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Time to evolve better alternative to food palliative

The nation, in December, went into another round of speculation on the distribution of palliatives to Nigerians. This followed the news that President Bola Tinubu…

The nation, in December, went into another round of speculation on the distribution of palliatives to Nigerians. This followed the news that President Bola Tinubu had approved the release of assorted grains to each member of the National Assembly for distribution to his/her constituents. According to the reports each Senator was to get N200 million worth of grains while those at the House of Representatives were expected to receive N100 million grains. This was to be executed through the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security.

Although there were conflicting reports on the execution of the directive as some lawmakers said they had not received any consignment, others said they had received and distributed.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security said that it was not responsible for the distribution of any palliative as widely reported.

According to Dr. Joel O. Oruche, the Director of Information, the issue concerns constituency projects budgeted for under the 2023 Supplementary Appropriation and domiciled in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security. He added that the implementation process for the Supplementary Appropriation is on-going.

We at Daily Trust are concerned about the seemingly attachment of the government to the distribution of food items as the only way to bring succor to the suffering of the masses following the high rise in food prices across the country. The government feels that this is the only way to bring relief to the citizens from the effects of the removal of subsidy on petroleum products and the merging of the foreign exchange market.

Unfortunately, the government is once again treading the same path its predecessors have taken since 1999 without any positive impact on the populace.

Not quite long ago, President Tinubu announced an allocation of N5 billion to each state of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory to purchase and distribute grains to the public. However, it is doubtful if these had reached any significant number of Nigerians.  Similarly, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari also embarked on the same exercise, which was largely characterised by chaos nearly leading to the breakdown of law and order in the country.

We believe this is not the most viable path to tread again. First, the process is often riddled with corruption as government officials are always more keen in striking a deal with the most compliant contractor than actual correct delivery of the items. The contractors who managed to clinch the deal are often not the best in carrying the job and often cut corners to make the maximum out of the contract. The result is the grains delivered are either of poor quality or below the quantity ordered.

Secondly, the distribution is also often beclouded in corruption as those entrusted to handle it turn it into politics, ensuring that only those in their political camps benefit. In some cases, the items are found in the open market being sold.

Again, the items distributed do not take most of the beneficiaries beyond two weeks.

Also, on the section where we talked about palliatives, sometimes leading to hike in costs of food items. I think we should point out that the food palliatives end up doing more damage than good as it worsens food inflation, which in turn feeds into overall inflation.  

Thirdly, food palliatives often end up doing more harm than good as it worsens food inflation, which in turn feeds into overall inflation. This is because contractors resort to the open market to buy the grains. This leads to shortages and a hike in the prices, which makes it more difficult for the ordinary individual, who is not lucky to benefit from the government’s handout, to buy from the market.

Daily Trust believes it is time for both the federal and state governments to stop throwing away money to every problem without deep thinking.

Governments can do better by thinking out ways of effectively assisting the citizens without resorting to politics and contractors. A simple way is to consider providing tax relief and incentives to such sectors that can impact the majority of the citizens. Such sectors like the pharmaceutical industry, power generation and energy are sectors that can be assisted to impact on the most vulnerable.

The added advantage in this is that it is much easier to assess and track delivery of such palliatives and ensure that it has a widest reach.

The government can also consider providing support to farmers. Also, having a free and functional education system at the basic level is a far more useful poverty alleviation strategy than handing out food items. 

It is time for us to adopt measures that will ensure dignity to our citizens and be accountable to the nation.

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