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COVID-19: FG out, Governors now to share palliatives

FG to expand register to accommodate urban poor

Governors of the nation’s 36 States has gotten their requests as the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has hands off the sharing of palliatives to Nigerians.

Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Mrs Sadiya Umar-Farouk, said at the daily briefing of the Task Force that “going forward, we have decided to handover this food relief to the State Governors for onward redistribution to their citizens, the poor and vulnerable in the society. In fact, I have started that. I was in Lagos last week and Ogun States and I have handed over trucks of food relief to these Governors. So far, we have reached out to the three affected States that have been locked down by the federal government, the two States plus the FCT. Also, we have deployed some food relief to two South Eastern States of Imo and Ebonyi specifically.”

On the disbursement of cash to the vulnerable poor, she said: “I have mentioned it before that this is an approval that has been in existence since 2016 and we are using the exiting register. We will give them N5,000 per month but now that Mr. President has directed that we give two months advance, that is why we are giving this N20,000. Yes, it is a process that is really cumbersome but with transparency and accountability the ministry has already began the digitalization of this process.

“We have four pilot States that are on digital payroll so far and we are continuing with that. We hope that in our next month payment we will be able to at least have all the States adopt digital payment. It is not a one day off thing. It takes a process. And we are using mobile phones, wallets because the BVN of these beneficiaries exist but it is not all of them that are on the banking system. So, we are looking at all these issues.”

On the possible expansion of the register, Farouk said: “Yes, I did mention that we are working on the possible expansion of the register and this is to inform you that we have started the process. Our main focus now is going to be on the urban poor because these are the people that have now become vulnerable as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown. We are also focusing on people living with disabilities. Already we have some numbers in our existing sub-national social register but now we are going to focus more in registering these people with special needs.”

The Governors of the 36 States of the federation had last week called on the federal government to allow them to oversee the distribution of palliatives to cushion the effects of COVID-19.

The palliatives being distributed to the vulnerable are currently being handled by the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development and the Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) set up by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

The Governors had made their request during their interaction with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha via teleconferencing.

The NGF Chairman and Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi had in a communique released on behalf of the governors said: “The forum expressed appreciation to the private sector Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) set up by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for their pledge to support states to increase their capacity to mitigate the spread of the virus and care for confirmed cases through the construction of isolation centres and the distribution of personal protective equipment to states.

“Members underscored the need for CACOVID to work directly with the states in the distribution of palliatives,” Fayemi said.

He said the Governors also “emphasised the necessity for stronger collaboration with states because they are best positioned to administer palliatives to mitigate the impact of the crisis, including the distribution of food and essential materials to households to help them cope with the expected loss of income and livelihoods.”

But while responding to a question on if the government was thinking of changing the strategy of sharing the palliatives midst criticism and dissatisfaction, Umar-Farouk said the country has a national response plan on ground which has different stakeholders from the national to local government on board. She said all tier of government are represented in the committee that distributes relief to the vulnerable.

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