Victim Support Fund is more transparent, accountable because we prioritise data collection – Toyosi Akerele-Ogunsiji

SAVE for the United Nations and few other international agencies, Victims Support Fund (VSF) is the singular organization that has supported the victims of insurgency in Northeast with a greater level of transparency and accountability, using data, says Toyosi Akerele-Ogunsiji, Chairperson of the special task force against COVID-19.

In an exclusive interview with The ICIR at her Lagos office, Akerele-Ogunsiji said the initiative spent about N1 billion and another N800 million in the first and second phases of the intervention initiative.

According to her, the achievement of the VSF within a short time can be attributed to the attention paid to numbers. “We are breaking it into granular details. So where is the 1 billion? Where did it come from? What was it used for? To whom did it go? Who are the beneficiaries? If you asked me to provide you the data of the people that collected our food items in the local government, .. I’ll tell you.” 

The reason Nigerians no longer trust their leaders is that leaders often cannot give an account of the commonwealth in their custody, she added.

According to Akerele-Ogunsiji, VSF has donated thousands of Personal Protective Equipment kits, food, and medical items to Nigerians in Internally Displaced Persons’ (IDP) camps spread across the northeastern part of the country and other states of the country.

Established in 2014 with the mission to provide economic empowerment for victims of terrorism, VSF has also provided over 150,000 pesticides and fertilisers to farmers in Borno and other parts of the Northeast during the COVID-19 period, she said.

The distributed PPE consists of 275,000 surgical face masks, 160,440 hand sanitisers, 1,870  suits,  1,870 protective goggles, and 1,870 safety boots for health workers who are in the frontline of the battle against the novel Coronavirus.

Though the government initiative initially targeted states in the Northeast, in the second phase, it has expanded its coverage to states in the Southern region of the country such as Ogun, Lagos, Delta, and others.

According to the 2017 Harvard University graduate, sixty-eight thousand nine hundred and seventy-six (68,976) beneficiaries across five (5) states in the South-South and South-East Nigeria were identified and selected.  The five states are Edo, Delta, Enugu, Ebonyi, and Ekiti States.

In Delta, VSF donated about 50,000 facemasks, 30,000 bottles of hand sanitizers 250 ml while Enugu and Ebonyi also received 30,000 face masks and 30,000 hand sanitizers each.

“In all the states, we paid attention to a few key things; Number one, what is the existing measure that the governor has already taken by themselves to respond to the pandemic. Are these responsible state governments that already recognised the importance of being in an emergency situation and taking concrete action to respond to the pandemic. 

“Number two, do these states actually need help? Number three, is are these states in need of augmentation and consolidation of processes they have already set and put in place so that we can have something to build upon?”.

    As of September, Akerele-Ogunsiji disclosed that the initiative has covered 12 states out of 19 slated for the project.

    She noted that the initiative partnered credible non-governmental organisations in the respective states to check for accountability and transparency and also monitor the processes of distribution by the state government. 

    “In Delta State, we handed over to the chairman of the hospital’s board of directors and then all the food items were received by Mr. Mofe, who’s the commander of special duties in the state were received by the secretary to state government. Mr.Chris Igie. We made sure that we partnered with local NGOs because they are closer to the ground. They also work within communities. We also want checks and balance”

    “So when I make a speech or doing an official handover to a governor, I will tell him the item we donated to your state today is worth hundred and something million and those items are five thousand bags over 10 kg rice five thousand bags of 10 kg beans 50,000 pieces of face masks. The reason I do that is that citizens are watching it. It is all over the media if the government doesn’t distribute it, the citizens have the information to hold the government accountable and say ‘but the chairperson said that this is what we got, why are you lying?’ The second reason why I also make sure that we do that is so that citizens can go and do the mathematics and say face mask is fifty thousand, hand sanitiser is so so amount, rice, beans, Garri, vegetable, oil and this. Does it amount to the amount we said we spent on each State?”

    Samad Uthman is a multimedia journalist with the International Centre for Investigative Reporting. He tweets @sarmerdk2 and can be shot through [email protected]

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