Having read your proposal to the Governor of Ondo State, His Excellency, Lucky Aiyedatiwa, is apt and it is indicative of your practice of thinking outside the box and in generating a brilliant idea to address and solve perennial, chronic urban problems, such as emergency, disaster, flooding, building collapse, wildfire, etc in Ondo State and Nigeria at large. The unprecedented massive and widespread use devastation and destruction of lives, houses, infrastructure- roads, farmlands, businesses etc in the cities and rural areas of the country might have served as the impetus and driving force for Tpl Osunsanmi’s proposal to Governor Aiyedatiwa to establish a new government agency, named- Disaster and Urban Regeneration Agency in our state. The proposal to establish an Urban Regeneration is submitted in support of the 2022 Nigeria floods and the earthquake disaster of 7.8 magnitude, in the southern provinces of Turkey on February 6, 2023, which resulted in a catastrophic damages with at least 4 million buildings destroyed and a death toll of 52,000 people (Source: Nicole Tung, “Turkey still rebuilding after quake’s devastation,” The Washington Post, The World, February 8, 2024, PA7.). The exercise of providing a disaster relief to victims needs to employ a holistic approach by incorporating and undertaking the functions of transforming and rebuilding the devastated, damaged and destroyed urban environment and communities into a livable, productive and sustainable towns and cities, following the 2022 Nigeria floods. The Turkish government has demonstrated its goal of urban regeneration by demolishing and rebuilding the damaged buildings and houses in the ancient city of Antakaya, the capital of Hatay province. After the one year anniversary of the Turkish earthquake, many victims or people are still living in tents and containers (Source: Nicole Tung, “Turkey still rebuilding after quake’s devastation,” The Washington Post, The World, February 8, 2024, PA7.).
Against the backdrop of the Turkey’s earthquake disaster and devastation, you raised the question about the response to a disaster and management in Ondo State with the Governor Lucky Aiyedatiwa (Source: Osunsanmi Gbolabo Fnitp, “A Case for Disaster and Urban Regeneration Agency in Ondo State experiences from Türkiye,” Topshot Online publication, February 8, 2024.) Of special interest and specific concern to you, is the absence of the State Disaster Response and Urban Regeneration Agency in our state. However, there is an existing- Ondo State Emergency Management Agency (ODSEMA). You may recall that in 2022 Nigeria floods had its historic and worst impacts on the country with the attendant devastation and destruction – over 603 people killed and 1.4 million displaced Nigerians, more than 2,400 people injured and 332,327 hectares of land affected and specifically more than 110,000 hectares of farmland destroyed and 200,000 homes completely or partially destroyed. (Source: Wilkipedia: 2022 Nigeria Floods.).
Against this massive and huge damages and destruction of lives, farmland, homes, infrastructure- roads, etc, what is the role of the Federal Government Agency or institution, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), which is mandated to respond to emergency and disaster across Nigeria. Hence, the NEMA Act, requires the states in Nigeria to establish a State Emergency Management Agencies (SEMA) and the Local Governments are required to establish an Emergency Management Committees at the third tier of governance across the country. If all the governments in Nigeria- Federal, State and Local, are in compliance with and implemented the NEMA Act 12, as amended by Act 50 in the country, it appears that there are a significant numbers of emergency management agencies availing at the federal, 36 states and FCT and 774 LGAs of Nigeria, which I believe should provides a sufficient institutional capacity and support to handle and manage the emergency and disaster responses across the country. For example, the Ondo State has, the Ondo State Emergency Management Agency (ODSEMA), which in 2022, received relief materials from NEMA for the distribution to the victims of floods in the state. I doubt if the 36 states and 774 local governments are in compliance with the NEMA Act in terms of the mandate of establishing emergency management agencies? Also, I discovered the role of the Ecological Fund, which was established through the Federation Account of 1981, whose aim is environmental preservation such as against floods (Source: Olanrewaju Oyedeji, “Special Report: 2022 Floods Left behind a Trail of Loss, Echoes of Deaths and Broken Heart (I)”, Dataphyte, November 26, 2022.). Imagine that between 2012-2022, which is a 10-year period, the Nigerian government spent over N511 billion under the “Ecological Fund.” Interestingly, this report also revealed that between 2021 and July 2022, the Ondo State government got a whopping amount of N1.009 billion from the Ecological Fund. It is a matter of curiosity and interest to this writer to know on what ecological projects that the Ondo State government has spent this huge funding or money on in the state?
Against this backdrop of the state government’s neglect and lack of compliance to the NEMA Act, and the poor management of the ecological fund in Ondo State, it is a germane question and a legitimate concern shown by Tpl Osunsanmi’s proposal to establish a Disaster and Urban Regeneration Agency in the state. Hence, the failure of the federal government in the ecological program and project areas is a strong reason and an incentive to establish the Disaster and Urban Regeneration Agency, with the institutional responsibility and capacity to transform the living conditions and livelihoods of the residents of the 5 major towns in Ondo State, on a long-term and a sustainable basis. In a retrospect, is the Ondo State Government in compliance with the requirements of establishing the 18 Local Government Emergency Management Councils aspect of the NEMA Act? If the answer is no. The Tpl Osunsanmi’s proposal to Governor Aiyedatiwa to establish a Disaster and Urban Regeneration Agency at the local government threshold in the Sunshine State, is worthy of consideration for a paradigm shift in boosting the institutional capacity of the emergency and relief agencies in the state and rendering a rapid response and effective service to the over 5 million people of the state. In addition to the boosting of the capacity of the agencies, it is important that Governor Aiyedatiwa takes a bold action, to establish the Local Emergency Management Committees in the 18 local government councils in the state, which is filling up the gap or the void in the Ondo State and country’s structure of its National Emergency Management System. It is imperative that the 774 local governments in Nigeria are fully integrated and actively involved by participating in the NEMA Act and delivering the dividends of the Act to the Nigerian people during the events of an emergency and disaster like in the case of the 2022 Nigeria floods. Beyond the relief work and ecological fund in the post floods disaster, it is useful to embrace and adopt the establishment of the Disaster and Urban Regeneration as a tool for the government in rebuilding a resilient cities and towns in Ondo State. At the end, unequivocally the Governor Aiyedatiwa administration should endeavor to establish an Urban Regeneration Agency, which would have a tremendous and enormous benefits involving the rebirth, rejuvenation and redevelopment, leading to the enhancement of the economic and social livability of the people, but also provide an attractive, safe and functional spaces for the residents of and visitors to the 5 major towns of Akure, Ikare, Okiitipupa, Ondo and Owo, which are currently experiencing a deteriorating, declining economic and social conditions and urban blight.