By Olasunkanmi Akoni
There have been series of commendations for the Lagos State Government over its courageous, inspiring, professional and re-assuring response to the Coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic in the state, especially the lockdown palliatives.
Recall that the state government, before the report of the Italian index case on April 22, had set necessary machinery in motion to protect the lives of its citizens in case of a full outbreak.
The state government reactivated its bio-banking and bio-security laboratory at the Infectious Diseases Hospital, Yaba.
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu announced himself as the Incident Commander in words and in deeds.
The state government embarked on massive sensitisation and enlightenment programmes through various media to draw the attention of Lagosians to the danger called COVID-19.
Lagos State House of Assembly passed a law entitled: “A Law to Combat and Stop the Spread of Coronavirus Pandemic in Lagos State and for Connected Purposes.”
The law, among others, empowers the governor to spend at least N20 billion to combat the pandemic in the state.
It also empowers the security agencies to arrest residents who flout directives aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19 pandemic in the state.
The lockdown palliatives
The Lagos State Government, as a measure of its responsiveness and responsibility, set up temporary food markets in some schools across the state under the Emergency Food Response Programme, to cushion the effect of the closure of major markets in the state in the wake of the lockdown.
In furtherance if its social intervention efforts, the state government provided food stimulus package for Lagos residents targeting 200,000 vulnerable households.
Apparently, the inspiring response of Mr. Governor served as an impetus for the Organised Private Sector, OPS, and other well-meaning individuals to make generous donations to the state government to combat the COVID-19 scourge.
The Lagos State Government’s approach to battle COVID-19 has since become the model highly commended by WHO and the international media like the CNN.
However, Lagos residents have also stressed the need for the privileged to help the less-privileged at this critical time of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, to cushion the effects of the lockdown of the state, as well as Ogun and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja.
With nearly 90 million Nigerians (50 percent) living in extreme poverty and many Lagos residents feeding from hand to mouth, it is obvious that sustaining a lockdown requires access to food, water, medicine and a host of other necessities.
A pack of rice, gari, beans…
The Federal and Lagos governments have introduced various palliative schemes to cushion the effect of the ongoing lockdown of the state on residents.
The lockdown palliative package is made up of five kilogrammes of rice, five kilogrammes of beans, five kilogrammes of gari and two sachets of tomatoes paste, all sealed in a medium size bags.
According to the governor, while launching the initiative at Oko Baba, Agege, office of the Ministry of Agriculture, the package was meant for the vulnerable elderly, aged from 60 and above.
He identified 200,000 vulnerable households to benefit from the package, with Community Development Associations, CDAs, saddled with final distribution to the vulnerable.
It was gathered that Sanwo-Olu, mobilised each of the 57 local government areas with N10 million to assist the state governor’s stimulus.
The beneficiaries were identified based on the verified Lagos State Residents Registration Agency, LASRRA, with the state government. A form was sent to identified beneficiaries on their mobile phone and replied by answering YES.
While some received the package a lot of people complained of not receiving any invite or item.
As laudable as the project is, it has been fraught with alleged diversion of the packs by government officials, who were saddled with the distribution process.
According to majority, the programme has been “hijacked by politicians” who have started giving it to loyal party members and followers in the state, thus abandoning the targeted groups.
For the 14-day extension
Recently, after the Federal Government extension of the lockdown for another 14 days, Sanwo-Olu alluded to the fact that the stimulus package programme in the first phase was underrated, hence the upsurge in demands, which he said the government was already addressing through improved stimulus package for the Phase II of the exercise.
Sanwo-Olu announced the new lockdown palliatives for the extension on last Tuesday.
The new initiative include Daily Community Food Kitchen, to feed at least 10,000 youths per day; direct cash transfer to new sets of vulnerable through intensified social register, immediate three-month Moratorium for MSMEs indebted to LSETF and other LASG loans, and palliative relief items to religious bodies, tertiary institutions, riverine areas, informal traders, market women, political parties, among others, for onward sharing to citizens.
Sanwo-Olu shed more lights on the palliative, thus: “I will now talk about the various palliatives that we have rolled out to cushion the inevitable and harsh economic effect of the lockdown on our citizens.
“When we issued the first set of stay-at-home directives, I had announced a welfare package for the indigent and vulnerable segment of the society.
“Though we encountered some hitches along the way, we have since revised the process and have now seen a marked improvement in the distribution of the relief packages, with the distribution being carried out in a dignifying manner that is fully compliant with all public health directives and guidelines.
“In the first and second phase of the programme, we were able to reach over 200,000 households which include the vulnerable, physically-challenged and the elderly.
“During this time as well, we were also able to feed a large number of the organised informal sector; junior members of the Military and Police Force in Lagos; as well as minimum wage earners in the state’s public service.
“As you are also aware, we announced a medical lockdown palliative for all those needing to access medical care, as well as free childbirth services for expectant mothers.
“Over 18,000 people have accessed free medical services in line with this directive, and we have recorded over 600 childbirths— all free of charge.
“I am pleased today to announce additional palliatives for our citizens to further ameliorate the inconvenience occasioned by this extended lockdown.
“In the first instance, we will be rolling out the following measures: daily ‘Food Kitchen’ programme, which will see us aim to feed about 100,000 people daily.”
The daily food kitchen, which is expected to kick off this weekend, is to be executed through local vendors to douse the tension among restive youths which has mobilised themselves terrorising residents, robbing them of their valuables.
What the residents say
Residents, however, called on well-meaning citizens to help support poorer Nigerians in the present time of great need.
Mr. Musiliu Jinadu, 80, who resides in Satellite Town, Oriade Local Council Development, LCDA, of Ojo, lamented how he received a text message from the state government as a beneficiary of the package but at press time, was yet to hear from any quarter.
He narrated: “I’m a retiree and live with my aged wife. I registered with LASSRA. Sometime ago, I received a message because we heard Sanwo-Olu wanted to give out packages to aged. I filled the form and resent it, waiting for their response.
“But till this moment, nothing has come from them. We heard that some of the items they brought was taken to the council and was shared among All Progressives Congress, APC, members.
“When are we going to get it right in this nation? The good intention of the government has been messed up.”
Some residents in Ashipa and Ifesowapo, in Ayobo area of the state, expressed disappointment over the initiative, saying “it’s a sham.”
According to Mr. Akin Aina, “government only gave us (Ashipa, Ifesowapo) only one bag for over 200 houses here. Where do we start from?
“We want to thank the state government for, at least, considering to give us something. We do not know how to share the only one bag.”
However, the case could be likened to different strokes for different people, as Mr. Alimi Adewale, 65, a resident of Orile-Agege, was full of commendation for government, saying he received his stimulus package from his CDA executive a week ago.
His words: “I want to seize this opportunity to thank Mr. Governor for his kind gesture. I’m a widower and my kids are no longer living me. I fend for myself.
“But this relief package came in handy. It will go a long way in assisting me during the compulsory stay at home order.”