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Security is a fundamental prerequisite for a stable social order and for sustainable human development. Security is a priority in all human societies and is the responsibility of governments to ensure peace and security within the society. Tragedies on the other hand, occur naturally or are man made and have the ability to disrupt peace and security within a society. Tragedies have been with man for as long as civilization on earth. Its occurrence has been attributed to numerous factors. Tragedies are usually associated with destructive occurrences that leave man with a great sense of loss and despair. Any such incidence that leaves man helpless could be referred to as an emergency.1 Civil strife, sabotage, outbreak of epidemics and aggression are some of the crises that constitute national emergencies.

An emergency can sometimes turn out to be a disaster or crisis requiring urgent action to mitigate the effect of such an occurrence. Disaster, hazard, crisis, catastrophe and upheaval are commonly used to describe such an occurrence.2 Disaster means, “greater or sudden misfortune”.3 It is an event or hazard; natural or man-made, sudden and or progressive, which impacts with such severity that leaves a community helpless and miserable.4

Examples of man-made disasters includes the chemical explosion at Union Carbide Corporation Bhopal India in December 1984 that left 4,000 people dead with many still suffering from the attendant health related problems.5 Similarly, the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings of the Second World War in Japan, speaks volumes. An instance of natural disasters is the Hurricane Katrina that hit Florida, the United States of American (USA) on 25 August 2005.6 Several other examples of disasters are abound with monumental loss of lives and properties.

Unfortunately, disasters tend to occur more frequently world wide due to increase vulnerability of societies to hazards with the attendant losses when compared to few decades ago. This assertion is supported by the United Nation disaster estimates, which noted that between 1994 and 2003 at
least 2.5 billion people were killed by the effects of disasters worldwide, while about 478,000 people were killed by the effects of natural disasters such as hurricane, earthquakes and floods.7

Africa has equally had a series of painful experiences of disaster in the past. In August 1986, the volcanic eruption in the highland of Western Cameroon led to the death of about 1,700 people while 330 sheep, 300 herds of cattle and thousands of other livestock were also lost.8 Drought as a hazard is no stranger to South Africa, nor is the threat of wild fires, flash floods or other disasters. Examples of these is Laingburg flash floods in 1995 where 173 lives were lost.9 Nigeria has had its own share of national disasters which has impacted negatively on the socio-economic well-being of the nation. These include the Ogunpa flood of 1977 in Dugbe Ibadan city. Over 400 houses and hundreds of lives were lost in the flood incidents between 1960 and 1963 alone.10

There are also many man-induced disasters in Nigeria. These include the C-130 plane crash in 1992, the EAS crash
of 2002 Belleview and Sosoliso air crashes of 2005 where more than 200 people lost their lives with many more maimed.11 There was also the Jos Terminus Main Market inferno of 12 February 2002 which destroyed over 56 million Naira worth of goods.12 Another man made disaster was the Ikeja Military Cantonment Ammunition Transit Depot (ATD) explosion on 27 January 2002 resulting in massive damage to the cantonment with about 1,100 people reportedly killed.13

Another worrisome dimension to man made disasters in Nigeria is that of internal crises. Some of these crises manifest in the form of ethno-religious crises or the quest for resource control. These are threats that have occurred recently and are becoming frequent. Results of these crises are massive loss of human lives and properties in large proportions tantamount to man made disasters.

Despite an increasing toll from disasters in terms of human suffering, death, infrastructural damage, loss of income and the attendant psychological trauma, feasibility measures to mitigate disasters are not adopted by most developing countries. Presently, there are no internationally agreed standards for disaster management institutions, structure and legislation, there are however some agreements on codes. Some of such are building codes and transportation of dangerous materials. These are however, far from Inter-continental. Although the United Nations (UN) and Non-Governmental Organisation (NGOs) have made significant efforts at promoting and formulating strategies for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and response, many countries including Nigeria are become increasingly vulnerable. Some examples quoted could have been avoided through better planning, control measures, warning systems, community development and preparedness.

Disasters and emergencies impact negatively on sustainable national development. Frequent occurrences of disasters and the need to manage them more effectively have made most developed and some developing nations like South Africa to adopt proactive measure by forecasting hazard prone areas in order to prevent or mitigate the impact of disasters. In this regard, central coordinating machineries were put in place to manage disasters.14

In Nigeria, there are many stakeholders in the management of emergencies and disasters. These include the Nigerian Armed Forces, Nigeria Police (NP), Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA), Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), and the Nigeria Fire Service (NFS). Others are the National Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), the Red Cross and United Nations High Commission for Refuges (UNHCR) and some individuals among others. However, the extent to which the various activities of these stakeholders are harmonised coordinated and synchronised in situations of national emergencies and disasters leaves much to be desired.

The foregoing challenges necessitated the establishment of the National Emergency Relief Agency (NERA) in 1976 before Decree         No 12 of 1999 amended by Act No 5
of 1999 with a broadened scope transformed it to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). NEMA was among other things, designated to effectively coordinate the management of emergencies and disaster efforts of all the stakeholders. However, despite the NEMA’s establishment, response to disaster in Nigeria has fallen short of expectation. This has largely been attributed to inadequate capacity building and integration of effort. Moreover, NEMA’s intervention has continued to be focused largely on relief efforts as against proactive approaches.

The recurrent and increasing occurrences of disasters have presented the critical need for a more effective, holistic and proactive approach to disaster management in Nigeria. This approach ought to be community based and federally funded and coordinated. There is the need therefore, to focus on disaster risks and the vulnerability of communities with emphasis on multi-levels and multi-dimensional coordination. More collaboration between all stakeholders and the private sectors particularly the insurance companies would also be necessary as mitigation measures. The disaster plan ought to include preparation for terrorist threat, which poses new and hitherto unimaginable concern in Nigeria. This is therefore the motivation for this research.


NEMA whose supervisory role is the management of emergencies in Nigeria has been incapable of fulfilling its statutory mandate. One can posit therefore that this organization lays more emphasis on the distribution of relief materials than a holistic, scientific and pragmatic management of emergencies and disasters. The concern is whether the present state of disaster management in Nigeria is capable of achieving its statutory role on human security through disaster reduction. For instance, in the aviation sector, the ADC aircraft that crashed on 10   June 1996 in Ejirin village in Ogun State took almost 24hrs to be located.  Similarly, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) plane that crashed in Vandeikya, Benue State
on 17 September 2006 took some hours before official assistance and response could be provided.

Other recurring problems to disaster management in Nigeria include lack of proper maintenance of infrastructure and equipment, lack of adequate early warning system and inadequate funding. Others are; lack of proper mobilisation of the citizenry to manage disaster and improper vulnerability assessment of likely disaster areas including inadequate and ineffective legal and regulatory framework. Improper planning and uncoordinated management of risk-reduction strategies, and haphazard relief and recovery processes result in loss of lives, problems of feeding, sanitation, housing, medical and undesirable social vices. It is against this background that this research seeks answers to the following questions.

What is disaster management?

What types of disasters and emergencies are prevalent in Nigeria?

What is Nigeria’s approach to disaster management?

What are the challenges to disaster management in Nigeria?

What are the prospects for efficient disaster management in Nigeria?


The main objective of the study is to discuss disaster management in Nigeria and the role played by NEMA in this regard, with a view to highlighting the prospects of an efficient disaster management system in Nigeria. The specific objectives are to:

Define disaster management.

Examine the types of disasters and emergencies prevalent in Nigeria.

Analyse Nigeria’s approach to disaster management.

Highlight the challenges to disaster management in Nigeria.

Outline the prospects for enhancing disaster management in Nigeria.


16.   The study will be beneficial to the Nigerian Government in the formulation of effective policies in furtherance of an enhanced emergency preparedness and disaster management in the country. It will specifically benefit National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and its implementation of risk reduction measures and strategies for disaster management. The Nigerian Armed Forces, NP, FERMA, FRSC, NFS and NSCDC will also benefit from the research in their respective roles in disaster management. It will also serve the Red Cross Society, local and international organisations involved in disaster management.

17.   This is to enable the foregoing organisations appreciate the importance of the subject matter and understand the difficulties encountered in managing disasters as well as the suggesting the benefits of an enhanced disaster management in Nigeria. It will also serve the general public and add to the existing body of knowledge as well as a future reference material for further research on the topic.


18.   The scope of the study will highlight the roles of NEMA in national disasters issues and discuss the managerial effectiveness of NEMA officials in tackling disasters. It will also ascertain if NEMA has any constraints in the course of performing its roles and identify the government and non-governmental organisations contributions to national disaster problems in Nigeria.

19.   The study highlighted hazard profiles in Nigeria over the last 3 decades but only critically analysed the most prevalent disasters within 2000 and 2010. This period was chosen because it was a period that recorded frequent cases of disasters in Nigeria. It also marked a period when the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) embarked on a systematic approach for the management of national emergencies and disasters. Activities of the security agencies in managing disasters will be discussed. However, NEMA is the central focus in this study.


20.   The limitation of this study was the problem of poor record keeping in some government agencies. NEMA and its related bodies did not properly document some past disaster management operations in the country. Statistical and other relevant information on previous disasters in Nigeria were limited. Some newspapers statistics were also found to be inaccurate with the reports sensationally inclined.

21.   These limitations did not however, degrade the quality of the research, as past works and literature were available at Armed Forces Command and Staff College (AFCSC), Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, Federal Polytechnic Kaduna, NEMA and the Internet among others. It was also difficult to get responses from some relevant government agencies because of administrative procedures and the fact that the researcher was not able to travel to other parts of the country other than Abuja and Kwara State on an environmental study tour. This would have afforded a wider research with other deductions.

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