Coronavirus stimulus package: Governor, others condemn manner of disbursement

Seyi Makinde, governor of Oyo state has condemned the conditional cash transfer initiative of the federal government noting that it is fraught with faults. Sadiya Farouk, minister of humanitarian affairs, disaster management and social development, had said that the ministry had commenced cash transfer to the poorest households in the country to cushion the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Also, the Igbo Renaissance Forum has condemned the pattern adopted by the ministry for disbursing the so called stimulus package describing it as crude and shocking.

The Cable in its report said that in an interview with Fresh FM 105.9 on Monday, Makinde, who recovered from COVID-19 in less than a week, said he is not impressed with how the poor are identified. The governor claimed 80 per cent of the funds meant for disbursement in the state is wasted, adding that the remaining 20 per cent is meagre and inconsequential.

Asked if he wanted to “police” the initiative, Makinde said he has no plans to, though he remains dissatisfied with it.

“About, I think two days ago, in our meeting, the task force meeting, the head of service [Mrs Ololade Agboola] informed me that the conditional cash transfer from the federal government is going to give N20, 000 to people in ten local government areas of Oyo state. I said ‘okay, fine. I mean it’s good that you are informing me.’ But this is a programme that predates this administration and I have never been impressed for one day by how they’ve identified the poorest of the poor and the impact,” Makinde said.

“So, I see this as an opportunity for us to ensure that we get to the real people that require those palliatives; that are one. Secondly, once we are able to get this right that will become the pillar upon which we can build for future efforts. And once we have been able to do it right once, we won’t have to go back to the foundation again.

“The data is already being collated by our people in the field. They started yesterday. And, I can promise the people of Oyo state that it’s not going to be business as usual, where we show a pile of foodstuffs in some warehouse somewhere and in the end, this won’t get to the people who really need it. That will not happen in Oyo state.

“Well, I am not policing it. All I am saying is I am not satisfied. I have done a little bit of work on it in terms of gathering intelligence, finding out if this money is actually getting to the people that require it, and part of my findings are that no, close to 80 per cent of that money is wasted and 20 per cent that actually gets to some form of individuals is too little and too meagre to have the desired impact. That is my own finding.

“Well, it is a federal government initiative. We will keep engaging them and more than likely, change the coordinator. Because, I do have control over the coordinator of that programme. I will change the coordinator and also when we are able to get our own data right, we will tweak it to ensure that the actual people, the real people that require this assistance, are the ones getting it.”

On the preparedness of the state government to tackle the disease should there be a rapid increase in the number of confirmed cases in the state, Makinde said efforts are in place to see to it that 10,000 people in the state are tested.

He said there is a lot of “cheap talk at the top level”, adding that “as a state, we really have to take our fate in our hands”.

“But what I can say is that we have been working round the clock to ensure that we have the capability to test, to isolate and quarantine confirmed cases and ensure health workers are adequately protected,” he said.

“I believe yesterday, we… you know they have been making a lot of noise in the newspaper. Oh Jack Ma, they have some items for us so I sent the people at the Oyo state liaison office. First, at the NGF [Nigeria Governors’ Forum] meeting, I was told that those items were sent to the liaison offices. So, I called the liaison office for Oyo state in Abuja and said ‘did you receive it?’ They said ‘no’. So, eventually, they asked them to come to somewhere in Jabi to collect those items.

“They brought them yesterday. Well, I thank them but it is nothing compared to what we require. I mean it’s just some gloves, protective equipment, maybe like 25 coveralls or something like that. So, there seems to be a lot of talk… cheap talk really, at the top level. So, as a state, we really have to take our fate in our hands, you know.

“So, it’s also the reason why we pushed for a testing centre in Ibadan so we can test more people who may have come in contact with COVID-19 cases. And my aspiration, which I already discussed with the task force team, and the EOC [Emergency Operations Centre], is that we must set a target to test close to 10,000 people in Oyo state.

“It’s ambitious but just watch us, we will do it. We are setting up to have that done. For us, if we are able to meet that target, we will be able to map the state correctly. Yeah, we can wall off communities if we see cases of the virus in those communities. It is the only way that we can stay ahead of the curve and get a handle of what is really going on in Oyo state.”

A statement by the Igbo Renaissance group signed by Nze Ugo-Akpe Onwuka (Oyi), International Coordinator, said, “We are aware that the Federal Government has announced palliative measures, which included disbursement of stimulus cash of twenty thousand naira to the ‘poorest in the society’ as they claimed.

“It is however very shocking to see the crudest form of disbursement of the stimulus cash that would give medieval men goose bumps, as cash is given to individuals across the table. Equally perplexing is the claim that 2.6m million individuals would benefit from N20, 000 CORONAVIRUS palliative immediately, even as the 11,400 others are still to benefit. What baffles us is that government says it plans to share a total of ₦52bn to 2.6 million poor families IN CASH, without a clear system for accountability and transparency!

“We demand that in this period of very lean resources, that the ministry should immediately make available on their website, the details of those who are benefitting from this stimulus exercise. “We want to state categorically that we are far from convinced with the figures put out on the number of Nigerians living in extreme poverty, which is clearly defined by UN standards as those living below $1.90 per day. This figure according to the World Poverty Clock stands at 95,903,776 million or 48% of our 201,623,008 million population. It is therefore absurd to read the minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, Sadiya Umar Farouq state that the social national register that we have as at March 31, 2020 is made up of 11,450,537 poor and vulnerable people in 35 states and 453 Local Government Areas across the country. We demand to know the fate of those that are not captured in this exercise.

“We however wish to condemn in very strong terms, the approach adopted by the ministry for sharing this stimulus cash. It very clearly contravenes the money laundering Act and we demand immediate explanation to the citizens for such action,” the statement noted.

It stated further, “We also want to make it known to the honourable minster, that she broke the social distancing policy in the fight against COVID-19. It’s unfortunate to hear her try to justify the situation by saying that while those involved with the CRUDE TABLETOP MONEY SHARING maintained safe social distance, that it was onlookers who gathered to watch the SHOW that didn’t observe safe distancing. We ask that she immediately apologise to the public for shifting the blame. If the honourable minister and her team electronically credited everyone that needs to receive the stimulus cash as it should have been, or if due diligence was done by the minister and her team, there won’t be any MONEY SHARING SHOW for the poor masses to crowd around, breaking safe distancing rules and exposing themselves to COVID-19 infection.

“We have cause to believe that the South East has not been adequately factored into the disbursement bracket of the ministry for this palliative,” the statement declared.

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