By Stephen Ubanna
The National leadership of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, and the party elected government officials including governors elected on the ticket of the party appear to have taken advantage of the Wuhan town of Hebei Province of China emerged Coronavirus, popular, COVID 19, to intensify their opposition against Presdent Muhammadu Buhari over the politicization of the pandemic.
The dreaded disease had spread to many states of the Federation but Lagos, the nation’s Commercial nerve center and Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory remain the worst hit. Given the continued spread of the disease in the country, the katsina state born Nigerian President, made a N500 billion request to the National Assembly.
The Opposition PDP may have seen it as a fraud because of the alleged diversion of the initial palliative of alleged N100 billions of naira released to help the poor in the society. This is because of the report coming out from different local government Areas in Lagos and Ogun state including the Area councils at the FCT, where the people had had described the exercise as a fraud, reigning abuses on the local governemnt government officials for using the money made available by the President to help the poor in this trying and difficult times to enrich their themselves.
Take for instance at the Alimosho local government Area of Lagos state, a state worse hit by the disease and where Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the state governor had been bearing the burden of the victims: accommodate and provide medical facilities for them at the Isolation Center Unit, ICU, at Yaba. The beneficiaries of the food items that were distributed at the local government make a mockery of it as they advertised the HANPION BACO bag which had the inscription: COVID 19, Emergency Food Response boldly written on it that was said to have been used in stuffing the items to the public.
“This is Alomosho local government. Make una de follow me see. My country people, everybody in this Community see oo. This one bag na beans and this other one na rice way no reach two derika, with two sachets of tomatoes. later now they would say they spent N10 billion . See the N10 billion’’? they lamented. Some of them were said to have been given additional N2,00.00 through the backdoor while majority left without a dime. The situation was the same in other local government Areas in the state.
Efforts to speak to Jelili Sulaiman, the Chairman of the Alimosho local government Area, over the Complaints of the people through visits proved abortive. The poor distribution of the COVID 19, Emergency Food Response has nothing to do with the 46 year-old Hajia Sadiya Umar Farouq, the minister of Humanitarian Affairs, saddled with responsibility of overseeing the exercise in this trying and difficult times, a source said.
The general Complaints of the people may have given the PDP the ammunition to charge the leadership of the National Assembly to comprehensively scrutinise the overall profile of the N500 billion proposed by the President as an Intervention Fund for the dreaded disease to ensure that it get to the desired target audience to avoid a repeat of the initial N100 billion that was said to have been distributed to the people.
The party had urged the Lawmakers to examine the layout for the expenditure and put adequate clauses to eliminate diversions. The party claimed that the call became necessary because of the allegations in the recent disbursement of N20,000.00 each, socio-economic palliatives in Lagos, Ogun and Abuja, particular, in tackling the pandemic.
Nyensom Wike, a close political ally of former President Goodluck Jonathan and now governor of the oil-rich Rivers state may have spoken the mind of other PDP, governors, across the country when he lambasted the Presidency for politicizing the fight against the spread of the deadly disease, describing the “selective support to the states as unfortunate”.
An aggrieved Wike condemned the ministry of Humanitarian Affairs over the exclusion of the state from the proposed government grants in the fight against COVID 19. He lamented that despite the exclusion of the south-south state, the Buhari led All Progressive Congress, APC, government, has continued to endanger the people by flying expatriates into the state.
Te governor who could not hide his feelings noted that while the Lagos government had received a grant of N10 billion as the country’s Commercial hub, Rivers state that produces a greater percentage of the country’s wealth has not received any support from the government to curb the spread of the disease in the state.
“No state should be seen as more important than any other state”. He had said. In spite of the fact that the oil –rich state is not on the list of the benefiting states for the Federal government grant, the tough talking Wike reacted “ everyday we are inundated with letters from the government to fly in expatriates to drill oil””, asking “ what is the status of these expatriates coming to drill oil in the state as regards to the Wuhan town in the Hebei Province of China emerged COVID 19.
Simeon Nwakaudu, Special Assistant to the governor on Electronic Media disclosed that the governor who is not waiting for grant from the Abuja, has set up a Committee to work out modalities for implementation of the state palliative programme headed by Desmond Akawor , a retired Diplomat.
He disclosed that the decision by the state government to provide palliative to cushion the hardship being faced by the people was informed by the World Health Organisation, WHO, social distancing regulation to curb the spread of the disease and the closure of the borders with other states which forced to stay at home without doing anything.
Many believe that Wike has no moral justification to compare Lagos, which is carrying the burden of the Coronavirus victims in the country by providing Isolation Center Unit, ICU for over 100 people to Rivers state that has only one case of Coronavirus.
Political analysts averred that if Wike could question the Federal government rationale for throwing its weight to support Lagos state to fight the deadly disease, he should also take it upon himself to query the Kingsley uzoka led United Bank of Africa, UBA, a pan African Ban Bank, for giving special attention to Lagos and Abuja , in the N5 billion relief fund , which it had made available for the Containment of the disease in countries where it had established presence in Africa and Nigeria.
The analysts had thrown a challenge to the Rivers state governor to make his own financial donation to the Lagos state to support the accommodation and upkeep of the victims instead of criticising the efforts of the Buhari led government in tackling the crisis.
They noted that the position taken by the Opposition PDP, particular, Wike, would widen the gulf between the party and the ruling APC on issues of national importance.
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