An unseemly sight was witnessed early this week in Lagos, as the Federal Government declared lockdown began in earnest – trucks bearing supposed palliatives from the Lagos State government parked in some streets and attendants threw bread at crowded bystanders.
It is not only the reduction that these Lagos residents have been subjected to by throwing bread at them that seemed insulting the most, but the fact that people had to gather in a disorderly manner where the Coronavirus (COVID-19) could be further transmitted. This is counterproductive enough.
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Not too long after, just yesterday in Abuja, Bashir Ahmad released pictures from the presidency where cash was being handed out to some pre-selected residents in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Again, the rules of social distancing which the Federal Government (FG) is trying to enforce with the lockdown in three states was not being observed. Encouraging people to gather in groups in a territory which has one of the highest reported COVID-19 cases in the country is at best irresponsible.
Much later, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadia Umar-Farouq, confirmed that the N20,000 which is being disbursed covers four months’ stipends for the beneficiaries from January to April. This disbursement is being counted as part of the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) programme introduced in 2016 as part of the administration’s Social Investment Programme (SIP) paid to the poorest Nigerians mostly in rural communities.
Previously, this scheme has been criticized largely as a sham which was cooked up by a corrupt sect in top government cadre where money is either being embezzled by officials or being shared only to party loyalists. Now, Nigerians have started asking questions again about who qualifies for these CCTs and how the list of beneficiaries was gathered in the first place. It is an interesting development now as many more Nigerians are affected by the economic downturn more than ever.
Ideally, like it is being done in countries like Canada, United Kingdom, United States, South Korea and many other countries already, an Act of Parliament should be passed which would appropriate funds for these emergency measures and cash payments. This Act of Parliament by the National Assembly would have equally given legal backing to the moratorium being granted by the government on its credit facilities to Nigerians as well as make the lockdowns in states legally enforceable. So far, no evidence has shown that such an Act of Parliament is being put together by the legislatures.
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In the related vein, sharing raw cash to supposed beneficiaries of COVID-19 relief is a testament to the government’s drive to migrating a majority of the Nigerian population to electronic banking platforms.
Other groups have come forth to not only critique the entire hurried process of sharing palliatives to Nigerians affected by the recent economic downturn due to the Coronavirus, they are also accusing the FG of avoiding paper trail with the distribution of the incentives.
Particularly, SERAP, a civil society organisation, said this morning that it is studying information suggesting that funds meant to be shared among the country’s poorest and most vulnerable people are being pocketed by some government officials.
Like every Nigerians should do too, SERAP is leading by example as it has promised to hold the government to account and fight to expose whoever is stealing from the poor and vulnerable.
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