The Federal Government and the 36 states of the Federation have been asked to make public guidelines for the distribution of food and other materials to vulnerable individuals in the midst of lockdown occasioned by the coronavirus pandemic.
A coalition of civil society groups led by Human and Environmental Development Agenda, (HEDA Resource Centre) urged the Governments to come forth with simple and verifiable means of funds collected and materials being distributed to poor people affected by the lockdown across many states.
“We appreciate the affection shown by many Nigerians and the efforts of the Federal and State Governments to distribute food to the needy at this difficult moment in Nigerian history. However, we have not seen a clear modality that will safeguard the process against corruption”, HEDA Chairman, Mr Olanrewaju Suraju said in the statement issued on Sunday. The coalition is mobilizing 510 volunteers across the country to monitor process employed in the distribution of food items. Some of the volunteers will be empowered with audio-visual equipment for effective monitoring.
Suraju said the distribution of food to the vulnerable has witnessed a string of challenges including allegations that the process is being politicized. He cited instances in Egbe-idimu Lagos State where beneficiaries scramble to receive foodstuffs in a chaotic manner undermining the social distancing rule necessary for COVID-19 prevention. One of the distributors in the local government was also recorded claiming the religious and political leaders are given special consideration in distribution. This is contrary to public understanding of target group and distribution modalities.
“We are concerned about what appears to be a lack of data, a process devoid of digital dashboard that will ensure the food being distributed reaches the poorest of the poor and not vested political interests” Suraju said.
President Muhammadu Buhari last week appointed Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to head the Economic Sustainability Committee with the task of dealing with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequential restrictions while Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, is leading the Task Force with Dr Sani Aliyu as the National Coordinator in the fight against the disease. Private institutions and individuals have also being contributing funds to states to enable them deal with the virus outbreak. Lagos has been the biggest beneficiary of such donations.
The coalition said it has strengthened its network to collate how much money and materials the Federal Government and States received during the COVID-19 hitches, saying that the authorities have the moral and constitutional responsibility to ensure openness and transparency in the handling of the funds.
He said further “beyond the palliatives, the Federal and State Governments should work at a long term framework that will ensure social and health security for Nigerians. It should be clear to Nigerian authorities that public health security is key to sustainable development. COVID-19 has provided the impetus for urgent need to focus on the essentials of life of Nigerians which are food, housing and public health.”
He said the coalition will lead the campaign for allocation by Federal and State Governments of funds to public health instead of investing on projects that have no direct bearing with the basic needs of the people. Other members of the coalition are Women Advocacy Research and Documentation Centre (WARD-C), Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), HELP CENTRE, Civil Society Network Against Corruption,(CSNAC), Journalists for Democratic Rights, (JODER), International Peace and Civic Responsibility Centre amongst many others.