As Nigerians are beginning to look forward to the much-expected government relief for the Coronavirus pandemic shutdown, the new parameters stipulated by the Federal Government (FG) for palliatives distribution has continued to generate an outcry by the public.
Initially, when the Social Investment Programme (SIP) was criticized by the National Assembly last week, the Office of the Special Assistant to the President on SIP came in defence of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, Hajia Sadiya Farouk, that the list for the beneficiaries of the cash conditional transfer was generated by the World Bank.
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However, in a contradictory statement made some days later by the Minister of Information Technology, Issa Pantami, he claimed that the airtime recharge patterns are mined from Telecom network providers to provide a summary list of the poorest Nigerians.
But this is not good enough.
The latest consideration from the government again, as the Minister Farouk stated, is that the next focus of the CCT is to move to the demography of the urban poor while checking for those who qualify by their bank account balance. The summary of that decision by the government is that the remaining cash palliatives that will be shared to the vulnerable poor will be only for those who have less than #5000 in their bank balance, those who recharge their phone with airtime, among others.
So far, Katsina state – where the president comes from – has had the largest share of benefit from the Cash Conditional Transfer (CCT) which the FG revived to relief citizens in a time of the coronavirus. Whereas, citizens from states like Lagos – which has been on lockdown for the longest period and with a huge population too – are yet to benefit anything from the FG’s palliatives programme.
But the question remains unanswered as to what percentage of the population are these scattered palliatives supposed to cater for?
Just over the weekend, there were reports in the media that the European Union (EU) has given Nigeria the sum of N21 billion with an accompanying warning that it must go directly to the Nigerian poor. And again, Nigerians can hardly trust their government to efficiently deliver on that request by the EU.
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Just as smoke dissipates into the air after a lazy attempt at a fire, the funds running into about N21 billion (as of April 7) contributed by Nigerian billionaires and the private sector driven Coalition Against Covid19 (CACOVID) is no longer being talked about. After the Minister of Information and member of the Presidential Task Force on Coronavirus, Lai Mohammed, denied that none of the funds has been received by the Federal Government, it has remained in the straits of uncertainty.
At a very crucial time that Nigerians are feeling the brunt of an inactive economy, while the recession which is about to hit us hard from the slowing economy lurks around the corner, the government still remains as unorganized and incoherent as ever.
If the full or partial lockdown around the country aimed at flattening the curve of infectivity of the coronavirus is to be effective in the least, the people will have to demand a level of accountability and due process never seen in the country so that they can remain indoors as required by the shutdown directives.
The hammer might come down too hard on all of our heads if we continue to slacken at this sacred national duty. For the poor and the wretched may begin to turn to eat up the wealthy for their survival, if we don’t buckle up.
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