…Challenges Humanitarian Affairs ministry to publish recipient names
…asks why FG can’t give face masks, hand gloves to citizens despite billions donated
…blames wealthy Nigerians for failing to give directly to poor people in communities
By Levinus Nwabughiogu
A Coalition of Niger Delta Agitators has alleged unprecedented marginalization in the distribution of palliatives by the federal government to cushion the effects of coronavirus pandemic lockdown in the country.
To this end, the group challenged the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs which supervised the distribution to publish the names of recipients of the palliatives for the public to know.
The group threw up the challenge in a statement signed by John Duku of Niger Delta Watchdogs and 12 others and available to Journalists in Abuja on Thursday.
“The distribution of palliatives by the Federal government so far to cushion the effects of the pandemic leaves much to be desired. The exercise as currently handled by the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management & Social Development is smirked with irregularities, discrimination, and clear lack of transparency.
“The Coalition hereby accuses the Ministry of sidelining the Niger Delta region in the distribution palliatives (cash and foodstuffs). We want to make it clear that it is not only the people from the northern part of Nigeria that are majorly affected by the pandemic as the Ministry’s preference to assisting the region shows, but the entire nation has been adversely affected. Neither was the Ministry created to serve the North. The Niger Delta has been marginalized and shortchanged in the distribution of these palliatives which are meant for the poor and vulnerable. The palliatives including cash have either been embezzled or diverted.
“The Coalition also condemns in its entirely, the mode of Conditional Cash Transfer which we regard as a conduit pipe for siphoning monies to selected persons from selected regions of the country. The so-called conditional cash register purported to have been used by the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs to make these cash transfers is a cause of worry to many Nigerians.
“We are aware that these conditional cash transfers did not just begin as the Covid-19 palliatives; conditional transfers had already been going on secretly to people from selected geopolitical zones long before now, which is why the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs had a ready-made cash register, and that is why the portfolio concerning cash matters was removed from the office of the Vice President to strengthen its confidentiality.
“The Coalition questions the Hajia Sadiya Umar Farouq-led Ministry on the transparency of her Ministry in the management of the palliatives and hereby demands that the Ministry publishes the names of all Nigerians who have so far benefitted from the conditional cash transfers, indicating their personal details, local government/state of origin, amount and date of transfer to each beneficiary. If the exercise has been done transparently, there is nothing to hide, rather the list of beneficiaries should be published for publish scrutiny.
“We are also constrained to condemn the marginalization of the Niger Delta region in the government’s distribution of the palliatives. For a region that contributes massively to the nation’s revenue profile, greater attention should have paid to its people in the sharing of whatever palliatives the federal government had in mind. But it is not so. Rather, the amount of palliatives is not commensurate with the high levels of crude oil and revenue milked out of the region, as well as the suffering of the people, poverty and devastation resulting from the operations of the oil companies in the region”, the statement stated.
The coalition also expressed disappointment in the federal government for its inability to provide even face masks and hand gloves for its citizens despite receiving donations of billions of Naira from private individuals, organizations and countries.
They blamed wealthy Nigerians who donated valuables to the government instead of giving them directly to the indigent and vulnerable people in their communities for the suffering of the masses at this time.
“The Coalition is also astonished that despite the amount of money and materials government has so far received from private individuals, companies, agencies and corporate bodies in the country, and foreign bodies like the European Union and other donor countries towards our fight to contain the spread of the virus in the country, government though the PTF chaired by the SGF, Boss Mustapha, has not shown any noticeable commitment in terms of the provision of preventive items which its citizens can use in combating this pandemic. It is surprising that while the government is making it mandatory the use of face masks (in the event of the scarcity and high cost of the item), with effect from Monday next week, as stated in the President’s speech, ‘…we will strictly ensure the mandatory use of masks or coverings in public…’, the government has failed to procure and distribute at least this item to its citizens.
“Since the outbreak of the virus in the country, what has the government been able to provide free for the masses with the many billions of Naira so far received?
“For a government that boasts of being committed to the people’s welfare and change, it is very shameful that not even the least preventive items – hand gloves & face masks, can be provided by the government, yet its use is being made mandatory.
“The Coalition blames wealthy Nigerian donors and corporate entities who had all along been remaining insensitive to the plight of vulnerable and poor citizens, some who hail from their own communities, but immediately responded with donations of several million and billions of naira, not directly to these less privileged but to the government, probably because of what they stand to gain. And they are quite certain that the poor and vulnerable will never have access to these billions. Why not procure foodstuffs and other basic items and distribute directly to these suffering masses. Why not build functional hospitals and equip them with modern facilities for use by the people in the communities.
“As far as the Coalition of Niger Delta Agitators is concerned, no Niger Delta youth of ex-militant leader or group has received any money as palliative”, the statement stressed.