Adebayo Obajemu

Human and Environmental Devopnment Agenda, (HEDA), a foremost anti-corruption group, has expressed deep concern that the palliatives being distributed by federal and state governments in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak may not be reaching the poor.

In a statement Tuesday, the group’s chairman, Olanrewaju Suraju, said there are about 90 million poor Nigerians who have no access to the essentials of life and whose conditions have been compounded by the lockdown.

“They are on the threshold of misery with serious consequences unless the various authorities reply to their needs immediately. We also call for accountability on the cost of palliatives being distributed across the country,” HEDA said.

The group has been compiling information from across the country on the impact of government palliative interventions. It said it constantly receives reports that many of the vulnerable poor are excluded from the palliatives being shared by the various tiers of government while in some instances, deliberate distribution of materials have been restricted to only members of the ruling political parties in particular areas.

On the distribution of palliatives, “We recommend that the tiers of government should share palliatives taking into consideration organised groups of artisans and those in the informal sector whose means of livelihood have been adversely affected by the lockdown,” HEDA stated.

It said the government needs to design an inclusive distribution mechanism that will focus on the critical population in the country. The group urged the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs led by Sadiya Farouq to run an all-encompassing system whereby unions and associations of beneficiaries will be involved in the conception, design and distribution of palliatives to beneficiaries.

HEDA cited for instance the distribution of cash through account numbers as a unique programme, but noted that the government should also realise that there are many poor Nigerians that have no little fund to even open a bank account.

It said that as at 2015, only 37 percent of Nigerian adults have bank accounts while it declined to 34 per cent in 2016 with most of those affected being females and the lowest income earners.

It urged the government to be conscious of the fact that the lockdown without an economic roadmap can spur organised violent upheavals across the country. “This in itself is conceivable when most of the affected people are Nigerians whose living is dependent on daily earnings trampled upon by the lockdown.”