COVID-19: Controversy over palliatives for Nigerians

With further tightening of measures by federal and state governments aimed at tackling coronavirus in the country, correspondents examines the response of major key political actors across board to the plight of their constituents.

IN his national broadcast on Monday, President Muhammadu Buhari was emphatic that the fight against the coronavirus pandemic was no joke. While likening it to a battle for people to stay alive, the president, for the umpteenth time, called for sacrifice from the citizenry. This is notwithstanding the fact that already, many Nigerians are complaining bitterly over the excruciating pain and hunger afflicted on them by the strident measures, including lockdown of Lagos, Ogun and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, designed to stave off the coronavirus from the shores of Nigeria.

Whereas many homes that could afford the luxury of stockpiling staple food following prior notice about the series of measures they deemed necessary, such items have largely dried up, just as the people have become cash trapped due to pressing daily demands, with no end in sight of the general restriction of movements. Thus, the cry for palliatives by millions of the people has assumed a frenetic tempo.

Since politicians know where to locate the people at the threshold of elections, many of the citizens also believe it should not be difficult for the major politicians come to their rescue from the voracious COVID-19.

Reports from states indicated that a few political leaders have been responding to the plea from their constituents. But what is the manner of such gesture? Are the offers mere pieces of bone meant to appease the famished?

 

Lagos

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu distributed relief materials of 3kg of rice, cassava flakes, beans and two tomato pastes to the elderly and the most vulnerable persons in the state. The distribution of the stimulus package was targeted at 200, 000 people, even amid criticism that the exercise was segmented and politicised.

The Speaker, Lagos House of Assembly, Mudashiru Obasa, also distributed a stimulus package of 3.500 bags of 2kg rice, loaves of bread, 1,500 packs of table water and sanitisers to his constituent members.

Beneficiaries of the emergency relief cut across vulnerable people in all the wards of Agege Local Government Area and Orile Local Community Development Area, market men and women, artisans, Ndigbo and Arewa members, NUT members, and PTA members, among others. However, some youths in the Agege area berated the Speaker for providing them with the popular Agege Bread as a stimulus package during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Another member of the state House of Assembly, Gbolahan Yishawu, distributed about 10,000 sanitisers and food items, including bags of rice, beans, garri and many other food ingredients. This was as Olayiwola Sobur, representing Mushin 2, donated food items and protective kits to his constituents. He donated bags of rice, hand gloves, face masks and sanitisers.

However, deviating from the norms of distributing loaves of bread and paltry sum as palliative package, a first-term legislator at the state House of Assembly, Ibrahim Owolabi, distributed cows and 50 kg bags of rice to the nine wards that make up the Lagos Mainland constituency 1 to be shared among vulnerable members of his community. He disclosed that he had to obtain loan from his politician father, a four-term member of the House of Representatives, Monsuru Owolabi, to be able to attend to the hunger needs of his constituency.

 

Ondo

In Ondo State, the state government announced that no fewer than 70,000 vulnerable people would benefit from the Social Investment Programme (SIP), as it commenced delivery of palliative materials in the 18 local government areas of the state.

The chairman of the palliative committee in the state, Mr Akin Olotu, said this during the flagging off and distribution of the palliative materials in Akure,  the state capital, adding that the materials would ameliorate the pains caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. He said the distribution would be monitored in each local government area by traditional rulers, religious, youth and women group to ensure an equitable distribution of the palliatives and to ensure that the palliative gets to the poorest of the poor in the society.

According to Olotu, the beneficiaries will include artisans, elderly people, physically challenged and the unemployed in every community. They would be randomly picked and the palliative will take care of both the protein and carbohydrate needs of the people, he said.

The state governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, said the initiative was part of his administration efforts to cushion the effect of the Coronavirus pandemic in the state, adding that it became very necessary since the government has directed the people to stay at home as part of the precautionary measures to stem the spread of the Covid-19.

 

Ekiti

In Ekiti State, the state government last week commenced the distribution of relief materials mostly food items to the vulnerable and poor citizens across the 16 local government areas of the state. Governor Kayode Fayemi, while flagging off the exercise, said government was targeting no fewer than 20,000 households at the first instance, even as he warned government officials against sabotaging the distribution exercise, saying anyone caught would be punished.

“As a responsible government, we deemed it necessary to reach out to the vulnerable ones in our society, despite the financial situation of the State Government, which is a direct reflection of the current global recession. This first phase of the package will be distributed to at least 20,000 vulnerable households across Ekiti State, while we are hoping to do more as resources permit.

“Under no circumstances should this palliative be tampered with until it gets to the right people. The programme is purely apolitical; it has no political colouration. Any government official or private citizen involved in unscrupulous practices with regards to the distribution of these items will be severely sanctioned.

“The targets are the aged, vulnerable and less fortunate in the society and let me say that whoever sabotages the programme will be severely sanctioned,” Fayemi said.

The governor also disclosed that the Federal Government has commenced the disbursement of cash to residents under its Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) scheme, adding that no fewer than 5,000 vulnerable persons would receive N20, 000 each to mitigate the effect of Convid-19 in the state.

ALSO READ:Osun Governor Extends Lockdown Order By Another 14 Days, To Begin On Friday

Ogun

Politicians in Ogun State are not leaving anything behind to mitigate the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and the effect of the lockdown as directed by the Federal Government.  Money and various food items were been shared mostly with the poor, aged and vulnerable ones in the state.

A former governor of Ogun State and senator representing Ogun Central in the National Assembly, Ibikunle Amosun, gave out N25 million to the state government, even as he distributed relief packages to 3,210 polling units across the state.

Honourable Oladipupo Adebutu and former Governor Gbenga Daniel also touched many lives through their stimulus packages. Senator Olalekan Mustapha gave out palliatives to his constituents in Ogun East, even as Senator Tolu Odebiyi, representing Ogun West, reached out to his people as well, sharing food items and cash gifts.

Most political appointees in the Governor Dapo Abiodun administration also gave out food items to the people to cushion the effects of the lockdown, just as a member of the cabinet gave out cows which were slaughtered and shared with residents in his locality.

The gesture by the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Honourable Olakunle Oluomo, became an issue, as his constituents complained about the meagre provisions he gave out as palliative.

Some members of a particular Community Development Committee in Ifo Local Government Area, while appreciating Oluomo for giving the CDC two bags of 50kg rice, noted that there are no fewer than 2,400 houses in the CDC and therefore asked the Speaker to assist them on how to share the food item.

 

Bauchi

In Bauchi State, the government could not implement the total lockdown order to fight COVID-19 infection due to lack of palliative measures for the people during the total lockdown period. The state deputy governor, Senator Baba Tela, who disclosed this, further said it would be unfair for the government to go ahead with the order when in fact it did not make any arrangements on how to cushion the effects on the populace.

However, some individual politicians in the state have been trying to provide palliative measures in cash and materials to their constituents to cushion the effects of the COVID-19 restriction order. They included Mansur Manu Soro, a member representing Ganjuwa/Darazo Constituency in the House of Representatives who donated rice, beans, maize and other items to people of his constituency. He also gave out money ranging between N20,000 to N50,000 to some of the people. Another federal lawmaker in the state, Uba Mashema of the Itas/Gadau/Jama’are Federal Constituency, gave out food items and promised to do more while the lockdown lasted.

 

Zamfara

The Zamfara State government inaugurated six sub-committees to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 pandemic on the less privileged in the state. The committees are to function under the Task Force on Prevention and Control of Coronavirus Pandemic, headed by the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Alhaji Nasiru Magarya.

The state Commissioner for Information, Alhaji Sulaiman Tunau, said the committees include: Isolation Centres; Publicity and Community Mobilisation and Sensitisation; Security; Logistics; Commodities Custody and Resource Mobilisation committees.

He disclosed that the sub-committees would soon distribute relief materials to vulnerable individuals in the state due to the restriction of movement to ease their sufferings. He also maintained that the committees had so far received donations of food items and cash from well-meaning individuals in the state.

The food items, Tunau said, comprised 1,400 bags of assorted grains, 31,000 crates of eggs, as well as millions of naira, among others. He said the items were presented to the task force by Governor Bello Matawalle last Wednesday, even as he appealed to people to cooperate with the state government and heed to health experts advised on how to contain Coronavirus pandemic in the state.

Among the donors were a former governor of the state, Alhaji Ahmed Sani, chairman of the state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Ibrahim Mallaha and Directors-General in the various ministries, parastatals and agencies in the state who agreed to donate 15 per cent of their March salary to support the government in combating the COVID-19 pandemic.

Governor Matawalle paid a private visit to Yariman Bakura Specialist Hospital, Gusau where he gave the sum of N20, 000 to each of the patients on admission suffering from different ailments. He also gave N100, 000 each to the doctors, nurses and ward attendants and also N200, 000 to the security guards on duty at the hospital. The state deputy governor, Mahdi Aliyu Muhammad, on behalf of the state government, received the sum of N2million and 50 bags of rice from a businessman and philanthropist, Alhaji Sahabi Liman Dan.

 

Anambra

Palliatives became a political issue in Anambra State as members of the state chapter of the PDP and the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) are at dagger’s drawn over the N10million donation made by former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Professor Charles Soludo, in the fight against COVID-19 in the state.

The PDP accused Soludo of not rendering account of the N2 billion-donation made to him during the launching for his mother’s memorial hospital before making the N10 million-donation. He was also accused of defrauding well-meaning Nigerians who made donations to his hospital project.

Anambra PDP publicity secretary, Mr Nnamdi Nwangwu, in a statement, said: “It is incumbent on Professor Soludo to tell the general public how much he actually raised for the hospital project and equally present the names of persons and organisations that are yet to redeem their pledge since 2008 to the public.”

However, the duo of Chief Anthony Muobike of Anambra Solidarity Forum (ASF) and Chief Emeka Joseph Orji described the attack on Soludo as uncalled for, noting that Soludo has always been known to have an unquestionable and undeniable value and character.

“So, those trying to discredit him are doing so out of sheer jealousy, greed and fear because they know what an asset he is to the good people of Anambra State. It is not a hidden truth that Professor Soludo is an icon of excellence and great man of valour. For the fact that the N10m was voluntarily donated to the government by Professor Soludo is an evidence good and kind-heartedness which shows that he has the well-being of Anambra people at heart,” they said.

Soludo himself cleared the air on the N2billion donations to the hospital project as he claimed that most of those that made pledges during the launching in 2008 were yet to redeem their pledges, even as the project is ongoing.

 

Kogi

THE designated isolation centres for COVID-19 suspects at FAREC Clinic in Kogi State is in a bad state. Although there is no record of anybody testing positive yet to the epidemic, the two centres are far from taking off as FAREC clinic is in a deplorable condition.

However some politicians have been making contributions as palliatives against the pandemic. These included Dino Melaye, a former senator who represented Kogi West Senatorial District, who has donated sanitiser, face mask and hand wash bucket to all the local government councils in Kogi West.

The Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Prince Matthew Kolawole, also distributed food stuffs worth millions of naira to his constituents. Idrissu Lawal who represents Ajaokuta Federal Constituency at the National Assembly and who is also the chairman of the West African Ceramic Ltd, Ajaokuta, presented the company’s relief items to his constituency, as part of the company’s palliative to assist in ameliorating the effects of the restriction of movement.

Similarly, the Natasha Akpoti Foundation donated three ventilators to Federal Medical Centre, Lokoja. The founder, Akpoti, who was the governorship candidate of the Social Democratic party (SDP) in the November 19, 2019 governorship election in the state, donated two oxygen-power mobile ventilators and one electric-power ventilator.

 

Benue

Politicians in Benue State have continued to distribute medical equipment, cash and other materials to the people to compliment the efforts of the state government in combating the spread of the deadly virus.

Among the donors so far is the senator representing Benue South Senatorial District, Senator Abba Moro; the members of the House of Representative, representing Otukpo/Ohimini and Ado/Okpokwu/Ogbadigbo federal constituencies, Blessing Onu and Francis Agbo, respectively.

Moro donated medical equipment including hospital beds, sterilizers, refrigerators, artery forceps, dissecting forceps, urinary stainless steel and generating sets, motorcycles, blood lancets, filing cabinets, baby cots, sterilizing drums, tables, autoclaves, stethoscopes, diagnostic set, dressing scissors, drip stands, standing fans, medical cups, fire extinguishers and bowls with stand, among others.

Onu, from Otukpo/Ohimini Federal Constituency and a daughter of former Senate president David Mark, has so far disbursed the sum of N8 million to her constituents, while her counterpart from Ado/Okpowu/Ogbadigbo Federal Constituency, Agbo, also distributed a trailer load of rice, five thousand alcohol- based hand sanitizers, soaps, detergents, face masks and other medical kits.

 

Kano

In Kano, the federal lawmakers from the state jointly donated the sum of N22 million, in solidarity with and support for the state government in the effort at containing the spread of coronavirus pandemic in the state.

The donation was contained in a statement issued by the state Commissioner for Information, Malam Muhammad Garba. The commissioner also announced that the Director-General, National Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Musa Nuhu Shu’aibu, donated the sum of N1 million.

Meanwhile, the Fund Raising Committee formed by Governor Abdullahi Ganduje, with the intent of raising funds for palliative measure for the poor and vulnerable, submitted its interim report to the governor on Monday. The report indicated that the sum of N364, 695, 700. 5k has so far been raised.

Professor Muhammad Yahuza Bello, Vice Chancellor of Bayero University, Kano and who is the co-chairman of the Tajuddeen Aminu Dantata-led committee, read the report.  He said the donations came from the Lebanese Community in Kano and some other philanthropists, politicians, including members of the National Assembly, members of the state legislature, state commissioners, corporate bodies and business community in the state.

The Dangote Foundation is constructing a 500-bed isolation centre at the Sani Abacha Stadium, Kano. According to the Project Manager of the Dangote Foundation, Sanusi Ahmad AbdulKadir, the centre, consisting of 250-bed each for male and female, has reached completion stage.

The national coordinator of the National Cash Transfer Office, Dr Temitope Sinkaiye, disclosed that N1.6billion would be shared to 84,000 beneficiaries from 15 local government areas in Kano State. She further explained that each beneficiary would get the sum of N20, 000.

 

Rivers

In Rivers State, besides the state government which earmarked N2 billion for the provision of palliatives to the people of the state, only very few of the elected politicians have provided any sort of palliatives to their constituents for the coronavirus lockdown.

The government has begun buying foodstuffs from farmers across the state and distributing to the less privileged in the state through the 23 local government areas. The state government’s effort in this regards is coordinated by Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Tammy Danagogo and it involves different kinds of food stuffs like rice, beans, yam, indomie and other cooking condiments.

The 32 members of the state House of Assembly donated their two month-salaries to the state government for the fight against Covid-19. This is as the senator representing Rivers South East Senatorial District, Barri Mpigi, reportedly made a donation of N500,000 to four local government areas of his Ogoni ethnic nationality.

Also the immediate past Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Safety and Administration (NIMASA), Dr Dakuku Peterside, provided rice and beans, among other stuffs to his constituents.

 

 

NIGERIAN TRIBUNE

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