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Special report: The untold story behind discovered COVID-19 palliatives in many Nigerian states

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Sahelian Times: Against the backdrop of last week’s warehouse breaks in many states across the country, Sahelian Times launched an investigation to determine the real story behind the reluctance of State Governments to distribute food items meant to provide palliative support to the poor and vulnerable.
As of the time of compiling this report, about 10 States reported incidents of warehouse looting or attempted breaks. They include Lagos, Kogi, Plateau, Kwara, Adamawa, Abuja, Taraba and others.

Who are CACOVID?
CACOVID is a private sector led coalition against Covid-19. It is led by Aliko Dangote and other leading private sector players. The initiative was set to manage private sector interventions against the Covid-19 pandemic.

The CACOVID food palliative program planned to provide food support to 1,667,000 households nationwide. Each household will receive 10kg of rice, 10kg of maize/flour/gari, 5kg of Sugar, 1 carton of spaghetti/macaroni, 2 cartons of indomie noodles and 500g of salt.

What is more important is that, those items are to be sourced locally from identified Nigerian businesses, who are mostly members of the CACOVID initiative. That is, if a company pledges to donate 1 billion naira, they are not giving the money in cash but providing food items worth that amount.

From CACOVID pockets to States custody

The palliative items are delivered directly to the custody of state governments. For ease of distribution and logistics convenience, the items are handed over to states for distribution, following laid down guidelines that include the constitution of distribution committees at state and LGA levels and the provision of a list of beneficiaries to be vetted by an independent Monitoring and Evaluation team. Each State is expected to nominate an official to serve as State representative, who will liaise with CACOVID for proper coordination.

Our investigation reveals that some states are yet to receive their full CACOVID deliveries. However, most of the states where the raid of warehouses occurred had their full or nearly complete deliveries and had ignored earlier calls by CACOVID to begin distribution of the food items.

For the past few weeks, CACOVID officials have been raising concerns about the refusal of many states that received complete deliveries to begin distribution. Cacovid officials who spoke to this newspaper on condition of anonymity have expressed concerns about warehouse conditions in many states where stored food items are already spoiling due to poor storage condition. ‘We have finished deliveries to Lagos and Kaduna many weeks before the protests began and we have been pleading with them to begin distribution to no avail, even States like Taraba and Adamawa were at over 90% deliveries and could therefore begin distribution,“ said a Cacovid official familiar with the issue.

According to another official interviewed by Sahelian Times, the delay in delivering full items to some states is due to the supply chain challenges occasioned by the prevailing market condition.
“The major problem we have is in the delivery of rice and maize. Right now there’s shortage of these 2 items in the market, making it extremely difficult for our suppliers to supply at the initially agreed price and quantity,” he explained.

The official, however, expressed optimism that the remaining supplies will be completed as soon as the situation normalizes.

Sadiya Faruk’s alleged vindication
While the Minister of Humanitarian affairs is claiming vindication about the way she was maligned on the issue of palliatives, our investigations reveal that that is not the case as much of the discovered palliative items in the warehouses are supplied by Cacovid and not the Federal Government. One estimate put the Federal Government share of the discovered palliatives to around 30%, with the remaining 70% belonging to CACOVID.

Governors’ failed explanation
With the discovery, governors are scrambling to put a spirited defense on the controversy. According to Lagos State Government, the items carted away in Lagos were meant for rebagging and distribution to neighboring states. On it’s part, Kaduna State Government argued that the items were deliberately kept in anticipation of a second lockdown. However, many individuals and organizations have accused the various state governments of politicizing the program and hoarding the food in order to use palliative as a political weapon. This opinion was shared by many CACOVID officials who have seen their pleas for state governments to begin distribution fall on deaf ears. To them, the food support is meant to provide emergency relief to families affected by Covid-19 especially the lockdown which led to the collapse of many businesses. They argued that people need urgent help and without support, many families will not even survive to see the anticipated second lockdown.

What is Next?
As states are recovering from the shock of the past few days, it is clear that there’s lack of transparency in many states on receipt and distribution of Covid-19 palliative food support. This coupled with the ongoing protests across the country has added to the political uncertainty and public distrust of governments who many people believe are deliberately hoarding the palliatives to use them as political weapon during elections. There is the need for Cacovid and the Federal Government to develop and implement appropriate strategies to ensure that food deliveries and distributions are done on time. Because as the past few days have shown, the politics of palliatives could backfire very badly.

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