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Impact of palliatives elusive despite FG’s N5bn to states

More than three months after President Bola Tinubu approved N5billion for each state and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) making it a total of N135…

More than three months after President Bola Tinubu approved N5billion for each state and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) making it a total of N135 billion to enable them procure food items for distribution to the poor in their respective areas of jurisdiction in form of palliatives as a result of the hardship created by the removal of fuel subsidy, citizens are yet to feel the impact of the gesture, investigation by Daily Trust on Sunday revealed.

 

Abiodun Alade (Lagos); Salim Umar Ibrahim (Kano); Ali Rabiu Ali (Dutse); Tijjani Ibrahim (Katsina); Kabiru R. Anwar (Yola); Maryam Ahmadu-Suka (Kaduna); Olatunji Omirin (Maiduguri); Habibu Idris Gimba (Damaturu); Peter Moses (Abeokuta); Titus Eleweke (Awka); Hope Abah Emmanuel (Makurdi); Victor Edozie (Port Harcourt) & Iniabasi Umo (Uyo)

 

While the distribution of foodstuffs has been enmeshed in controversies in some states, there are claims that some governors had diverted the money for other purposes like payment for exams fees, weddings and Christmas gifts.

The announcement of N5bn for each state and five trucks of rice each to the 36 state governors by the federal government was greeted with cautious enthusiasm by Nigerians, who expected it to cushion the effects of fuel subsidy removal and the free float of the naira, which had compounded the woes of citizens as inflation skyrocketed with its attendant effects on cost of food and transportation.

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Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State, who disclosed the release of the palliatives in August after the National Economic Council (NEC) meeting in Abuja, said state governors were to procure 100,000 bags of rice, 40,000 bags of maize, and fertilisers.

He noted that 52 per cent of the fund was given to the state governments as grants, with 48 per cent as loan.

However, findings by Daily Trust on Sunday revealed that almost 100 days after the announcement, ordinary Nigerians are yet to feel any major relief.

10kg for households in Ogun

Daily Trust on Sunday reports that in Ogun State, residents accused the government of poor distribution of food items as palliatives; hence the exercise was marred by controversy and criticism.

The state government had on September 1 flagged off the distribution of 300,000 of 10kg bags of rice to residents.

Apart from the rice distribution, Governor Dapo Abiodun inaugurated 17 Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) mass transit buses and extended N10, 000 transport allowances for all workers and pensioners by six months.

palliatives

However, in an interesting twist of events, in a viral video on the social media, a man claiming to be the chairman of the Shokeye Community Development Area in the state vehemently rejected the bag of rice given to his community.

He claimed the state government gave his community, which comprise of 147 houses, only 10 kg bags of rice as palliative.

He described the palliative as insulting, saying, “We are not in dire need; we are not beggars. This offering doesn’t even amount to a single bag of rice; it is not even half of one.”

Our correspondent also gathered that Oke Aro, Ibaragun ward of Ifo Local Government Area of the state received only 10 bags of the 10kg rice.

Reacting to the viral video, the state government, in a statement by the chief press secretary to the governor, Lekan Adeniran, blamed the opposition party for blackmailing the Abiodun-led administration.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in a statement by its publicity secretary, Akinloye Bankole had noted, “The poor implementation of the palliative distribution in Ogun is a brazen insult to the sensibilities of the good people of the state.”

A resident of Abeokuta, the capital of the state, Mrs Azeezat Adeyemi, said citizens were not benefitting from the CNG mass transit buses inaugurated in the state as they only plied limited routes.

“As a citizen I have not felt the impact of the N5bn. Even the CNG-powered bus is only plying one route in Abeokuta. Others residing at Obantoko, Olokuta, Kemta and other parts of the state capital have been left out,” she said.

It’s Christmas gift for party faithful in Anambra

Also, the chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in Anambra State, Comrade Humphrey Nwafor, and residents, said they had not seen the impact of the N5bn the federal government approved for various states.

Nwafor said he was not aware that any person in the state had benefitted from the palliative.

He informed our correspondent that the governor said he would use political wards to share the money so that everybody would benefit from it.

While noting that the political wards comprise all political parties, traders, farmers and others, he said, “I am not aware that anybody has collected it in any political ward in the state.”

A resident of the state, Mr Cajetan Uche, expressed doubt that the money was released to the state because there was nothing to show for it.

Another resident, Emmanuel Okafor, who also said he was not aware of any beneficiary from the scheme, added that it might have been shared to politicians.

The state chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Basil Ejike, alleged that there was a voice note where the ruling party in the state, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), instructed their wards and polling unit leaders to compile the names of their members as prospective beneficiaries.

“I think it is only APGA members in the state that are benefitting from the palliative. However, we are not aware of the sharing or where the governor is investing the money. We have written letters to him but he did not reply,” he stated.

However, the press secretary to the governor, Mr Christian Aburime, said the state government had started sharing the palliative, which he claimed was for everyone, irrespective of political parties.

A chieftain of the APGA who did not want his name in print, however, confided in our correspondent that food items from the scheme would be shared as Christmas gifts.

“The government cannot share gifts now and in less than a month give out another,” the source said.

Five cups of rice and beans in Rivers

Civil servants in Rivers State said what was given to them as palliative was nothing to write home about.

A civil servant who did not want his name in print said many of them were given few cups of rice and beans as palliative.

Another civil servant who simply gave his name as Chibuchi, said, “The palliative was very poor. When we heard about it we thought it was something big, but at the end of the day, it was few cups of rice, beans and garri that were given to us. I got five cups of rice, five cups of beans and a tuber of yam,” he said.

A staff in one of the ministries said, “When the palliative was announced, we thought they were going to increase our salaries. But that was not to be. What we got were few cups of rice, beans, garri and yam. The palliative is nothing to write home about.”

Citizens expect more in Yobe

In Yobe, while some residents said they were yet to benefit, others told Daily Trust on Sunday that they were beneficiaries of palliatives distribution by the Yobe State Emergency Management Board (SEMA).

Mallam Hashimi Sale, a private school teacher in Damaturu said, ‘‘I am working in the Local Government Service Commission and as a casual teacher in one of the private schools here in Damaturu. I know that SEMA is distributing the palliatives and some ministries and agencies have received their packages and distributed to small workers, but I am yet to receive such palliatives, either from the local government where I work or at the private school where I teach.’’

Fatima Imam, a food vendor on Maiduguri Road, Damaturu said, ‘‘I received a food basket from the SEMA but we ate it in less than 10 days. The government needs to strategise on ways of cushioning the hardship.’’

The State Emergency Management Agency has so far supported 192,422 individuals across 13 categories of beneficiaries: displaced persons in self-set camps and host communities, persons living with disabilities, pregnant and lactating mothers, widows, orphans, orphanages, women-headed households, elderly individuals above 60, and the vulnerable.

The executive secretary of the SEMA, Dr Goje Muhammad, said the Nigeria Labour Congress, civil society organisations, traditional rulers, communities and religious leaders, youth and women groups, security personnel and other stakeholders in each local government area would be continuously contacted through stakeholder engagement before commencement.

The distributions covered 17 local government areas of the state, which comprised 20kg of rice and maize, while some beneficiaries received rice and spaghetti.

Daily Trust on Sunday learned that aside the distribution of palliatives, the state government is yet to embark on any new project in the state with the fund.

Borno residents applaud transportation scheme

Residents of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, have commended the state government for providing transportation palliative for the masses. They argued that while the majority of the people did not get a share of the food palliative, almost all the people have benefitted from the transportation scheme of the state government.

A shop owner, Abdulkarim Bakura, however, lamented that the food palliative by Governor Babagana Zulum tilted towards the political class.

“The truth is that majority of the masses could not get the food palliative to cushion the effects of fuel subsidy removal in Borno State. In our area, Gomari Costain, those who benefitted were APC loyalists because they only submitted the names of their party members. It is as bad as that. We only heard about it, we did not know when they distributed it among themselves,” he said.

Another resident, Sunday Williams Omega, while aligning with Bakura’s view on food palliative, praised the state government for rolling out palliative in the transportation sector.

“I think the governor has performed wonderfully in terms of transportation subsidy, which is widely praised within and outside the state. I give Babagana Zulum a pass mark on this,” he said.

Funds used for mass wedding, tuition fees in Kano

In Kano, the Commissioner for Information, Baba Dantiye, said what the state received from the federal government was N2bn in cash and N3bn in kind and the state government decided to use part of the cash release to fund the 1,800 mass wedding (N834million) and payment of tuition fees for 7,000 students, as well as the slashing of 50 per cent fees in tertiary institutions.

“While some states reduced the cost of foodstuff as part of the palliative, the governor of Kano State promised to share foodstuff for free. Currently, a committee has been set up to design the mode of distribution in a manner that both urban and rural areas will benefit,” he said.

In Jigawa State, the State Executive Council has approved the release of N3.8bn for the procurement of additional food items for distribution across the 27 local government areas within the state, Hamisu Gumel, the chief press secretary to the governor, said.

Gumel revealed that the approved procurement includes 70 trucks of rice (600 bags per truck), 54 trucks of millet and maize (600 bags per truck) and 1,000 cartons of spaghetti, to be purchased through the joint financial contribution of the federal, state and local governments.

But resident told our correspondent that they were wallowing in poverty.

Hamisu Ali, a farmer in Hadejia, said, “We are yet to feel the impact of the palliative…May be they just want us to continue suffering because it is unthinkable there is nothing on ground months after fuel subsidy removal.”

In Katsina, the state government said it had received only the sum of N2bn from the federal government as first tranche to procure foodstuff to cushion the effect of fuel subsidy removal on the masses.

Addressing journalists recently, the Commissioner for Information, Culture and Home Affairs, Dr Bala Salisu Zango, said the state government had used the N2bn received for the purchase of 40,000 bags of rice for onward distribution to the poorest of the poor amongst residents in all the polling units across the state.

The commissioner said the state governor, Mallam Dikko Umaru Radda, had already set up the distribution committees, comprising traditional rulers, religious leaders and government representatives in each local government, warning that the government would not allow anyone found wanting in the exercise to go scot-free.

However, the governor had earlier directed for the procurement and distribution of 36,100 bags of grains as the state’s palliative. That had generated controversy across the state. While some alleged that the grains were of poor quality, others said it was grossly inadequate.

A resident of Jibia, who gave his name as Haro, said they are yet to get any support.

“Our prayer is that may the Almighty Allah touch their hearts to do something tangible and sustainable that will ease the pains we are going through.

Adamawa says it spent N2bn loan on rice, other palliatives

The Adamawa State Government said it had expended a N2bn loan so far received from federal government on food and non food palliatives.

Speaking at the flag-off ceremony for distribution of palliatives recently, the Adamawa State governor, Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri, disclosed that the palliatives would be distributed to vulnerable persons for free.

Fintiri said the palliative items, which were initially planned to be sold at a 50 per cent subsidised rate, would now be given to vulnerable persons for free, irrespective of political affiliation.

“Specifically, we are beginning with the distribution of 60, 000 bags of rice free of charge to vulnerable households, irrespective of party affiliation,” the governor said.

This is coming after the secretary to the state government and chairman, Palliatives Coordination and Distribution Committee, Auwal Tukur had earlier on Monday announced that the items would be sold to the people at a subsidised rate.

Tukur, who spoke at a press briefing, explained that the state had procured 50 trucks each of rice and fertiliser, as well as other items to help families cope with the hardship resulting from the removal of fuel subsidy and the rising dollar exchange rate.

“The state government bought 50 trucks of rice, which we are breaking down into 25kg bags. The contractor promised us that we would start getting deliveries tomorrow, Tuesday, in Yola and Mubi areas. There is maize from the federal government, which will hopefully depart Kaduna to this place on Tuesday or Wednesday,” he said.

He noted that apart from distributing to people in  the 21 local government areas, the committee had allocated food items to boarding schools to reduce their cost of feeding, adding that vulnerable groups would be especially targeted for the relief distribution.

Items lined up for distribution across the 21 local government areas and 226 wards include rice, maize and fertiliser.

The state has procured luxury buses to ease transportation for residents and approved N10,000 each for civil servants as part of the palliative

When contacted, the state chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Emmanuel Fashe, expressed satisfaction with the manner the loan was spent, adding that looking at the quantity of items procured and their market prices, it seems the money was spent for the intended purpose.  He commended the governor for distributing the palliative items for free rather than selling them to residents.

Used as WAEC fees in Akwa Ibom, Benue

In Akwa Ibom State, Governor Umo Eno said the state government received N2bn from the federal government in form of a loan, adding that it purchased additional bags of rice from rice millers in the state to raise its contributions to the palliative scheme to over N5bn.

He mentioned the payment of the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WAEC) fees for students in public secondary schools and a N100m intervention fund for students with disabilities as part of its palliative.

However, some residents who spoke with our correspondent in Uyo said they only heard of the palliative, but neither they nor their family members had benefitted in any way.

Mrs Magdalene Kufre, a businesswoman said, “Nobody in my household has benefitted yet. I am happy for those that got it but unhappy that we have not gotten anything,” she said.

Wisdom Etimo, a university graduate, said he did not know anyone who had benefitted from the programme.

However, some federal civil servants in the state said they received the N35,000 palliative for September.

…Benue too

The Benue State Government also claimed that it would pay the registration fees of all students writing WAEC and the National Examination Council (NECO) for the 2023/24 session, amongst others.

Governor Hyacinth Alia, during the flag-off of the distribution of the federal government’s relief materials to 2022 flood victims in the state in August, admitted that the state had received N2bn out of the N5bn promised by the federal government.

He said his administration was going to ensure a judicious use of the fund, and that transport, food, agriculture, education and human capital sectors would all benefit.

However, citizens in the state are demoralised over their inability to feel the impact of the palliative.

Simon Dubem, who resides in Makurdi, said the hardship inflicted on the masses following the subsidy removal was excruciating and even more painful that there were no palliatives in sight to cushion the attendant suffering.

“I have not felt the slightest impact of the federal government’s N5bn palliative sent to the state. I am not even aware that the state got any palliative,” Dubem said.

A civil servant in the state who simply identified himself as Kona said although the slash in transport fare from Makurdi to Gboko from N1,500 to N1,000 by the state-owned transport company, Benue Links, suggested that it might be part of the palliative, the benefit, in his estimation, had not yet extended to other parts of the state.

Kona, however, said the payment of WAEC and NECO registration fees by the state government from the palliative fund had helped to reduce the burden on parents.

The state chairman of the NLC, Comrade Terungwa Igbe, however, told our correspondent on telephone that he was awaiting response to his letter from the state governor in regard to the palliative, just as he advised the government on what it should do to address the challenges.

Igbe said, “For workers on government’s payroll, I have already written to the governor to implement the N35, 000 minimum. On the other hand, I heard he had started sending N25,000 to people who are not workers in the form of palliative.

“We also want him to give people money to trade. For the workers, the only thing he needs to do is the N35, 000 minimum wage; the moment he does that, the workers will be good to go.”

However, the PDP as an opposition party in the state has urged the Alia administration to come clean on the palliative, which it contended had made a zero impact on citizens in the state.

The spokesman of the governor, Tersoo Kula, told our correspondent that he would respond to questions about the palliative, but he was yet to do so at the time of filing this report.

Policy faulty, govt must adopt inclusive approach — Experts

Policy affairs analysts and an economic expert have faulted the approach of cash transfer or giving food items as palliatives, noting that they are not an effective strategy of alleviating poverty or assisting the vulnerable in the society.

A public policy expert, Dr Abimbola Oyarinu, said the N5bn palliative had not had any effect on citizens because there was lack of organisation in governance, which had made it a herculean task to meet the expectations of citizens.

He opined that government had better structures it could leverage on to reach the most vulnerable in the society.

“When it comes to generating revenue, the government knows how to get to the remotest part of the country, but when it comes to service delivery, it would become a herculean task. Why did they not leverage on the local government structure? Government could have also used the National Identification Number (NIN), as well as work with banks to understand family income. This would have encouraged financial inclusion instead of packing hundreds of people in a place for sharing cups of rice. Some of these vulnerable people don’t have the strength to stand under the sun for a cup of rice,” he said.

While noting that the palliative was majorly shared to party faithful and supporters, he suggested that government should embrace a comprehensive approach to alleviate the suffering of Nigerians.

“Nigeria is tending towards a full capitalist state. Let’s remember that it only took a hike in the price of bread for the French revolution to happen. We also saw the #ENDSARS movement here in Nigeria. Nigerians are suffering, so there is a need to adopt a comprehensive approach in caring for the people,” he said.

A social crusader, Olufemi Ajayi, said politicians abused their offices to exploit the palliative scheme, adding that food items were shared to party chieftains and loyalists in most states.

He said, “The programme was meant for the poor, but it was hijacked by politicians. In almost all the states, these items were shared to people who have enough. For instance, in Lagos, we saw the governor sharing a package, which comprised 10kg of rice, 5kg of beans and 5kg of garri, but who got those items? The politicians and party loyalists got them. At the grassroots, what people got was pitiable. And the same happened in almost all the states.”

A former director-general of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the chief executive officer, Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise, Dr Muda Yusuf, urged the government to adopt inclusive, impactful and sustainable palliative measures, noting that the pains inflicted on citizens, especially the vulnerable, were severe.

He added that the removal of fuel subsidy led to increase in food prices, transportation and energy costs, while businesses are struggling with mounting operating costs and shrinking purchasing power.

He also canvassed soft loans for small businesses to facilitate output growth and job creation.

He opined that the sacrifices of the moment should not be limited to the working class and ordinary citizens, adding that political leadership at all levels must commit to reduction in the cost of governance.

“The number of political appointees, advisers, salaries and allowances, foreign trips etc should be trimmed to reflect the current mood of the country.  In addition to its symbolic significance, this would support the fiscal consolidation agenda of the government,” he said.

‘FG did its best, people should hold govs accountable’

A source close to the federal government said the president had done his best by approving money and foodstuff to the governors; therefore, people should hold them to account.

“The truth is that some of the governors almost blackmailed the president. They said they didn’t trust the national social register. They said he should release the resources to them because they had a better way to share the palliatives.

“And because he wanted the people to hold their governors to account, he released the money and foodstuff to them. People should ask their governors and other leaders where the palliatives are,” the source, who did not want to be named, said.

Another source said states had enormous resources at their disposal after the removal of fuel subsidy.

“People must ask the governors what they are doing with the money. The releases to them from the federation account have increased,” he said.

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