…Say Action Aimed at Ensuring Transparency in Distribution Process …Insist Proper Management of COVID-19 Donations Critical to Sustainable Development Nigeria’s leading civil society groups have deployed 1000 monitors to evaluate the processes and impact of the various palliatives across the country. The groups said the deployment is aimed at ensuring transparency in the distribution process
…Say Action Aimed at Ensuring Transparency in Distribution Process
…Insist Proper Management of COVID-19 Donations Critical to Sustainable Development
Nigeria’s leading civil society groups have deployed 1000 monitors to evaluate the processes and impact of the various palliatives across the country. The groups said the deployment is aimed at ensuring transparency in the distribution process and to ensure the measures reach the end users.
Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA Resource Centre) in collaboration with the Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARD-C) deployed the monitors last weekend across nine focal States and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT)
They were also mandated to monitor and evaluate the COVID-19 palliatives and utilization of the various intervention funds.
Nigeria had seen a string of intervention funds ranging from private donations to channelled local and international funds estimated to be in billions of naira in cash and other materials, including food and medicare.
The civil right groups said that despite the generous donations and on-going disbursements there has been no transparency framework at the Federal and State levels on fund utilization fuelling a public mill of rumours.
As at last week, funds raised at home stood at N25.8billion apart from the N21billion European Union (EU) support and donations material for China. The groups said public knowledge on the expenditure of COVID-19 donations is critical to sustainable development.
A joint statement signed in Lagos by HEDA’ s Chairman, Mr Olanrewaju Suraju and his WARD-C counterpart, Dr. Abiola Akiode-Afolabi the volunteers will produce a comprehensive report covering strategic areas using jointly developed questionaire tools designed to meet global best practices.
Respondents in the selected states of Ogun, Enugu, Osun, Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Lagos, Borno, Kano and Kaduna States as well as the FCT, Abuja are critical stakeholders including but not limited to health workers. The monitors include women, People Living With Diasbilities, (PLWD) and media practitioners.
“The continued spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria has informed several political, economic, social and corporate actions including the lockdown of some states and changes in Nigeria’s political-economy to reflect new realities. This has been followed by funds being disbursed to meet public needs. It is important that Nigerians ensure the funds meet the target audience,” the two groups said.
HEDA and WARD-C stated that “Citizens have had to resort to rumours, hearsays, fake news and unofficial sources for information on the relief packages and governments’ spending. Also, videos confirming reported anomalies in the distribution of relief materials and economic packages are all over the social media”
They observed that there are several unanswered issues around the hazard allowance and the general wellbeing of health workers.
The groups said they stepped in to fill the information gap as well as monitor and evaluate loose ends with a view to engaging critical stakeholders on the outcomes.
“Many Nigerians have faced untoward hardship since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly since government started to restrict movement and lockdown States. Yet, reports from the field also indicate that despite the huge donations and support to government, many deserving and indigent Nigerians are yet to receive any real relief or support. It would then amount to great injustice to keep people in the dark or fail to publicly account for the spending, particularly in a country where corruption remains rife,” Suraju and Abiola Akiode stated.
“Our objective is not all about pointing accusing fingers after the deed has been done, but to assist the people and the government alike in identifying red flags or opportunity for corruption in the process; and in cases where the funds are already diverted or mismanaged by corrupt elements in government, ensure that the looted public funds are recovered and perpetrators adequately prosecuted.
They said further “This is why we are not just evaluating the impact, we are equally monitoring implementation through the tools that will be administered by the volunteers.”
The groups noted that women and PWDs are most affected by the lockdown informed by the COVID-19 pandemic and any corruption in the process or failure to provide the expected relief and welfare packages will spell doom for many women and other vulnerable groups.
They referred to the African Union Youth Regional Consultation Report, 2018 which noted that: “All forms of corruption embody gender discrimination and inequalities which further disempowers women and children. The time spent by women and girls on unpaid care work, for example, is increased by limited access and inadequate provision of key infrastructure such as energy, water and sanitation facilities. Over seventy percent of the burden of collecting water for households falls on women and girls who spend 40 billion hours collecting water annually. When funds meant for social services and welfare are embezzled or mismanaged, women are disproportionately affected.”
Now that most people across the country are having to stay at home, women and vulnerable groups bear even higher burden of providing household care in a predominantly Nigerian patriarchal system especially in the context of limited resources due to the current COVID-19 situation.
The groups said:”Without an effective intervention and relief packages, women will bear the most brunt. This is why we must pull resources together to ensure that the palliatives and intervention funds are monitored, evaluated and stakeholders are effectively engaged.”
The reports of the monitoring and evaluation, with its findings, observations and recommendations will be made available for public engagement and addressed to affected governments and agencies while suspected cases of corruption will be forwarded to the relevant anti-corruption agencies for monitoring investigation and prosecution.
A non-governmental group, Save the Poor Coalition (SPC) has kicked against proposal to engage a task force to coordinate the distribution of Federal Government palliatives for Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic lockdown.
This is coming on the heels of a series of allegations that the handling of distribution of the palliatives by the Ministry Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development and the office of the National Social Investment Programme (N-SIP) have been lopsided and not reaching the targeted audience.
Chairman Senate Committee on Army, Senator Ali Ndume also on Tuesday in Bornu State while calling for the disbandment of the presidential committee responsible for the distribution alleged that most of those benefitting from the palliatives do not deserve them.
But in a swift reaction, the group in a statement jointly signed in Abuja on Thursday by its National Coordinator, Mr Emeka Enechi and National Secretary, Mr Adamu Maikasuwa, faulted the claims of Senator Ndume and others on the palliatives.
The group insisted that the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development and the office of the National Social Investment Programme (N-SIP) should be left to continue the exercise.
“It is our considered view that we need a ministry like that of Humanitarian Affairs and other relevant ministries, state and local governments and private sector to mobilise all hands in order to lift our people, not Task Force.”
The modality used by the federal government in disbursing the national conditional cash transfers to beneficiaries has come under heavy criticisms, leading to what many termed as a ‘North-South dichotomy’ in the distribution of palliatives meant for millions of indigent Nigerian households struggling to survive the debilitating effects of COVID-19 pandemic.
An unsettling report by the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) with figures allegedly obtained from the National Cash Transfer Office (NTCO) revealed much unevenness, and imbalance in the cash transfers scheme and its distribution along national fault lines.
While the beneficiaries from the north, excluding Borno had reportedly gulped much of the transfers, states in the South reportedly had little to show. Lagos–Nigeria’s epicentre of the pandemic, Ogun and Delta were also reported to have had no beneficiary as at April 9 when the infographics were released.
Of the 1,126,211 households reported to have benefited from the transfers, 561,738 had come from Northwest; Northeast had 109,448 even though Borno was yet to be captured; Northcentral–321,434; Southwest–37,904; Southsouth–67,696 and Southeast–27,977 households.
More worrisome to many observers is that President Muhammadu Buhari’s home state of Katsina reportedly had 133,227 beneficiaries (highest) which is just about the number of households–133,577 that had purportedly benefitted from the scheme across the entire southern states –17 in all.
It would be recalled that President Buhari had in his March 30 nationwide broadcast, directed the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs to embark on the payment of N20,000 conditional cash transfer to poor households and the most vulnerable in the country to help them cope with the effects of disruptions occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The list of eligible beneficiaries was said to be 2.6 million. The President, however, in his broadcast on Monday, 13th April, directed the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs to expand the list to 3.6 million households.
Though the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Mrs. Sadiya Farouk has said Nigerians with more than N5,000 bank balance and those who spend more than N100 on recharge cards would be excluded from palliatives, the cash transfers, despite the modalities as announced by her haven’t reflected a national spread, raising concerns in many quarters.
“Well, we have three options. One, we are going to use the national social register that we already have. Two, we are also going to focus on the urban poor as I mentioned by using their verified BVN accounts to get them, that is, people that have an account balance of N5, 000 and below.
“We are also using the mobile networks, to know people that top up the credit units for their phones with maybe N100 or less. These are people that we consider to be poor and vulnerable,” Farouk told journalists in Abuja.
Though, the solution to the COVID-19-contagion and its ensuing economic crisis has sort off re-awakened a sense of national unity in countries around the world, stakeholders lament that the same cannot be said of the manner at which the Nigerian government has so far handled the critical palliatives meant for millions of poor people and highly vulnerable households.