From Iruoma Douglas, Port Harcourt
A coalition of civil society Organisations (CSOs) under the aegis of CSO/Media COVID-19 Situation Room, has lamented the exclusion of South-South States from the federal government palliatives to cushion the effects of the lockdown in the fight against the spread of coronavirus in the Nigeria.
The group regretted that the federal government could exclude the region from disbursement of the fund accrued for purpose of mitigating sufferings in this period of COVID-19 pandemic.
They stated that despite the huge benefits the country gets from the region, especially Rivers in the stability of the national economy, they were excluded at the time the federal government should have recognize their importance even better.
The Civil Society group also recalled that “the federal government has earmarked billions of naira, including contributions from in-state actors for fighting the pandemic. The money is expected to be used not only to support impoverished Nigerians to bear the harsh impacts of the lockdown but also to support the efforts of states in containing the pandemic.
Briefing newsmen on Tuesday in Port Harcourt, Spokesperson of the coalition, Karl Chinedu Uchegbu, noted that the states of the Niger Delta have not also benefitted from the N20, 000 mapped out by the federal government to residents of states that have implemented strict social restrictions.
According the group: “We have observed, with dismay, that in the disbursement of the funds, the federal government has as usual, excluded the Niger Delta and other South-South States. We have seen nepotism and political bias at play in the course of the distribution of the palliatives, including cash transfer by the federal government. We have received disquieting reports of marginalisation and exclusion of the Niger Delta states in selective distribution of test kits, the building of isolation centres, interventions funds distribution, and even sharing of relief materials by the federal government.
“While there are reports of grants to 20 thousand naira to residents of states that have not implemented strict restrictions, the residents of the Niger Delta have been excluded by the federal government palliatives. For example, Rivers State has not received any kind of support from the federal government to tackle the socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic despite the efforts made by the state government to contain the spread of the virus.
“The total neglect and marginalisation of Rivers State by the federal government in palliatives and relief packages, despite the bulk of Petroleum tapped from the state, makes us to increasingly question the capacity of the federal government to protect all citizens of the country in the face of the ravaging effects of COVID-19.”
In demanding an equitable use of the COVID-19 funds, the coalition said, “if we must make significant progress in the fight against this ravaging disease, the country must remain United, and anything that will divide the country at this challenging moment must be avoided”.
Other members of the group at the briefing include; Styvn Obodoekwe, Sebastian Kpalap, Green Isaac, Prince Ekpere and Vivian Bellonwu.