At the peak of the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in collaboration with Nigeria (CBN), in collaboration with the Aliko Dangote Foundation and Access Bank, (CACOVID) mobilised Corporate Nigeria to undertake the task of contributing to the efforts of federal government to ameliorate the impact of the health challenge through the provision of palliatives to the most vulnerable Nigerians, the urban and rural poor.
Working under the group name of Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) the re- sponse was massive as, in no time, billions of naira were raised and domiciled in a ded- icated account. It was, indeed, an overwhelming display of generosity by the private sector that was so commendable.
The group targeted about 10 million people across the country as beneficiaries from the initiative. By June this year, the first consignment of the items had been delivered. It did not stop there. CACOVID also helped to mobilize private sector thought leadership, raised public awareness and buy-in for COVID-19 prevention, and provided direct support to strengthen the healthcare sector’s capacity to respond to the crisis.
CACOVID opted to handover the items to the state governments for distribution to the target group. That, in our opinion, has turned out to be a monumental mistake in the sense that government, at that level, often act at their own pace regardless of the urgency a given situation demands.
This much was revealed when hoodlums who infiltrated the peaceful protests of EndSARS campaigners began to break into warehouses to loot the items some of which, according to a state governor, had expired and were no longer fit for human consumption.
Expectedly, Nigerians were aghast, disappointed that deliveries by CACOVID meant for the poor and hungry were left to rot in warehouses.
The Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) had the effrontery to justify such inhuman disposition by arguing that they were reserved for the anticipated second wave of the virus.
The items were meant to be distributed immediately to cushion the effect of the pandemic-induced lockdown and attendant hardship and not for a future date. No one was certain that there was likely to be a second wave. It was and still is all speculation which may or may not come true.
The Corporate Communications Department of the CBN issued a statement trying to explain what is obviously a scandalous mishandling of the good intentions of CACOVID by politicians. In that statement, it pointed out that 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 the 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 our opinion, the items were supposed to be distributed as they arrive because the pandemic created an emergency situation that ought to have been addressed as such. If that had been done, the ugly scenario that is presently playing out whereby the items have been confirmed to have gone bad, even as looters ignore that fact, would not have arisen.
CACOVID had arranged that each household should receive 10kg bag of rice, 5kg bag of garri/semolina, one carton of pasta, two cartons of noodles, 5kg of sugar, and 1kg of salt.
Unfortunately, that did happen as planned in some states as a result of the ineptitude of officialdom.
CACOVID, in that statement, further made effort to be nice when it said: “As of today, October 26, 2020, some states have confirmed completion of their distribution while others were in the process of proceeding with the distribution before these lootings took place.”
The rot and the looting could have been avoided if the right thing had been done at the right time.
In the opinion of this newspaper, there is no way anyone can possibly justify that act of sabotage and betrayal. It is even decidedly more unacceptable when it is realised that most of these states did practically nothing to help their citizens in those anxious moment.
Those that did, as usual, politicized it to the extent that people had to be identified as political party loyalists to get the little that was on offer.
We also posit that CACOVID could have handled the matter their own way like businessmen and women they are and left politicians out of it. Or, on the other hand, delivered the items to faith-based organisations like Churches and Mosques who would have done a far better job.
Politicians are adept at obfuscating issues. For them, everything is politics including the distribution of palliatives bought by someone else.
Meanwhile, we perceive the ongoing search for the looters as a wild goose chase and a waste of valuable time and resources. No need crying over spilt milk.
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