Sani Sidi: A great leader at 51By Ahmed Maiyaki

When Muhammad Sani Sidi, OFR was appointed as the Director General of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in September 2010, many people who knew him from his previous roles as Commissioner of various Ministries of Works & Transport; Environment; and Health under Mohammed Namadi Sambo and later as the Commissioner for Art and Culture under Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa then as governors of Kaduna State, were confident that his appointment was a square peg in a square hole.

Born on the 12 of August 1966, Sani Sidi has distinguished himself as trailblazer and accomplished public servant who does his job diligently whenever he was called to serve. This is evident from his achievements when he served as the Director General of NEMA for six and half years. He raised the bar in disaster management into an enviable height and turned the agency into Africa’s foremost sub regional player.

As a team player, Sani Sidi worked with his colleagues at NEMA, stakeholders and international partners to reposition the agency. He built on successes of his predecessors who led the agency at inception. In line with global best practice, he made deliberate efforts to shift from disaster response to mitigation and risk reduction. He enshrined effectiveness in disaster management strategy.

His inclusive style of leadership provided the opportunities for continual human capacity improvement, cross fertilization of ideas, visible exposure and cooperation among various stakeholders, which led to the emergence of NEMA as a model emergency management platform in sub-Sahara Africa. He also made the agency an active player with the United Nations Systems and International development partners that work in the area of emergency management.

Under Sani Sidi’s watch at NEMA, eight new operations offices were established in Adamawa, Edo, Ekiti, Gombe, Imo, Kano, Niger and Sokoto States to complement activities of the existing Zonal Offices in the six geo-political zones of Nigeria. This led to effective disaster management at the grassroots and guaranteed timely humanitarian response.

And through sustained advocacy and partnership with all State Governments and the FCT, NEMA under Sidi birthed 31 states emergency agencies across the country from an earlier 10 that were in existence prior to his appointment. Sidi’s foresight led to a long term collaboration between NEMA and Six Federal Nigerian Universities for increased manpower. Presently NEMA offers Post-Graduate Course on Disaster Management and Development Studies in these partnered Universities.

Two major incidents that led to a change in humanitarian dashboard, was the devastating 2012 flood disaster and the insurgency attacks that ravaged Nigeria’s northeast which led to loss of several lives and displacement of many people mostly women and children. In both and similar incidences, NEMA under Sidi, measured up to task by ensuring effective contingency prepositioning of relief items and sustained rapid humanitarian response.

One phenomenal challenge that continues to bedevil humanitarian action globally is delayed response whenever calamity strikes. To address that, NEMA during Sani Sidi’s tenure established multiple Emergency Response Ambulance Bays (ERABs) equipped with Mobile Intensive Care Unit ambulances and Incidence Response vans at strategic locations within and around Abuja city on pilot basis.

Similarly, a functional Call Centre for 24-hour reception, processing and dissemination of distress call from members of the public was setup for prompt emergency response. Also, a state of the art Geographic Information (GIS) laboratory for satellite image interpretation, disaster risk mapping and early warning information dissemination was established.

It is also on record that NEMA under Sidi acquired state of the art machinery and heavy-duty equipments for emergency response such as excavators, air ambulance and rescue helicopter. It is pleasing to note that the Air Ambulance has the capacity to undertake medical evacuation across Nigeria and can fly non-stop to any European and Middle Eastern capital. The Agency has also signed a memorandum of understanding with major national and foreign hospitals for the reception of medical emergencies.

On international operations, NEMA under his leadership, facilitated a successful repatriation of thousands of stranded Nigerians from Libya, Mali, Gabon, Saudi Arabia, the Central African Republic (CAR) and South-Africa. Apart from provision of humanitarian assistance to crisis-hit countries like Kenya, Guinea, South-Sudan, Saharawi Arab Republic, Congo, Central Africa Republic, Niger, Mali and the Gambia.

These and many feats achieved by the 51 year old Muhammad Sani Sidi have shown his capacity to deliver efficiently beyond doubt whenever he is tasked.

Not surprising the European Union (EU) finds Sani Sidi’s vast experience suitable in its decision to appoint him as EU Coordinator for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) for West Africa after he was relieved of his appointment as NEMA’s boss.

As one of those who never doubted his capacity when he was appointed to head NEMA in 2010, I join relatives, friends and several others to wish Muhammad Sani Sidi, OFR a hearthy 51st Birthday. I pray to Almighty Allah to increase him in wisdom and knowledge.

Happy birthday to a greater achiever.

Maiyaki is a Public Analyst and can be reached via

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