Another Look at the Delay in Distributing COVID-19 Palliatives to the Needy

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Chuks Okocha interrogates the circumstances that led to discovery of COVID-19 palliatives in warehouses across the nation, the subsequent looting and destruction that followed, as a curious sideshow to the EndSARS campaigns

The looting and destruction of the various warehouses where palliatives procured by the Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID)- a private sector task force in partnership with the Federal Government, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) with the sole aim of combating Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Nigeria. The unfortunate turn of events, can best be described as self destructive or a cutting of the nose to spite the face, as it turned out to be a needless over-reaction to a problem.

The palliatives came in the form of drugs, various food items meant to augment the ravaging effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The food items and drugs where handed over to state governors for onwards distribution to the needy in the society.

The Endsars protests were not related to the criminality that manifested in the looting of these warehouses. What could be deduced from what took place was the evident lack of trust and breakdown in communication between the governors, the CaCOVID-19 panel on one and the people.

Apart from the lack of communications between the NGF and the CaCOVID, there is apparently lack of trust between the governors and the governed.

Believing that what was meant for them never got to them, as expected, apparently due to misappropriation, the people forced their way into the various warehouses to get what they believed was theirs.

Governments at all levels and leaders should endeavour to increase the level of between them and the people, while the people should as well trust their leaders for the country to move. forward. There should be accountability from various governments. Those entrusted with power should know that they hold it in trust for the people. This is the essence of government and governance

Speaking for the governors in what went wrong, the Head of Media and Information of the NGF, Abdulraque Bello Barkindo explained that states that still had palliatives in their warehouses chose to keep a strategic reserve ahead of a projected second wave of COVID-19.

He described the impression that governors were hoarding the COVID-19 palliatives as erroneous, inaccurate, mischievous and untrue. The NGF said the palliatives found in warehouses broken into in Lagos and other states were kept in storage for vulnerable citizens.

According to the NGF spokesperson, “For the avoidance of doubt, some of the palliatives had the CaCOVID stamp embossed on them, meaning that their source is unambiguous.

“As we know, CaCOVID operations are mainly domiciled in Lagos, being the headquarters of most of the public-spirited organisations, corporate bodies and individuals that came together to form the Coalition Against COVID-19; CaCOVID.

“Until mid-October, when the NGF had its last meeting, up to 10 states had not participated in the flag-off ceremonies for the distribution of palliatives in their states.

“This was because the items meant for distribution in these states had not been completely received from CaCOVID.

“Furthermore, as of a couple of weeks ago, some states were still receiving palliatives from the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development.

“The Nigeria Governors’ Forum stands for justice, improved governance and a progressive Nigeria,” he stated

CaCOVID, therefore, called for calm, amidst the looting of COVID-19 palliatives meant for distribution in various State Government warehouses across the country.

The coalition spokesman, Osita Nwasinobi said that it was deeply concerned by the recent events and urged those involved in the wanton destruction of public and private properties to immediately desist from these raids, in order to allow the states proceed with peaceful and fair distribution of these palliatives to the most vulnerable in our society.

He explained that over the past few months, the private sector through CaCOVID was working with all State Governors, the FCT Minister, and the Nigerian Governors’ Forum to procure, deliver and distribute these food relief items to almost two million most vulnerable families (over 10 million Nigerians) across the 774 LGAs in the country, as part of the private sector’s support to the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to CaCOVID, the sheer scale of this nationwide food programme and the timing of the orders and deliveries, which coincided with the lockdowns and reduced movement across the country, compelled CaCOVID to roll out distribution in a staggered manner, with states classified in three timed phases, to enable orderly delivery to the needy.

At the time CaCOVID embarked on the palliatives effort in April, he said, “we decided to procure the food directly from the manufacturers, to avoid a distortion of prices in the market. The food package was designed such that each of the nearly 2 million vulnerable families received: 10kg bag of rice, 5kg bag of garri/maize flour/semolina, 1 carton of pasta, 2 cartons of noodles, 5kg of sugar and Ikg of salt.”

Unfortunately, the very large size of the order, and the production. cycle required to meet the demand, caused delays in delivering the food items to the states in an expeditious manner; hence the resulting delay in delivery of the food palliatives by the state governors.

For instance, he explained, rice had to be milled, semolina and maize flour had to be processed, noodles and pasta had to be manufactured, and sugar had to be refined.
As such, the first deliveries could not start until June. However, as of October 2020, a sizable portion of the items had been delivered but yet to be distributed by the governors.

The report said although various states and the FCT had commenced flagoff of the distribution of the food items since early August, some could not conclude the distribution as they were yet to receive complete deliveries of the items allotted to them. In the interest of transparency and accountability, CaCOVID will, in due course be providing the full delivery schedule and flag-off dates by each state.

Giving further explanations on what went wrong, Osita Nwasinobi, said that
prior to these events, CaCOVID had worked with the states through the Nigerian Governors’ Forum to determine the number of households per state; the states and FCT to provide clean and secure warehousing for the food and that the composition of the state and local government committees (including CSOs, religious organisations, LGA Chairpersons, Ward Leaders, media representatives, security services, CaCOVID representatives) with a clear distribution guidelines to ensure equitable distribution of the food amongst the neediest.

According to the spokesperson of the CaCOVID, “Given that the states and local government authorities oversee all relief efforts in their jurisdictions and know their citizens best, we had worked with each governor and the Minister of the FCT, utilising a combination of our protocols and their existing structures and processes to ensure food items reach the intended beneficiaries. We also appointed an independent monitoring team to ensure that the items would be delivered as
intended.

“We are aware that official flagging-off and handover of the palliatives has taken place in 28 States and the FCT, and state governments have been distributing at various paces. As of today, October 26th, 2020, some states have confirmed COVID completion of their distribution while others were in the process of proceeding with the distribution before these looting took place. By these looting incidents, it there meant that some intended beneficiaries have been deprived the opportunity of benefitting from CaCOVID’s good intentions”

The group explained that in line with earlier promise, KPMG Professional Services, its external auditors are at the verge of completing the audit of all contributions from donors; as well as a listing of all medical and food items procured with these funds and stating that it will be sharing the external audit reports of the spending, alongside a full report of CaCOVID activities, including delivery and planned flag-off dates of our donations to Nigerians

CaCOVID lamented that not every warehouse in Nigeria that contains palliatives is affiliated with the CaCOVID donation, given that the states themselves, the Federal Government and other organisations have also made donations.

In light of these unsavoury developments, the CaCOVID appealed for calm, and for States to be allowed to proceed with their palliatives distribution peacefully, even as each state will undoubtedly keep its citizens abreast of the distribution process to ensure transparency, accountability, and equity.

QUOTE

The very large size of the order, and the production. cycle required to meet the demand, caused delays in delivering the food items to the states in an expeditious manner; hence the resulting delay in delivery of the food palliatives by the state governors. Rice had to be milled, semolina and maize flour had to be processed, noodles and pasta had to be manufactured, and sugar had to be refined.

As such, the first deliveries could not start until June. However, as of October 2020, a sizable portion of the items had been delivered but yet to be distributed by the governors. Although various states and the FCT had commenced flagoff of the distribution of the food items since early August, some could not conclude the distribution as they were yet to receive complete deliveries of the items allotted to them. In the interest of transparency and accountability, CaCOVID will, in due course be providing the full delivery schedule and flag-off dates by each state