The appointment of Hajia Saadiya Umar Farouk as the pioneer Minister for Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, is now regarded as the most strategic input that gave the all-important ministry a head start in the difficult task of integrating several separate agencies of government into an omnibus functional structure in a timely and smooth manner. This was not just another “political appointment” where affiliation looms larger than qualification. For such uncommon assignments, qualification would require the added value of experience and capacity.

With the benefit of hindsight and in the light of the seemingly effortless efficiency with which she has been performing this herculean task, it is obvious that Hajia Saadiya was qualified, experienced and very capable. This is to be expected from the minister’s impactful tenure as Federal Commissioner in charge of the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and IDPs, which is seen as the pre-qualification for her elevation to the federal cabinet as well as the impetus for the strategic restructuring of agencies relevant to the new portfolio into departments of the ministry.
The combined outcome of apt appointment and innovative re-strategizing has earned President Buhari commendation especially for significantly optimizing the Administration’s capacity to redress the history of neglect of the deplorable plight of the nation’s huge population of disabled, distressed, deprived and displaced citizens. Hajia Saadiya Umar Farouk has been on top of the situation, making informed pronouncements and taking impactful decisions on the major components of the schedule of the new ministry, testifying to her possession of the experience and insight to identify the problems and apply corrective measures without dilly-dallying.

While much attention had been focused on the compensatory “empowerment” schemes for the youth and elderly, the minister unveiled a more fundamental but less appreciated aspect of the ministry’s agenda with the commencement of series of step-down training workshop for teachers and caregivers of children with special needs in Ibadan. “We want to have a critical mass of Nigerians who have better knowledge and skills to show care, love and affection for these categories of people so as to discover their full potentials and participate in the development of the country. I believe they should not be left out”, she declared at the event which prioritized the crying need to make school accessible for children with special needs and most vulnerable in the country.

This broader perspective of the mandate of her ministry was however not at the expense of addressing the task of institutionalizing the adhoc arrangements made for implementing some of the more popular poverty alleviation and school feeding programmes in order to make them sustainable and prudently managed. Hajia Saadiya Umar Farouk identified information gaps affecting the monitoring and evaluation mechanism and framework of the N-Power and GEEP Programmes, leading to unscheduled disruptions which were redressed as part of their transfer to the new ministry.

The Ministry paid the October and November 2019 backlog allowances of beneficiaries of the N-Power programme while making efforts to develop an exit strategy as promised by the Minister who assured that promptness in payment will be sustained so that the programmes will continue to achieve their goals of improving the wellbeing of Nigerians. She assured the N-Power beneficiaries and Nigerians that the ministry was committed to President Muhammadu Buhari’s promise to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in ten years.
To facilitate effective management of the programmes under ministerial supervision, Hajia Saadiya Farouk summoned the NSIP Focal Persons across the country to strategize on operational framework with a clear and improved communication strategy , emphasizing that the Federal Government understood the need to focus more attention on youth empowerment by creating the enabling environment for job opportunities and capacity building . She said the Federal Government pledged additional US 1.3 billion dollars from its budget to create the Social Safety Net Programmes which came to be known as National Social Investment Programme, through which over four million Nigerians have directly benefited from job training, financial assistance and social development.

During her meetings with various stakeholders to promote understanding and support for the effective take-over of programmes and schemes , she consistently captured the mission of the ministry without mincing words: “Our responsibilities are many and they are vast. Social protection and inclusion concerns all of us. The ministry is responsible for the wellbeing and welfare of every single Nigerian and some non-Nigerians that are of concern to us. We are essentially the people’s ministry and we take this duty very seriously.”

She emphasized the strategic relevance of the ministry’s mandate in the quest for achieving Nigeria’s developmental potential, pointing out that displaced persons living in camps, unemployment, inadequate protection mechanisms for children, elderly and other vulnerable groups pose challenges that must be resolved in a sustainable manner.

Hajia Saadiya Umar Farouk always backs her passionate expression of determination to alleviate the plight of vulnerable and poor people with bold practical initiatives that erase any doubts about her sincerity. A shining example was the unprecedented decision of the Federal Government to pay suppliers of foodstuff and cooks under the Home Grown School Feeding Programme in advance for January 2020. This was to ensure that the feeding of the 9.9 million pupils in the 33 participating states and the FCT commenced as soon as the schools resume without any hitches or excuses. She expressed satisfaction with reports of improved attendance in the schools and improved hygiene among the pupils as outcomes of the programme under which a total of 9,963,726 pupils are fed in 54, 942 schools served by 107,862 suppliers and cooks.
Such exemplary dedication to a humane cause can also be attributed to the motherly instincts that influence Hajia Saadiya Farouk’s thoughts and actions. Her overwhelming compassion for innocent and helpless children and mothers and the suffering of poor people, plunged into worse hardships of unemployment and forced migration, motivated her to re-invigorate the activities of the National Commission for Refugees with high impact but modest profile approach to public service.

Her elevation to a minister coinciding with the first time establishment of federal ministry for humanitarian affairs, disaster management and social development is undoubtedly the best thing to happen to bring meaningful attention and succor to Nigeria’s most vulnerable and needy population, especially at a time of escalating human and natural tragedies.
Danliti Goga wrote from Kano


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