Chuks Okocha in Abuja
Members of the private sector-led Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) have defended state governors over the allegation of hoarding of palliatives, insisting that the allegation was false.
This was contained in a document dated October 24, 2020, which was made available to journalists in Abuja at the weekend.
The document was signed by the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of First Bank Plc, Dr. Sola Adeduntan.
In the document, Adeduntan who is member of Steering Committee of CACOVID, disclosed that CACOVID had “successfully provided health facilities, diagnostic kits and medications to all the states and Abuja,” because they realised that the pandemic has destroyed the economic power of most Nigerians.
“We set up the coalition to pull resources together to support the government to combat Covid -19 pandemic.
“We decided to provide food to 1.7 million most vulnerable families across the country and we put substantial resources behind the initiative.
“The food items we intend to purchase included rice, pasta, noodles, garri, sugar and salt, etc.
“The challenge was how to purchase those items worth about N15 billion without driving inflation.
“We had to contract this out to various manufacturers and that took time for them to deliver the goods to us.
“It was only in September and early October that we handed the goods over to the various state governments and FCT.
“It’s therefore a fallacy that the state governments or Dangote have hoarded those foodstuffs,” he said.
Mr. Osita Nwasinobi, had in another document issued on behalf of CACOVID, advised those involved in the wanton destruction of public and private property to “desist from these raids, in order to allow the states to proceed with peaceful and fair distribution of these palliatives to the neediest and most vulnerable in our society.”
According to him, CACOVID had been working with state governors, the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), to procure and distribute food items to about two million most vulnerable families (and about 10 million Nigerians) across the 774 local government areas in the country, as part of the private sector’s support to the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
He explained that CACOVID members decided to procure the food directly from the manufacturers, to avoid a distortion of prices in the market.
Nwasinobi said the sheer scale of the 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.
“The food package was designed such that each of the nearly two million vulnerable families received 10kg bag of rice, 5kg bag of garri/maize flour/semolina, one carton of pasta, two 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, 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 flag-off 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.”
He explained that official flagging-off and handover of the palliatives had taken place in 28 states and the FCT, adding that state governments have been distributing at various paces.
“It is very unfortunate that various states, including states that have concluded the distribution of their allocations, are seeing their warehouses and other premises being raided.
“It must also be noted 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, we would like to appeal 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.
“We urge all to be law-abiding, to be our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, and to end the raiding of these warehouses.
“The coalition disavows, and urges the public to disregard, any unauthorised sources of information regarding the current issue”, Nwasinobi stated.