SEMA Boss Urges Direct Funding Of Emergency Management Agencies

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Executive Secretary, Benue State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Dr Boniface Ortese, has called for direct funding of state emergency management agencies to tackle the effect of disasters across the country.
Ortese told Newsmen  in Makurdi that the state emergency management agencies in the country were in dire need of funding to enable them to discharge their duties effectively.
He, therefore, solicited the financial autonomy of the agencies to prevent governors from interfering with their funding.
According to him, the agencies are overwhelmed with emergency management processes, considering the paucity of funds at their disposal.
“The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) is a little bit okay, when compared to SEMAs, but I am generalising this because what affects me here also affects my colleagues in other states too.
“When you hear about the huge budget of NEMA, the situation with SEMAs in states is quite different; you have to be in the good books of your governor before he can listen to you.
“What ought to be is not what is on the ground, what ought to be is that there should be quick response for all emergencies but at times, it is very difficult because of protocols.
“An approval is made and before it reaches the endpoint, it takes days but that thing is no longer an emergency, as emergency requires quick response.
“For instance, the budget of this office is N150 million but then there is a problem, we are told that not implementing the budget is a crime.
“But how will you go boldly and tell your governor that this is the situation on ground. This has been our problem. We need direct funding without the intervention from state governors,” he added.
On the issue of wheelbarrows which NEMA donated to the state, Ortese said that he decided to inscribe “Gov. Ortom For You” on the wheelbarrows to differentiate them from the ones in the market.
“I was the initiator of bringing relief materials from Abuja; I brought 900 wheelbarrows, 900 hoes, 900 cutlasses and 900 raincoats for the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the state,” he said.
The SEMA boss said that when he assumed office in 2015, he discovered that relief materials had been greatly mismanaged during the last administration in the agency, adding that he had to flush the affected staff out.
“I was also aware that trailers of goods were donated to this office during that time but there are no records to show that something of such existed in the agency.
“I only saw the warehouses in which the items were stored but nothing to show; I was informed that when the relief materials came in, they were diverted to other places and sold off.
“Such things will never happen during my time,” he vowed.
Ortese said that over 25,000 households and farmlands were so far affected by the current flood disaster in the state.