Sadiya Umar-Farouq, minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, is a minister of necessity. The emergence of her ministry is President Muhammadu Buhari’s response in caring for streaming victims of humanitarian crises raging at various fronts in the country. Her portfolio is also designed to provide an action point for the President’s poverty eradication programme under his Next Level Agenda.
The ministry kicked off with the President’s second term in office to meet the necessity for an organized structure to manage the requisite features of humanitarian emergencies that Nigeria has sustained for more than a decade.
Beginning with the Boko Haram insurgency, humanitarian crisis has taken a sectarian dimension, extended to herders’ invasion, separatist movements, kidnapping and banditry. These are in addition to emergencies caused by natural disasters such as flooding and erosion.
Under severe economic difficulties facing the nation, living conditions have deteriorated and a large and increasing number of people are continually falling victims of unemployment and poverty, ignorance and economic inequality. Many also are victims of illiteracy, domestic violence, post-traumatic stress disorder and so on.
The result is that thousands of people have been displaced from their homes with families broken and children left without parents. The need for resettlement and humanitarian aid for such refugees has never been this huge in Nigeria.
Umar-Farouq has been widely endorsed as the right and proper person having the humanitarian heart and the capability in terms of administrative skills with a professional touch to deliver the much needed results expected of the ministry. The President has received a double score first for the wisdom in creating the ministry and second for placing Umar-Farouq in charge.
She is not new on the humanitarian job, having been in charge of National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons since 2016. Yet, it isn’t without a challenge. “We have learnt to navigate the peculiar geography of humanitarian interventions, disaster management and social interventions,” she said.
Since she took the mantle of office in August 2019, Umar-Farouq has run ceaselessly to live up to the vision of the national calling. Hers is essentially a ministry of the less privileged and she therefore represents hope out of despair.
If the promise of lifting people out of poverty under the President’s Next Level Agenda is to be met, her ministry is the gateway to deliver it. The first set of people to be lifted belongs to her ministry. Her role is therefore about the closest and most direct in making Nigerians feel the impact of the Next Level Agenda promises.
So far, she has held forth the light of hope for many and spreading it as fast as she could to others. She is practically on the field daily to proffer solutions to the plight of millions of Nigerians who are victims of the nation’s humanitarian crisis.
For months, Umar-Farouq practically made the risk-prone north-east her home. There she formed committees for various project executions. This includes National Steering Committee for the restructured Multi-sectoral Crisis Recovery Project (MCRP) – which is designated for Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states.
She shows a burning determination to reach out to everyone in need no matter how remote or inaccessible their location. In Maiduguri, she collaborated with the Nigerian Air Force to carry out airdrop relief operations. This was the strategy to reach many locals trapped in a number of inaccessible communities in Borno State.
Her joy lies in a life touched. “It has been rewarding in the sense that when I visit the field and I see beneficiaries whose lives are being changed by the federal government’s humanitarian interventions, it leaves me with a sense of fulfillment that we are doing something for humanity”, she said.
Umar-Farouq’s exceptional performance has attracted attention in many quarters. A timely recognition came from Transparency Watch last year, which adjudged her the best minister in 12 months of President Muhammadu Buhari second term.
The organisation had graded ministers on organizational strength; performance of agencies under their purview; impact on the lives of the people as well as transparency and accountability. She cleared the marks for effective organization of the various interventions of government through the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the National N-Power Initiative, National Home Grown School Feeding Programme and the Conditional Cash Transfer Programme, according to Transparency Watch.
For Umar-Farouq, the recognition calls for more work and not celebration. “I am grateful that individuals and organisations are watching our activities and to be honoured with awards is a good thing but we are not anywhere near the standard the President set for us.
“The vision of the President is to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years and our ministry is playing a major role to make this a reality, so we still have a long way to go. Reward for hard work is more work, not a celebration at this stage”, she said.