The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouq, in this interview speaks about the exit plans for N-Power beneficiaries, the success of the Home-Grown Feeding programme and government’s plan to resettle Internally Displaced Persons.
Daily Trust: The ministry seems to have so much to handle; from intervention for Internally Displaced Persons, to Disaster management and the social investment programmes of the Federal Government. How are you managing this?
Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouq: It looks big, but the issues are inter-connected. So, government in its wisdom felt that there is need for a body that will coordinate all these issues. We have disasters here and there, which give rise to humanitarian and social issues. So, the ministry is one and the same because the issues are inter-connected and we have the zeal and commitment to live up to the expectations of Nigerians.
DT: N-Power beneficiaries are continually living in fear because they keep hearing that they will soon be relieved of their jobs. A national daily recently reported that 200,000 of them will not be paid the January stipends, can you respond to this to give them some relieve?
Sadiya: I don’t know the reason for the fear. N-Power is a government programme aimed at supporting our teeming unemployed youths. We started with the first batch in 2016, who were supposed to exit in 2018, but because of plans not being in place, the tenure was extended. So, they knew from the onset that it’s not a programme that will be there for life.
Government wanted them to earn a living, and we want to believe that most of them that are wise must have saved out of the stipend they are being paid monthly. Also, they have learnt some skills that can help them to be entrepreneurs. So, I don’t think we should have this panic. From the onset, they knew this programme was for a period of time.
For us as a ministry, we are looking at all options for the planned exit. We are not just going to exit them and leave them to their fate, we have options, and we are exploring these options. We will have a futuristic exit so that they can have something to fall back on.
DT: When is the exit likely to be?
Sadiya: The year has just started; we hope that before the end of the year, we should come up with an exit plan for them.
DT: The issue of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) is one major crisis Nigeria is facing now? Does your ministry have a documented number of IDPs in the country right now? And secondly, there are many NGOs in the country regurgitating the same activities for these displaced persons, what are you doing to curtail that?
Sadiya: I think that is the main essence of creating this ministry – to coordinate these bodies and all these interventions under one body for effective and efficient delivery. The ministry is in the process of formulating this policy and we are going to come up with a framework on how to go about it.
When we came on board, we had the issue of military/NGOs and we immediately organised a workshop. At that workshop, we had a large attendance from local and international NGOs, the military and other agencies on how we can have a well coordinated working relationship between the military, civilians and humanitarian actors. And we are going to work within that framework.
Secondly, on the number of IDPs in the country, the figures are fragmented and we have different figures from the international organisations mainly, and also from our own government agencies. The ministry has been instructed by Mr. President to come up with a post data of these IDPs, their demography for better planning and effective delivery of interventions. We have put that process in place and we expect that between now and the next six months, we will be able to have a robust data. Very soon, we are going to move to the field and start gathering this data. But what we have on ground now is what we got from our international partners.
DT: There are complaints of diversion of some of the interventions meant for the IDPs. What is your ministry doing about that?
Sadiya: We are doing everything to curtail that. We have our agencies within the ministry that are saddled with the responsibility of giving these relief items to these IDPs. We have read the riot act to them. I am sure they understand that. I don’t think anybody will be foolish to do otherwise. If we have those issues, we are going to address them appropriately.
DT: Recently, we did a story of IDP camps becoming permanent homes. What is your ministry doing to rehabilitate them and get them back to their permanent homes?
Sadiya: In my earlier statement, I mentioned that the ministry is focusing on rehabilitating and re-integrating them back to the society, but with a caveat. We can only return them to their community, when this community is safe for them to return. We are in talks with the governor of Borno State, he is also very committed to seeing that these people are returned back to their communities and we have started the process of reconstructing homes for them.
Mr. President has graciously approved funding for that through the North East Development Commission. We are going to look at those locations that are safe. It’s not going to be a one day thing, but we are committed to these people returning back to their communities when the place is safe.
DT: A few days ago, the European Union issued a statement addressing the safety of aid workers. What is the ministry doing about this issue?
Sadiya: Safety of all is of paramount importance to us. And that was one of the reasons we did that workshop for everyone to understand their roles, responsibility and the rules of engagement. The military told us that before we access areas for intervention, we have to seek clearance from them. And on seeking intervention, you can only give intervention when you are alive and in good health. So, it’s the military that can give us clearance on areas to access to give intervention. And the humanitarian community understands that. We are working closely with the military to get access to areas that are safe.
DT: How sustainable is the Home-Grown Feeding programme and how can states that have not been enrolled be added?
Sadiya: It is very successful and sustainable. The Federal government has been doing this programme since 2016. We started with a few states, now it’s in almost all the states of the federation, including the FCT. We are only appealing to state governments to key and continue from where the federal government stopped. As we know, the FG is providing a meal per day for primary school pupils in Primary one to three. It’s our desire that the state governments will take it up from there and extend it to Primary four to six. I believe that the state governments have seen the success of the programme and will key in.
DT: The budget of the ministry was reduced in the last budget; is the ministry expected to get support from other sources?
Sadiya: I am sure it has to do with what government has in its kitty. And we as a ministry are looking at other options for other stakeholders to key in and support the government. The government cannot do it alone, we are looking up to other well-meaning Nigerians/philanthropist and organisations to key in to help solve our humanitarian issues.
DT: Outside the office, how do you relate with the public?
Sadiya: People say I am anti-social and I agree to that. I don’t like noise. I like being indoors. But at the same time, I also look forward to rendering help to people because my mind won’t be at rest if I don’t. I imagine the Almighty is looking at me. I am a family person and treasure my time with them, as well as with friends.
DT: Do you still maintain the friendships you had before you became a minister?
Sadiya: I am not a freak, I am a realist. Of course, you can’t give everybody a listening ear, but in the meantime you know who your real friends are. I like real people.
DT: What’s your favourite dish?
Sadiya: Being Fulani, naturally I like tuwo miyan kuka and fura da nono. Though, I don’t take tuwo in the night, but I take it as lunch frequently. I like yam too, it’s also my favorite. In fact, I take all these heavy foods.
DT: You were recently a victim of fake news that was widely circulated on social media. How did you manage and overcome the speculations of you getting married to the president?
Sadiya: As you rightly said, it was fake; and I have told you I am a real person. It’s come and gone. From the onset, I knew it would come and go, and the public now know the reality; and that’s how it ended.
DT: Since that scenario, have you met with the wife of the president?
Sadiya: Well, we’ve not met yet. This might be because of our different schedules. She must be busy with her engagements while I am also focusing on mine. There’s no friction.
DT: What kind of books or movies do you read/watch?
Sadiya: I used to read back in the days, but maybe because of my work and other engagements, I stopped. I have a lot to read about my work. I may continue reading in the future but for now, I watch films when I have time. I watch Kannywood, especially whilst sitting amidst people who’re watching the movies. I love both Kannywood and Nollywood. They’re doing well.