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.
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.
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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