By Innocent Anaba

Legal Defence and Assistance Project, LEDAP, has called on the Federal Government and its agencies to display transparency and accountability in the disbursement of COVID-19 palliatives, including the conditional cash transfer to millions of poor Nigerians to alleviate the hardship necessitated by the lockdown.

LEDAP especially mentioned the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, Office of the Special Adviser to the President on Social Investment, the Ministry of Finance and the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 in the their statement.

LEDAP’s National Coordinator, Chino Obiagwu(SAN) and Programmes Director, Pamela Okoroigwe, in a statement on Thursday, said: “It is worrisome that despite the billions of Naira earmarked by the government, in addition to the donations from the Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19, (a private sector-led initiative to support the Nigerian government to cushion the negative effects of COVID-19 pandemic), millions of households are yet to benefit from the announced palliatives and Nigerians are not clear about the criteria for selection of beneficiaries.

“This is contrary to the government’s claims of distributing cash payments to households in Nigeria.

“The government has also indicated payment locations, most of which are not in the areas most affected by the coronavirus. There seems to be little or no connection between the COVID-19 palliatives payment plan and areas most impacted by the pandemic.

“At this difficult time, it’s imperative to show transparency in the process of identification of poor households to Nigerians, who are faced with the hardship in the wake of the lockdown order imposed by the government to curb the spread of the deadly virus.

“LEDAP insists that Nigerians are legitimately entitled to know the details of beneficiaries, the quantum of disbursement made to each person in the country and the yardstick put in place to identify the poorest and most vulnerable to qualify for the government’s COVID-19 palliatives packages.

“Failure to disclose this information to the general public will not only promote corruption and distrust, but will also display lack of accountability to the general public, which is a breach of the hallmark of a modern democracy.

“We call on the Federal Government, the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management,  and all relevant agencies to publish the names, amount received and contact details of all the Nigerian citizens who have benefitted so far from the conditional cash transfers and other palliatives so far distributed by the Federal Government to cushion the lockdown effects.

“We further beckon on the Federal Government and its agencies to liaise with the state and local governments who are closer to the people in the identification, verification and disbursements of the COVID-19 palliatives.

“Clear criteria for selection must be set out and disclosed to the public; also, visible efforts must be made to ensure robust citizens’ participation.

“The media houses and grassroots civil society organisations should be carried along in this exercise as it is a matter of safeguarding the human rights and preserving the dignity of the citizens and not charity or politically driven.

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“The National Assembly should rise to their responsibility as the spokespersons of the people to demand that the Federal Government presents a bill on social investment and COVID-19 palliatives, which will spell out the priority areas of the reliefs, criteria for selections and indicators for measuring success of the programme.

“To ensure transparency and boost the credibility of the government in a dire time as this, LEDAP reiterates that the Federal Government, Office of the Special Adviser to the President on social investment, the Ministry of Finance and the Presidential Task Force on COVID 19 make available the following information:

Detailed list of the names and addresses of those who have benefitted from relief funds in whatever form whether through donations of COVID-19 palliatives or cash payments; detailed action plans on the mode of distribution of funds, locations for further distributions;

“A breakdown of the total amount of donations received in cash and materials from all sectors and how much has been spent so far on the relief palliatives and detailed plan to provide relief for the rest of the over 80 million of the country’s poorest spread across the 36 states of the Federation and the FCT inclusive.

“LEDAP urges the Federal Government to act swiftly in implementing the above recommendations as a sign of good faith and in turn win the trust and confidence of its people, we believe that if we all play our respective parts effectively, we will collectively defeat this global scourge.”

Vanguard

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