All is not well across the country with the distribution of palliatives meant to cushion the hardship brought on Nigerians by the federal government’s removal of fuel subsidy.While some state governments had already gone ahead with the distribution of mostly food items to mostly vulnerable Nigerians, others are still at the planning stage.
A few state governors have taken a further step to acquire fleets of vehicles to provide free transportation, but the scheme covers only few routes and the services are inadequate.
Also, for states that added monthly financial succour in the range of N5,000 and N10,000, the beneficiaries are largely civil servants, and the sums are too small to make an impact
In some states, as many as seven residents are paired to share a bag of rice distributed at the ward levels, with beneficiaries saying it is too small to make an impact on their situation.
In Kaduna State, for instance, residents are still waiting to receive their palliatives from the state government as the supplier of rice was yet to supply the commodity to the government.
An official of the government who pleaded anonymity told our correspondent:” Right now we got only 30 to 40% of our rice supply from the supplier. You know all the state governments are requesting rice and the demand is high. By tomorrow Friday we will get an update. The scarcity of rice is affecting us.”
Kaduna State Governor Uba Sani had said the palliative funds will be utilized in three phases, with the first phase devoted to distribution of food items to households.
The governor said the second phase will take care of transportation and assistance to small holder farmers, and Micro, Small and Medium Scale enterprises.
Sani said the third phase will be devoted to the resuscitation of the locomotive train from Zaria to Kaduna, and Sabon Tasha to Kafanchan, all in a bid to ease transportation for citizens
Meanwhile, some of the civil society groups whose opinion was sampled said they are patiently waiting to see how the first phase of N2 billion will be executed.
In Imo State, sources said each electoral ward, comprising about 20 villages, received 10 bags of rice. Imo has 305 wards.
One of the sources who pleaded anonymity said the state government bought 65,000 bags of rice, noodles and sachet tomato paste.
Seven civil servants were allegedly paired per bag while in communities, 10 persons shared a quarter of a bag.
Efforts to get the reaction of the state government were abortive as the chief press secretary, Oguwike Nwachuku, said the Secretary to the state government, Chief Cosmas Iwu was in a better position to address the issues.
However, the executive director of Don’t Give Up, David Ejiogu, said the palliatives distribution was a disaster that brewed animosity rather than bonding.
According to him, some local governments were yet to take delivery of their items.
However, some groups like churches have received and shared their palliatives.
A community leader, Ozonnaya Anyanwu, lamented that the palliatives amounted to reducing people as vulnerable, with some pensioners going home with fewer than five cups of rice.
A woman leader who pleaded anonymity said several women were unhappy with the palliatives distribution because it was not enough for a family meal.
Sokoto state government has been applauded in expanding the federal government N2bn loan for palliatives given to each state.
So far, a substantial amount of the loan was used to purchase bags of rice and grains already distributed to the people.
A member of the palliatives distribution committee in the state, who spoke with our correspondent on the condition of anonymity, because he was not authorized to speak on behalf of the committee, disclosed that a certain share of the money was also used to provide buses and taxis for commercial services.
“You would recall that a larger audience beyond Sokoto state watched the live transmission of Vice President Kashim Shettima commissioning the commercial buses and as well flagging off distribution of palliatives to residents of the state.
“All these took place as part of the activities lined up to celebrate Governor Ahmed Aliyu’s 100 days in office, and beneficiaries are not only members of the ruling party. Or, how do we restrict passengers of our inter-state vehicles to only party members or Sokoto state Indigenes alone?” he asked.
“Part of the N2 billion loan for palliatives was used to buy 50 Toyota 18-seater buses and 20 Toyota Camry cars for commercial transportation, under the supervision of Sokoto State Transport Company.
“The buses will ply inter-state and local transportation routes while the Camry will be reserved for only women transportation within the state.”
Similarly, the vice president flagged off the distribution of 57,000 bags of 50kg of rice and 26,000 bags of 100kg of millet to cushion the effect of fuel subsidy removal and to ease the current economic hardship in the society.
The state government, in collaboration with the Federal Government, also approved the purchase and distribution of 44,000 bags of maize.
In Gombe State, Governor Inuwa Yahaya purchased and distributed foodstuffs to the needy from the N2 billion loan for palliatives.
In addition to the foodstuffs, the governor distributed some agricultural inputs like fertilizer.
LEADERSHIP Friday reports that the flag off of the distribution held in Dadinkowa at the Palace of Emir of Yamaltu.
In his remarks, the governor explained that over 450, 000 beneficiaries across the state’s 11 local government areas were targeted to receive the palliatives, and during the closing ceremony at the palace of the emir of Gombe, he claimed that so far about 420, 000 out of the target were given the foodstuffs.
Our correspondent reports that the governor also commenced the payment of N10, 000 each to the state civil servants including the local government workers as their own palliatives.
However, some residents alleged that aside from the civil servants that benefit from the N10,000 palliative allowances, the government targeted members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) more in the distribution of the foodstuffs.
In Niger State, Governor Mohammed Bago announced a multiparty committee in each of the political wards to share N10m per ward in rural and suburban local government areas while urban wards in Suleja, Kontagora, Bida and Minna shared N20 million each.
By inference each of the remaining 21 local government areas got N110m, while Kontagora, Suleja , Bida and Chanchaga (Minna) got N220 million.
The governor said the various committees must purchase food items that the people wanted, not necessary grains.
He declared three days last week for the sharing and threatened to “jail anybody who diverts the money or food Items.”
LEADERSHIP Friday reports that some of the beneficiaries complained of receiving just a pack of Spaghetti, Macaroni or few cups of rice.
A resident of Barikin Sale Minna, Mallam Mohammed Musa, said, “I was at work. When I returned I was told they brought just two packs of Spaghetti; you can imagine me with a family of 20.”
A youth leader Isah Musa said the intention of the state government may be genuine but what was shared was not enough for the people
Meanwhile the state government said though it took delivery of N2 billion, the food items were worth N1 billion
He said the state will purchase 200 buses which will provide free transport for students and at subsidised rates for civil servants. The State Transport Authority is to manage the buses.
As part of plans to remedy the impact of fuel subsidy removal, the Bauchi State Government procured 88,988 bags of 25kg rice for distribution to citizens.
The rice cost the state government N2 billion.
LEADERSHIP Friday findings indicate that already, the committee Governor Bala Mohammed set up under his deputy, Auwal Jatau, for the distribution of the palliatives had started receiving the delivery of the rice for distribution to deserving citizens.
Similarly, the state government distributed 30 units of 18-seater buses to ease hikes in transport fare.
Authorities in Bauchi also designed strategies to offset unpaid gratuities to both state and local government pensioners, pay civil servants leave grants and pay transportation allowance to students in tertiary institutions.
For Kebbi state, the sharing has yet to start as the state governor, Nasir Idris, is still planning how best to distribute the goods.
During his 100 days in office celebration, he said since he received the funds his government has been strategising on how best the funds could reach all and sundry.
“We must set up a committee that will purchase grains and other foodstuffs which will be distributed to all people in the state,” the governor said.
He called on the people of the state to exercise patience with the government as the goods will reach them soon.
The Kano state government has established a high powered committee in the state, headed by the Secretary to the State Government, Dr Baffa Bichi, with the chief of staff, head of service, five commissioners and some advisers to the state governor serving as members, to oversee the process of distribution of palliatives in the state.
Beneficiaries are derived from the Kano state government’s social register provided by the Ministry of Budget Planning and Social Services. The government intends to reach out to 500,000 households in all the 44 Local Government Areas of the state.
This information was revealed to newsmen by the SSG who revealed that there are also compliance committees set up at the Local Government levels as well as the 448 Registration Units of the 44 local governments.
“Not everybody can benefit from the palliatives, but those in the lower social ladder will surely benefit from what has been planned.
“The governor has since issued a warning to all political office holders to desist from diverting the palliatives or favouring those close to them as the government will take punitive measures on anyone found in that act,” the SSG added.
Kwara State government used the entire N2 billion palliatives money to buy rice for distribution to the vulnerable members of the public.
The palliatives committee has since commenced the distribution of the rice packaged in 10kg bags to 250,000 beneficiaries in the first phase of the exercise.
A member of the committee who was a former chairperson of the National Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) in the state, Hajiya Binta Mora, told LEADERSHIP in Ilorin yesterday that the committee had so far covered 10 local government areas.
In what was an attempt to ensure non-partisanship, fairness and equity, Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq had on August 22 inaugurated the 12-person committee to coordinate the distribution of the rice.
Some residents who spoke with LEADERSHIP thanked the government for the palliatives.
They, however, called on the government to do something to bring down the skyrocketing cost of food items as a permanent solution to the hardship occasioned by the fuel subsidy removal.
Since the removal of fuel subsidy with the attendant consequences of the policy, Borno State Governor Babagana Umara Zulum has been distributing bags of rice, beans, groundnut oil, clothes and cash, among others, to residents of various local government areas of Borno State.
The governor recently spent five days in southern part of the state where he went round the local government areas for the distribution of palliatives in trucks loads.
Governor Zulum had, on August 1, 2023, while launching a new phase of palliatives’ distribution, announced a target of 300,000 households each, with six persons which will come to 1.8 million individuals.
Governor Ahmadu Fintiri has shared 60,000 25kg bags of rice to the people of the state.
The committee members said the elite are sidelined in its template.
To reduce hardship on people, he said, already government has commenced payment of special allowances to civil servants and pensioners, and distributed nearly 100 trucks of high quality fertilizer to workers and farmers
The governor bought Innoson buses at the cost of over N1 billion to improve the transportation system in the state.
The buses are to be leased through Public Private Partnership for the government to recover funds used in purchasing the buses.
In Benue State, residents observed that while others are happy with the steps taken by Governor Hyacinth Alia in the distribution of the palliatives, others were lamenting that the steps taken favoured a particular section of people.
A rice farmer, who identified himself as Denen Ayem, said the distribution was urban centred. He called on the governor to use part of the money to purchase farm inputs and share it to farmers across the 23 local government areas.
The deputy chief press secretary to Governor Bassey Otu of Cross River State, Mr. Darlington Edem said the implementation of palliatives was not restricted to members of ruling All Progressives Congress but to all households across the 18 LGAs in the state.
Edem stated that so far state government had formed the palliatives committee headed by secretary to state government Prof Anthony Owan Enoh, with members of the committee drawn from market women, student leaders, religious and traditional rulers, among others.
In Akwa Ibom state, LEADERSHIP gathered that the state administration also augmented the N2bn loan package with additional N1 billion, including more bags of rice to go round the 2,272 villages spread across the 31 Local Government Areas.
While flagging- off the distribution September 6, at a government warehouse in his village, Ikot Ekpene Udo, Nsit Ubium LGA, the governor explained that each village of the villages would get 40 bags, and warned those in charge not to loot or divert the items for personal use.
But checks by our correspondent revealed widespread complaints of diversion of the palliatives in most of the LGAs, allegedly by the village councils led by respective village heads.
In Lagos State, the governor, Bababjide Sanwo-Olu, had since flagged off the distribution of various palliative items targeted to reach at least 500,000 vulnerable residents.
Governor Sanwo-Olu, at the flag-off held at the Lagos House, Alausa, Ikeja, said the distribution would be done in phases to be handled by a special committee set up for effective distribution.
With the move, over 2,500 Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) involved in bag manufacturing, food aggregation, packaging, and logistics, while over 25,000 employees of the MSMEs will be impacted.
Two methods were used in the distribution, which include: bulk food items (50kg rice, 50kg Garri and 100kg Beans) for groups, and food boxes (10kg Rice, 5kg Garri, and 5kg Beans) for individual vulnerable households.
On behalf of the beneficiaries at ceremony for the flag- off of the distribution, Mrs Josephine Omolola, vice chairman, People Living With Disability, PLWD, commended the governor for the laudable programme
Osun N2bn Palliatives Fund Intact – Govt
The Osun State commissioner for information and public enlightenment, Mr Kolapo Alimi said the N2bn money is kept in safe custody to guard against the abuses that featured prominently in the past.
He maintained that the Adeleke administration is carefully thinking how to utilize the fund especially when it is not a free gift.
Alimi did not disclose when and how the fund will be utilized, but noted that the Adeleke administration understands the tough situation that the removal of fuel subsidy imposed on the people and is working within available resources to cushion the impact.
The Ekiti State government has said the N2bn palliatives loan will be deployed to empower small scale business owners.
The commissioner for information, Hon. Taiwo Olatunbosun told LEADERSHIP in Ado Ekiti that the fund will also be used for other things that will impact the life of Ekiti people.
The data for that has been collated and it is going to be given to beneficiaries within Ekiti, for them to be self-sustainable and self-reliant. The process is ongoing. As for immediate disbursement I can assure you the money will be invested into the economic growth through participation of people and some other areas of needs that can impact positively on the people”.
A public servant in the state, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the foodstuffs were only distributed to low cadre workers.
Edo Commences Free Bus Ride
Edo State government has commenced free bus rides on all routes operated by the state-owned Edo City Transport Limited, (ECTS), as part of efforts to ameliorate the impact of the fuel subsidy removal by the federal government.
The buses deployed for the free ride for Edo residents are pulled from the Edo City Transport Limited, (ECTS)
The commissioner for communication and Orientation, Chris Nehikhare, said: “We have started a free bus ride in the last four days in which we have recorded 50, 000 passengers driven for free within Edo state.
“We are also updating our social register where we can intervene for the poorest of the poor which is almost complete. Yes, the federal government sent some rice which has been transported to local government areas across the three senatorial districts for distribution and the social welfare register will help us to identify those that are deserving.”
Senate Carpets NLC Over Alleged N100m Palliatives
Meanwhile, the Senate yesterday reacted to the allegation of a purported allocation of N100 million to its members made by the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), describing it as strange, ludicrous and unthinkable.
A statement from the office of the chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Publicity, Yemi Adaramodu, wondered what the peddlers of the falsehood wanted to achieve by it.
He said, “There is no N100 million for a legislator anywhere. From which budget is this coming from? How, where and when? This is another satanic ploy of a miserable gang of media and political dark angels to bring the Nigerian parliament into disrepute and pitch the legislators against the Nigerian public.”
“We believe that the public is aware that popular democracy is an anathema to some unpatriotic political mercenaries, hence their systemic blackmail of the parliament, which undoubtedly is the sole democracy and sovereignty.
“We urge the public and especially, the Nigerian workers, to disregard these unscrupulous pontiffs. The legislators, who are chosen among the masses of the people, shall certainly be with the people and eternally for the people. The National Assembly shall not hesitate, henceforth to take constitutional and legal actions against these irreverent merchants of rumours and ill will against legislators. The National Assembly should not be taken as a political scapegoat.”
He added that if the NLC wanted to serve as the conscience of Nigerian workers, it must purge itself of “catalytic political voyages that can truncate our democracy.”