly Press Conference should be hosted by the zonal offices on activities at the zonal levels involving response agencies at that level.
3. That since no one can give what he does not have, NEMA should conduct a more frequent and more regular capacity buiding programmes for journalists covering the beat possibly on a half yearly basis so that they will be well grounded on the relevant issues and therefore help to dispel misconceptions relating to the responsibilities of the agency.
4. That the directive given by NEMA DG sometimes this year concerning travelling to disaster sites with journalists be complied with at the Headquarters and zones level for detailed reportage and analysis in the media
5. That apart from the need for information centres at emergency scenes; NEMA should urgently establish Disaster and Emergency Information Centre (DEIC) at the Headquarter to create synergy in reportage among response agencies, especially MICEM for unified and authentic information dissemination
6. That there is the need for the military and other security officers to stop frequent harassment of media practitioners during emergencies and allow them access to disaster scenes.
7. That there is a need for a monthly or weekly timetable of events that require media coverage such that last minute invitation to events and press conferences will become less frequent.
8. That NEMA should sustain and improve partnership with the media on dedicated programmes and columns in electronic, print and even online media because of its demanding mandates on advocacies on Disaster Risk Reduction.
9. That zonal information offices of NEMA should have separate budgets and funding specifically dedicated to cover information dissemination and management at their level.
10. That there is the need to replicate MICEM at the zonal level for the purpose of creating more synergy in dissemination of information and promoting inter-agency relationship which should include PRO of SEMAs.
11. That MICEM meetings should henceforth hold quarterly because of their influence as think-tanks on emergency information management from response agencies.
12. That there is the need to create more interest in environment, disasters and emergency reportage among journalists by supporting the creation of JAD chapters in all the states of the federation.
In conclusion, participants expressed to the DG NEMA for his support to activities relating to information dissemination and urged him to expedite action on the invitation extended to MICEM for an exchange technical programme in Canada. They also urged him to grant scholarship to journalists covering disasters and emergency situations to pursue post graduate studies in disaster management in the universities that NEMA established endowments.
Jonas Agwu (FRSC), Vice Chairman Media and Information Committee on Emergency Management
Sanya Adejokun, National Cordinator, Journalists Against Disaster Initiative
Yushau Shuaib, Head of Public Relations, National Emergency Management Agency.