© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
REPORT: Mixed reactions trail distribution of palliatives in Kwara
By Abiodun Jamiu
CITIZENS of Kwara State have complained about the recent distribution of palliatives by the government to cushion the effect of the lockdown declared in the state, as a way of preventing the spread of COVID-19. Many believe the palliative is too small to last them throughout the lockdown period.
The State Government had declared a total lockdown in the state as part of measures to contain the spread of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) disease.
Residents interviewed by our reporter expressed displeasure at the “insufficient food items” distributed by the government.
A fish seller is popularly known as Iya Eleja at Okelele area of Ilorin, the state capital, who also sells cooked rice at a makeshift space, explained how the lockdown severely affected her sales. She complained about the quantity given to her household.
“When Governor Abdulrahman announced on the radio that rice would be shared among the aged, we were happy. In fact, I discussed it with that woman,” she said, pointing at another woman selling her wares few meters away.
According to her, sales have dropped since the lockdown became effective, stating that the six cups of rice she prepares daily would not even be patronised because residents were staying at home.
“People are not coming out and the little sales I make is what I used to feed the children who are staying with me.”
Another resident of Ilorin, who preferred to be called Baba Lekan who told our reporter that he alongside other residents received the palliatives, but noted that the items did not reach many residents.
“We are really grateful to the government for these food items. “We got the foodstuff as distributed across each zone. From Sherikikaun, Alagbado, Sobi, to Harmony, this is what is given to us. We are asked to stay at home, but these palliatives cannot cushion the effect of the hardship. It would not be enough,” he emphasised.
Dr. Haliru Yahaya Ndanusa, Kwara State Chairman of the Palliatives Committee, announced that commodities for the first phase include 19,400 pieces of 10kg bags of rice; 19,400 of 5kg of semovita; 1,940 packs of spaghetti; 9700 packs of salt; 4,850 packs of sugar; and 38,800 (1 litre) of vegetable oil.
He said that garri (cassava flakes) and tomato purée donated to the government would also be distributed, stressing that nobody who is qualified had less than a bag of the items given. “Everyone concerned, as picked by the committee, deserves one bag of the item,” he said.
But Jamiu Rukayat, another resident of the city who sells cooking ingredients, also complained about the ‘meager items’ she received.
“Most of us are low-income earners. If we did not move out a day, we would starve. Our thought when we were asked to stay at home was that the government would provide for us. But it seems the government is only concerned about themselves. It is not that the food distributed was enough, in fact, what 20 people are sharing is not enough for two kids,” Rukayat said.
“Imagine people like us who will only get to feed when we go out are unable to, it would even be fatal than the virus.”
However, other residents argued that despite making efforts to benefit from the palliatives distributed, they did not get any.
Rukayat Ogundipe, a resident of Offa expressed displeasure at the palliatives distributed, claiming that despite putting her name down, she did not get any package.
“After writing our names for Abdulrahman’s foodstuffs, the women leader came back to us that the food is meant solely for the aged women in the ward. But we heard on Radio that the poor, widows and women are entitled to the palliatives,” Ogundipe said.
She also added that despite the emphasis on the aged women, the food was not enough as hoodlums cornered the food at the ward level.
“A bag of rice (10 Kg) was given for 21 people. How did they want people to share it? Is that what they want us to feed on with our kids throughout the lockdown?” she asked rhetorically.
This was corroborated by Abubakar Ahmed who disclosed that the lockdown has rendered everyone vulnerable.
Ahmed, a motor vehicle spare parts dealer at Ipata Oloje Market, Ilorin, said: “I have not been able to go shopping and the little that remains with me has been expended on food. Now that the government is sharing food items, we are all vulnerable and cannot afford to start picking those who would benefit or not.”
“We realized that the food items won’t be enough, so we brainstormed on what to do. We agreed that it should be distributed among the members of the household since the rice would not even feed a person. So, we distributed it among the women in the house.”
While the state government argued that it was not being partisan on the distribution of palliatives across wards level, Mudashir Afolabi, a resident of Offa, alleged that the distribution process was based on political affiliation. According to him, a resident who is not known at ward meetings would not receive the items.
“Although they said it is not partisan. But if someone who is not affiliated to the ruling party went to where it is being distributed, they would hardly get the items. Those who are collecting at ward level distribute the item along party affiliation,” he alleged.
Corroborating Afolabi’s argument, Abiodun Ajala, another resident of Offa, alleged that the palliatives were distributed along political leaning by those entrusted with the distribution. Ajala who commended the initiative stressed that the government needs to brace the pool to cover more vulnerable
“It is all politics. If you witnessed how the items are being shared, you would agree the women leaders are selective. We have been asked to stay at home, they should at least provide what we would be eating,” he said.
“I believe the governor is trying, but those distributing the items are sabotaging his effort. People are lamenting. There is hunger in the land, the governor should tell the committee to cover more vulnerable.”
However, Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq, Governor of Kwara State, while reacting to the insufficiency of the items, particularly the viral video allegedly showing poor quantity of palliatives meant to cushion the effect of the stay at home directive, said the state government cannot feed everyone.
“Like the Chairman of the Palliatives Committee, His Royal Highness said, it (the palliatives) is not meant for everybody in the society,” Abdulrasaq.
“The government cannot feed everybody. That’s why we’ve left the market open, civil servants are getting their salary. Markets are open, so is the pharmacy. You can get there and buy things. To get a bag of 50-kilogram rice for every Kwaran would cost us about N60 billion. There are certain categories of people entitled to these palliatives. Not everyone in all the wards should share it, including civil servants. There’s a distinction.”
Dr. Haliru Yahaya Ndanusa, Chairman of the Committee on Palliatives, had announced that palliatives would be distributed at the various wards, targeting residents that are worst hit by the lockdown.
Traditional rulers, religious leaders and community-based organisations in various wards were assigned to oversee the distribution.
The categories of people identified are the aged, the physically challenged, women, widows, and widowers who are sole breadwinners of their families and artisans who are dependent on daily earnings.
In Nigeria, unregistered household enterprises comprise a significant portion of the economy, accounting for about 65 per cent of the GDP, according to the Bank of Industry. Like Iya Eleja, the total lockdown declared by the state government has grossly affected many daily income earners who live from hand-to-mouth.