IN view of the rising spate of man-made and natural disasters, some of which come nearly every year, there is an urgent need for permanent shelters for displaced persons to be erected in communities throughout the Federation.
The advent of Boko Haram terrorism, herdsmen attacks, flooding (which now occurs almost every year due, mainly, to climate change and poor drainage, especially in major urban areas), collapsed buildings, oil spills, extreme coastal and gully erosion, fire disasters, communal violence, among others, have become major sources of emergency displacement of hapless citizens. Nigerians faced with this gamut of disasters suddenly find themselves homeless, hapless and destitute.
In response to this challenge, the Federal Government set up the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, while the various state governments keyed in with State Emergency Management Agencies, SEMA. Following the devastating flood disaster of 2012 which saw many communities in many states of the Federation submerged and residents thrown out of their homes, the President Goodluck Jonathan administration set up the Alhaji Aliko Dangote-led National Committee on Flood Relief and Rehabilitation, NCFRR, which is made up mainly of philanthropists, activists and public servants drawn from agencies related to emergency management.
The Committee was able to raise funds to mitigate the disaster of that year. This year, it has also donated N250 million to the Benue flood disaster victims. However, these efforts must be improved upon by the Committee. Since its mandate includes post-impact rehabilitation of victims, we strongly suggest that the Committee should produce a national blueprint on the construction of permanent community shelters at all levels, starting from states that are prone to frequent flooding, terrorism and communal conflicts which often turn out large numbers of people needing shelter.
As a developing country with many urban centres and a large population, Nigeria can no longer ignore the importance of providing temporary shelters for displaced persons. We must accept the fact that certain disasters are bound to occur, and when they do, we must have places where our displaced citizens can take refuge with minimum comfort until they can go back to their normal habitations. We must follow the example of the United States of America where the State of Florida alone has 385 shelters, knowing that hurricanes have become inescapable disasters that confront the people.
We must recognise that the provision of shelter for the people ranks second after food in terms of human needs. It is one of the rights all Nigerians are entitled to under the Constitution. Government has a bounden duty to provide shelter for citizens suddenly thrown into the open due to no fault of theirs.
The erection of emergency shelters is a means of being ready to contain disasters. We should go beyond the usual fire brigade approach when disaster comes calling as it surely will.