A recent trend that has dominated social as well as the conventional media is the attack, ransacking and looting of COVID-19 palliative warehouses across the country. People under the guise of the ongoing #EndSARS protest are apparently having a field day carting away items meant for distribution to less privileged Nigerians during COVID-19 lockdowns.
Images and visuals of Nigerians in their numbers carting away bags of rice, noodles, salt and gallons of vegetable oil have eerily become a common sight. The viral videos from Mazamaza in Lagos state appeared to have inspired people to go in search of similar warehouses in other states.
From Ondo to Cross Rivers, Plateau to Kwara, no state seems to be spared as the looting has continued unabated. Videos and images of the incidents show that the looters are mostly not the usually dreaded rogues with thuggish appearances and mannerisms.
They are ordinary community folks who live in the cities and towns they have looted. Many of them are married women and men, with kids; unemployed and under-employed youths and petty traders are criminally exploiting the near- total absence of regular securi- ty services to steal and commit carnage.
Despite curfew’s instituted by state governments the looting has refused to stop. Security forces have also unsuccessfully tried to forestall the trend. In fact in many cases, they are struggling to contain the increasing cases of looting.
While the distribution programme had been temporarily halted across several states in the country in recent months, it has emerged with this current trend that relief items were still stored in some of these facilities.
In Calabar, security forces were unable to stop the ransacking of homes of local politicians, where the attackers suspected some of the COVID-19 relief materials were being kept. In Ilorin, securi- ty officers faced difficulties in containing attacks on a government facility.
The state governor had to declare a 24-hour curfew to prevent further es- calation of violence. Authorities in Yola also had to impose a round-the-clock curfew after looters attacked a large food warehouse.
Many Nigerians have been asking why the palliatives meant for needy Nigerians are being kept in warehouses. Well, your guess is as good as that of the next person.
There are many families who are struggling to even get just one meal a day, yet there is food in warehouses that were kept by some forces. In a country where the largest numbers of people live in extreme poverty, it is heartless to say the least that such actions were even contemplated.
While one would not subscribe to the ongoing wanton looting, outright stealing and destruction of properties, the fact remains that many Nigerians are angry that palliatives meant for them are being stored away from their reach. Many Nigerians are only struggling to scrape together some money to survive day after day and upward social mobility is difficult for many.
The rising prices of basic essentials of liv- ing, especially food, erode the value of people’s income, deep- ening hardship for low-income
Meanwhile, some government agencies are warning against the consumption of some of the stolen items. For instance, some people have been alleged to have made away with preferment corns preserved for planting. Such items are poisonous and not fit for human consumption.
The Inspector General of Police, Muhammed Adamu, has since ordered the immediate mobilization of all police resources to bring an end to the wanton violence, killings, looting and destruction of public and private property, and reclaim the public space from criminal elements masquerading as protesters in some parts of the country. Perhaps this measure is what is needed to bring back sanity to affected areas of the country.
In all this, the one person, apart from the President that has been consistently blamed for the lack of distribution of palliatives is the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouq. However, the recent revelation, albeit unknowingly, that palliatives have since been distributed to state governments during COVID-19 lockdown and are wallowing away in stores and warehouses, is a vindication of the Hon. Minister who has played her part by per- sonally travelling to every State to ensure the delivery of Palliatives for onward distribution to Nigerians in desperate need.
When the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajiya Sadiya responded to accusations of not distributing palliatives to Nigerians by explaining that she had delivered the palliatives to the State governments, there were some who doubted her claim. At least many of those naysayers can see that what the Minister said was correct.
She had delivered the palliatives to the State government because it is the responsibility of the State governments to identify the people in their State community who are in need. It is clear for the whole world to see that many of the warehouses that have been ransacked belong to the respective States and not the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management and Social Development, neither do they belong to the Hon. Minister.
Anyone who knows the Minister can vouch for her character. Despite what anybody says, she is a person who has the interest of the masses at heart. She is a person who knows the sufferings and pains Nigerians are going through.
For anyone to have suggested that the Minister would have hoarded palliatives meant of suffering Nigerians on purpose is quite far from the truth.Foroverayear,she has also shown absolute commitment in discharging her duties.
Despite everything, it must be a relief for many to know that she, and not those who characterize some of the State gover- nors, is the person in charge of the Disaster and humanitarian aspect of the administration.
Now, if everybody plays their part in the way she has, the dire situation that Nigerians are currently facing would be a lot more manageable
On several occasions and at several forums, she had insisted that her Ministry had shared palliative items to states governments for onward distribution to Nigerians.
She had even gone her self in person to these states towards ensuring that the palliatives and relief items are delivered. In various media houses reports, as part of her mandate she has been seen to formally hand-over such items to state governments who are in direct contact with people in their states. And in some occasions, she tries to go the extra mile by handing out palliatives or relief items to Nigerians individually, even within the risky environment of Coronavirus.
The buck stops at the table of the state governments to ensure the judicious distributions of palliatives to Nigerians who are in dire need of them. If anyone is to be blamed now, it should be state governments for the non-distribution of food items to poor Nigerians and there is a need for an urgent inquiry.
Unless promptly investigated, the allegations of hoarding and diversion would undermine public trust in any efforts to bring the spread of the pandem- ic under control, exacerbate the negative impact of the crisis, and deny those most in need access to basic necessities of life.
Clearly the alleged hoarding of COVID-19 palliatives in several states and the apparent failure to timely, effectively, efficiently and transparently distribute the palliatives to the poorest and most vulnerable people have continued to deny many citizens the much-needed support.
Those in charge of the distribution process must be held to account for not carrying out their duties.
Now that the truth has been revealed and the lid has been opened on the mystery of the missing palliatives, may The Almighty touch the hearts of those in charge of deliver- ing the much needed relief to Nigerians in the way He has done the heart of The Minis- ter of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and So- cial Development, Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouq.
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