COVID 19: Nigerians Reject Officials Of Ministry Of Humanitarian Affairs, Distributing The Customs 158 Trucks Of Foreign Rice And Other Items, 9000 Chinese Firms Produce Face Mask And Other Equipment To Contain The Virus

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By Stephen Ubanna

Nigerians are no longer enthusiastic  about the  distribution of the government relief  fund and materials intended  to cushion the effect of the two weeks stay at home order in Lagos, Ogun and Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT by President Muhammadu Buhari.

 Note that the situation in the two south west states  and the FCT,  are  not different from the other thirty  four states of the Federation  where their respective  governors had taken a cue from the Katsina state born Nigerian President foot step   to  issue a similar  order . This is in addition to closing the borders with neighboring states to Contain the spread of the Wuhan town of Hhebei Province of China, emerged Coronavirus, which had ravaged 203 countries in the world.

Hajia Omar Farouk: Minister Of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management And Social Development

The people fear that the 158  trucks load of foreign rice, worth about N3.252  billion of naira which Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller Gneral , Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, and his men had  seized from seized from cross-border  smmugglers and handed over to Hajia Sadiya Omar Farouk, the  minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development on the orders of the  President for distribution to the poor and vulnerable Nigerians   may  not get to them as it may   be diverted by the powers that be. This is the  amount of money which could have been smuggled into the country by selling the items in the Nigerian market  to further dislocate the economy between August last Year and now without the intervention of Customs personnel, which was a big blow to the importers.

Given a breakdown of the  relief materials actually delivered toHajia Omar-Farouk, the minister of Humanitarian Affairs by  Ali, the Customs boss, Joseph Attah, a Deputy Comptroller said it 158 trucks load of rice as against  150  initially  disclosed by Hajia Zainab Ahmed, the minister of Finance, Budget and National planning  at her Tuesday, April 2, 2020, media briefing.

Hameed Ali: Customs Comptroller General

Other items that were said to have been released to the minister for distribution to the vulnerable Nigerians , Attah further disclosed include 30 trucks of vegetable oil  in 36,495 Jerry cans of 25 litres each, one truck of palm oil in 3,428 Jerry cans of 25 litres each, 54 trucks tomato paste in 136,705 cartons and two trucks of Spaghetti and Noddles in 2,951 cartons and 1,253 packets. This is  in addition to one truck of wrappers, Ankara,  in 828 bales and one truck of fabric in 2,300 rolls.

The Customs Spokesperson  who  had been involved in the distribution  of the relief food materials in the past to the IDP Camps, disclosed  that the items  had been certified for Consumption by officials of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration, NAFDAC, in their Laboratory Test before it was released to the ministry of Humanitarian Affairs for distribution.

The Customs Authorities might have reached out to the officials to carry out the Test on the food items to  avoid giving room to critics who would resort to the use of the Social Media to describe  the items as unfit for  human Consumption to create confusion in the society.

  The poor and Vulnerable Nigerians  who are supposed to benefit from the Customs relief materials had wanted  the President to allow the Customs Authorities to handle the distribution of the food items   to ensure fairness as the  government revenue generating  agency did in the past when  he issued    such an order  in 2016   for such  seized itmes  from smugglers to be distributed to the Internally Displaced Persons, IDP Camps, in the north eastern  states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe including the south –south state of Edo.

The Customs Comptroller General and his Management Team, according to sources, have a clear way  of tracking down any diversion of any truck load of rice or other items  to an unknown location. The fear of the Vulnerable Nigerians are not far-fetched because of the recent distribution of food items  in Lagos, Ogun , and other states including FCT, which   was  said to have been abused.

The bulk of the money may have been spent to feed the vulnerable Nigerians   in Lagos, but the story coming out from the local government Areas remain a sad one: cheating of the people. The  ministry  of Humanitarian Affairs and the state local government  officials  the states were said to have seen  the  distribution of the relief  food materials to the people   as an opportunity to make  cheap money.

Take for instance the incident at the United Community Development Area ,UCDA, , Igbede, Ojo local government where there I a military Cantonment. The local government had  handed over two  polythene bags with an inscription “COVID 19,Emergency Food Response” boldly written on it and two giant loaves of Bread to every street in the Unity Crescent.

  In one of the streets  that had   about 30 buildings full occupied,, the Babajide Sanwo-Olu, government , which was said to have received  N10 billion to feed  the   vulnerable Lagosians  for the two weeks, stay at home order by the Katsina state born Nigerian President were  said to have given the entire occupants of the street only  two  polythene bags containing Abakaliki  rice, Beans, Ijebu gari,two sachets of tomato and two giant loaves of bread.  The occupants of the particular street in United Igbede crescent may have been exposed to the scandal when they were invited by the CDA Chairman to come out enmase  to partake in sharing  what had been given to them by the state government  as directed by the President to cushion the effect of the two weeks stay at home order.

” This is rubbish was what  rented the air when the Chairman announced the contents of the two polythene bags. The situation in Ojo local government CDAs, was not different from Alimosho local government and other Local Areas  in the state.

 Many believe that Buhari may not have meant bad for the people, but he appears to be surrounded by political thieves who are out to rubbish his good intentions .This is why there had been pressure on Sanwo-Olu, the Lagos state governor to probe the Committee that handled the distribution of the relief food items to know  how they had handled the distribution process.

Given the report from the states, which was not  too encouraging, the leadership of the National Assembly had invited Hajia Omar-Farouk, the minister  of Humanitarian Affairs  on Tuesday , April 6, 2020,  to brief them  on the effort of the government  to protect the  vulnerable Nigerians over COVID 19 lock down.

Ahmad Lawan, the Senate President was said to have called for a review of the strategy currently used in disbursing  the  funds to the  poor households across the country. He was said to have suggested   that identifying  the  poor and the  vulnerable in the society would be the only thing   for the ministry officials to do under  the present circumstances to be able to address their needs.

The minister was said to have told the  Lawmakers  that  the monies set  aside  for disbursement  for the conditional  cash transfer to poor households  so far  are the loans from the World Bank. She had said  that  the N20,000.00 cash transfer  was part of the government’s efforts  at helping  the vulnerable Nigerians to  get through  the lock down including distribution of food materials.

The ministry may not have reached out the 774 local   government   and the  FCT Area Councils as recognized by the 199 Constitution as amended.

 It was said to have commenced the conditional cash transfer  process  with the Kwali Area Council, Abuja, an indication that not all the vulnerable people in the country  could be reached before the end of the year going by the snail speed in which Oma-Farouk , the minister and her Staff   are handling it.

In a related Development,Osagie Ehanire, minister of Health  had said that over one million  face masks , were being  sent  to the country by  officials of the state owned Chinese Civil Engineering and Construction Company, CECC, involved in the construction of major Railway  and road  projects across the country as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility efforts to assist  the country in tackling  the COVID 19 pandemic.

Investigation shows that about 9,000 Companies had already started  producing  anti-Coronavirus  equipment in the country.  One of such Compnies, the Magazine was informed, was  Don Polymer which supplies  the fabrics in  producing Face Mask to curb the spread of the disease.

The face masks  being supplied  by the CCEC, to the country,  according to the minister are to be accompanied  by ventilators , Personal Protective Equipments, PPEs and an 18-man  Team made up of  Chinese medical and technical experts that would  help the country  in Containing the crisis

.Since the out of the disease in China last December, it had forced the government  officials to go back to the drawing board to work out plans on how to stabilize the economy. The  Xi  Jinping government wassaid to have  promised   to invest $344 billion on monetary and fiscal measures to stabilise the economy which was hard hit by the  outbreak of the disease.  Many big time businesses are said to be benefitting from the Crisis.

 Although , the Ehanire, the minister of Health , had made it clear to those that cares to listen the Chinese medical and technical experts are coming to  help the country I tackling the disease, the leadership of the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA , and National Association of Resident Doctors of Nigeria, NARDN, had not hidden their opposition  over the invitation of the Chinese medical Team .   

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