Promoting public involvement in disaster risk communication in Nigeria
Nigeria has had its share of disasters, but the involvement of the general public in issues of disaster risk communication remains low. Government policies tend to focus on disaster response and involvement of government officials. Research has shown that involvement of the public in issues that concern them enhances the implementation of policies and action plans. Most Nigerians have telephones and are very active on social media, but their reliance on digital information may not suffice because the limited supply of electricity remains a major problem in the country. This chapter investigates how the growth in use of telephones and social media in Nigeria has impacted the communication of risk to citizens and how the various levels of government involve citizens impacted by disasters using these tools. A review of the policies and literature shows that the government seeks to educate the public and involve stakeholders in the disaster recovery phase but not in other phases of emergency management. This study examines the implications of increased use of mobile phones and social media and how these tools are being used to involve the Nigerian public in disaster risk communication. To better understand these implications, I interviewed key agency officials and members of the public about the use of cell phones and social media in disaster risk communication. Their responses showed that citizens are involved mainly in the response phase of disaster management and that most are unaware of what the Nigerian Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) or its local equivalent is. Based on these findings, this study recommends the use of all available social media among all agencies responsible for disaster management and the delegation of more power to local agencies to effectively involve local citizens.