Succour targeted at the vulnerable, not all Lagosians — State Govt
By Bose Adelaja
There is a saying that a hungry man is an angry man. This aptly describes recent happenings in some parts of Lagos State, where relief materials meant for vulnerable citizens were hijacked by some individuals.
The situation has been generating allegations among members of various community development associations across the state as some accused community and political leaders while others blamed the state government for poor logistics in the distribution.
The state government, through the Commissioner for Agriculture, Honourable Gbolahan Lawal, had said the distribution of 200,000 stimulus packages for vulnerable citizens would be done through 4,000 registered Community Development Associations (CDAs), non-governmental organisations and religious leaders.
However, the distribution process was hijacked such that it went messy and attracted all sorts of criticisms, accusations and counter accusations in nearly all targeted locations.
The stimulus, which came in form of food packs (grains, gari, loaf of bread and tomato paste), to be distributed to the 20 local governments and 37 local council development areas in Lagos, was aimed at cushioning the effects of the 14 days stay-at-home directive by the Federal Government.
What played out was that some of the packages were tampered with on arrival at the designated centres and the supposed benefactors were denied access to them.
Before the exercise began, text messages were sent to residents above 60 years in respect of the project but it has been an endless wait since then.
The lapses were so glaring to the extent that some people took to their social media platforms expressing their grievances and this drew the attention of the state government which, in a press conference, apologized to members of the public and suspended further distribution of the items to enable its officers re-strategise.
At Orile Agege, the distribution did not only defy the social distancing order but also generated uproar such that some political leaders at the council were attacked. In Iyana-Ipaja, the packages were awkwardly distributed as a CDA comprising 300 members got only a pack of the stimulus containing about a paint measure of gari, rice, beans, a loaf of bread and two sachets of tomato paste.
But for the prompt intervention of the CDA Chairman, the situation would have turned rowdy as residents threw banters at one another.
In a chat with Sunday Vanguard, the angry CDA Chairman, Pastor Julius Adegunna, said the distribution almost divided his CDA save for divine intervention.
‘’The stimulus distribution has once again shown government’s insensitivity and insincerity to the common people they lead”, he said.
“How can they believe that what they are sharing could go round because everybody is vulnerable as far as I am concerned especially in this kind of situation? How do you sustain a family of four or five who have been staying indoors for a week?
“Way out is to keep distributing the package until it cuts across the masses and adequate planning must be introduced next time.’’
The same scenario played out in Egbe/Ikotun area where a resident of Temidire CDA, Agodo, Apostle Tayo Osinubi, described the distribution as ‘’a shame of the highest order and the greatest insult of the century.’’
According to him, about 16 streets of approximately 420 houses were requested to share three packages containing 1kg of rice, beans and three loaves of bread.
He said, ‘’Tell me how one can distribute this coronavirus Emergency Food Response by the CDAs.
“Please, come and take your relief materials back to your Marina House as I await your response.’’
Sunday Vanguard gathered that in the course of venting his anger, Osinubi’s comments attracted the attention of the Commissioner for Agriculture, Lawal, who promised to look into the issue.
The cleric claimed he was thereafter invited by the Commissioner to map out the way forward.
Another CDA member who vented her anger about the development was Madam Fausiat Nurudeen of Odunsi Street, Bariga, who described the project as sad.
She said, “Some people came to our houses to count us and said they will bring the stimulus package to each house but we leant that it’s been shared at Emmanuel Street, Ogudu,’’
Corroborating Fausiat’s view was a resident of Victoria Street, Ojota, Chinedu Mbakwe, who claimed her street of over 300 residents were given four packs to share.
“This stimulus is a way of causing confusion in our community; imagine four packs to be shared by over 300 people in my street! This is serious o,’’ he stressed.
While interacting with some residents, it was discovered that some politicians were distributing the packages among card carrying members of the ruling party not minding other categories of residents.
Also, it was gathered that some non-governmental organisations cornered the project, sending signals to people to come and benefit from their ‘kind gesture’.
In one of the local council development areas (names withheld), it was gathered that a politician put a call across to some CDA chairmen to forward five names of vulnerable persons in their CDAs in expectation for his philanthropic support unknown that it was linked to the same Lagos State relief package. However, some ‘area boys’ (street urchins) were said to have disrupted the sharing process, carting away some of the packages.
The ‘area boys’ were said to have demanded for gratifications after which they forcefully collected 95 packs.
In the course of this story, Sunday Vanguard contacted some Community Development Committees in cosmopolitan areas like Alimosho, Ikorodu, Papa Ajao/Mushin, Yaba, Oyingbo, Alaagomeji and Oshodi and their views were almost similar.
In Mosan/Okunola Central CDC, the Secretary, Alhaji Adeyemi Adenle, said the package was yet to be delivered to his area.
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‘’I got a phone call to come to the Council to collect the package on behalf of my community and I went in company of the Vice Chairman but, on arrival, we were told that somebody had collected on our behalf”, he said.
“Unfortunately, the person could not be traced but, hopefully, it will be sorted out at the next CDC meeting which comes up after the stay-at-home order.
“Residents have been asking questions but I have told them my own side of the story”.
The situation was the same in Ikorodu West where the Chairman of God’s Own CDA, Igbo-Olomu, Agric Bus-stop, Mr. Akinleye Ayobami Kamilu, said, ‘’Five packs and two loaves of bread were to be shared among three zones in my community. This is not encouraging enough”.
To avoid rancour among residents of Ikorodu West, the CDC Chairman, Mr. Raheem Bashir, told Sunday Vanguard he has sued for peace in the community. ‘’Except we deceive ourselves, government cannot share all the burden of Lagosians and it is necessary that philanthropists, corporate organisations and individuals come out to support what government is doing at this point in time,’’ he said.
According to him, 505 packs were shared among five wards in his constituency which suggests a pack to five families.
In Papa Ajao/Mushin CDC, the exercise went smoothly except for hitches in some streets but the CDC Chairman, Alhaji Olatunde Okuwobi, was able to douse tension and prevented ‘area boys’ from hijacking it.
In a chat with this reporter, the CDC Chairman said, ‘’It’s been awesome and Almighty Allah has granted us the wisdom to distribute it.
“We started around 10pm yesterday and we have been going from one street to another”.
In Agboyi/Ketu area, it was gathered that any resident who dared to criticise the exercise was immediately weeded out of all social media platforms with a warning to keep mute or be seriously dealt with.
The Secretary of Oshodi/Isolo CDC, Honourable Animasaun Kolawole Saheed, said only 120 packs were given to his CDC.
“This is to be shared into four segments which means each CDA will have access to four packs”, he said.
“What this means is that well-meaning Nigerians should assist government to achieve its aim of feeding vulnerable citizens in the state.
“We cannot keep pointing accusing fingers at government when some residents who could have assisted others are not doing so.’’
Indigent residents only
Efforts to reach the state Agric Commissioner, Lawal, were unsuccessful as he neither responded to Sunday Vanguard’s calls nor text messages.
However, a statement signed by Lagos State Commissioner for Information, Gbenga Omotosho, said the relief package was for indigent and vulnerable citizens only.
“It has become necessary to reiterate the modus of distribution of the welfare package as well as the category of the beneficiaries of the government compassionate gesture, which is deliberately being distorted by mischief makers”, the statement said.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the first stage of the welfare package was designed to cater for 200,000 households, comprising of a father, mother and four children across the 20 local governments and 37 local council development areas across the state.
“It was a misconception that it was meant for all Lagosians. No.
‘’All aged residents, who are above 60 years old and registered with the Lagos State Residents Registration Agency (LASRRA), were sent text messages and requested to confirm the accuracy of their details, such as names and addresses. “They have since responded to such messages so as to benefit from the package.
“The challenges we have is that people are not patient and one of the approaches we introduced was to do it in phases.’’
Similarly, the umbrella body for the chairmen of all the 57 local governments and local council development areas in Lagos State, ‘Conference 57’, sought cooperation of Lagosians with the state government even as the stay-at-home order.
‘Conference 57’ Public Relations Officer, Comrade Sesan Daini, in a statement, said this will enable government identify all cases and isolate them for proper treatment.