Lagos State government said, on Tuesday, that it is set to commencing the second half of phase one of the food stimulus intervention across the state.
The State Commissioner for Agriculture, Prince Gbolahan Lawal, disclosed this in a release made available from his office while reviewing the activities of the Committee on the COVID-19 Emergency Food Response.
According to him, this followed the conclusion of the distribution of the State Emergency Food Response Packages to the 20 Local Government Areas (LGAs) end 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) of the state in the first half of phase one of the programme.
The commissioner explained that the targeted audience to be reached at the next phase are people living with disabilities, the elderly who had earlier received SMS from the Lagos State Resident Registration Agency (LASRRA), and vulnerable people within certain catchment communities and in the informal sector.
He further explained that the state government had reformed the strategy and approach of the distribution in order to reach the targeted people in next half of the intervention, adding that the reform was necessitated by the lessons learnt during the first half of the COVID-19 Emergency Food Response.
It would be recalled that the state government had on Friday, March 27, 2020, unveiled a stimulus package targeted at the aged, the indigent and the most vulnerable in the society using the 4,000 registered Community Development Association (CDAs), Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and religious bodies in each locality to distribute the economic stimulus package for the targeted people.
The stimulus, which comes in food packs, was distributed to the targeted people in every local government areas, in order to cushion the effects of the stay-at-home advice of the state government prior to the lockdown directive of president to halt the spread of the novel COVID-19 in the state.
Lawal noted that during the first half of phase one of the exercise, over 100,000 households were reached and many jobs were created directly and indirectly in the process of distributing the stimulus packages to the aged and vulnerable in all the local governments making the state.
He stressed that during the first half of phase one, a total number of 100 trucks were utilized and many youths and women were engaged in the areas of packaging and loading, opining that the stimulus package was not meant for everybody within the community but for the aged, the indigent and the most vulnerable in the society.
“What the government has done is to provide a palliative for the most vulnerable households. It is just a relief and not a substitute for loss of income. The government is not punishing people by asking them to stay at home but staying at home is a necessity.
“It is in our long-term interest to be able to live and keep hope alive. The whole world is on lockdown. While our government will not claim absolute perfection in the distribution of the palliatives, we were still able to reach a large number of the targeted group. We are, therefore, improving on our strategy,” the commissioner stated.
Speaking further, Lawal disclosed that Civil Society Organisations, Volunteer Group and personalities, artists, and Non Governmental Organisations had come on board to partake in the next phase of the exercise with a view to providing their competence and expertise towards improving the intervention.
The commissioner explained that men of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) and the Neighbourhood Safety Corps would be effectively deployed, adding that men of the Nigeria Police had already assured the state government of her support and cooperation particularly for the security of people that would be involved in the distribution network during the next phase.
Lawal assured that with the level of success attained from the first half of phase one of the Initiative, the state government was moving into the second half of the Initiative and had already re-jigged the distribution methods to ensure that the targeted beneficiaries are reached.
“It is important to note that Coronavirus came as a shock to everyone; it is unprecedented and no government had a budget for the huge expenses that came with the pandemic, which includes this palliatives project. The expenses on this project are extra-budgetary. We understand that the government cannot make these food packs available to all residents of the state, which is why we decided that the Initiative was for the aged, less privileged, people living with disabilities, vulnerable and daily income earners who would not be able to feed without their jobs,” the Commissioner averred.
While appealing to members of the public to remain calm and allow the new strategies and measures put in place to work, Lawal commended all the private organizations and NGOs that had contributed to support the Initiative, just as he reiterated his appeal to Lagosians to exercise a little more patience as everything would be done to deliver these packages to the categories of households that were targeted.