The Network of Civil Society Organization of Nigeria (NOCSON) has advised Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki to exempt his family and cabinet members, friends as well as associates from the distribution of relief packages to vulnerable persons to cushion the effects of the stay-at-home directives to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the State.
The group urged him not to allow the relief package to be tailored along political party line or for party patronage, but ensure that the package is distributed to the downtown across the State in a transparent manner.
Former President of NOCSON, Comrade Abraham Oviawe and the Secretary-General of the group, Comrade Ogbidi Emmanuel said this during an on-the-spot assessment of the State government Foodbank for Edo South Senatorial district at the weekend in Benin City.
The six Local Government Areas are Oredo, Egor, Ikpoba-Okha, Orhionmwon, Uhunmwode, Ovia North East and Ovia South West.
Oviawe, a human right activist, said the move will make a long-lasting impression about the government and reinforce the need for solidarity to put the deadly virus at bay.
According to Oviawe, “You do not also expect government Officials or Commissioners to benefit from the package. Even the State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, you do not expect him and his family members who tap from him directly to share from this largesse.
“And I expect that he government must be very fair to itself and must add that none of its Special Assistant will share from it because their monthly stipends, so, the food must get to the poorest of the poor.
“We demanded a transparent method of food distribution that is devoid of party patronage bearing in mind that the government spent tax-payers money to provide the food and relief items.
“Government Officials and their relatives including Obaseki family members, friends aides, especially those who draw directly from the Government should not be allowed food and relief materials”, Oviawe said.
He said that the ability of the government to put palliatives in place has never been in doubt because the fund that leaders appropriate are paid by tax-payers money.
“When you have a leader that has a conscience, in this kind of unstable condition which COVID-19 pandemic, any leader with a conscience, will put relief package and food in the place.
“But the challenge which we must look out for is the modus operandi in distributing these food items to the poorest of the poor? What is government plans towards this arrangement? Is the government to political party structure in sharing the items and determine who get what?
“Will it trickle down to the various Local Government Areas, Wards and units on the basis of membership of their political party? If that method is adopted for the food distribution, it will be a great disservice to Edo people, particularly when the funds being used for the package is not for the political party alone.
“While I’m not trying to indict government is to put the government on the alert that the conscience of the people is geared towards the modus operandi for which they are going to share this largesse.
“There is hunger in the land, the government must make an effort to win the heart of the people by ensuring that this package gets to the poorest of the poor who are not difficult to know. Their locations are known”, he stressed.
Describing the government for responding to the cry of Edo people in these perilous times as commendable, Ogbidi urged the Governor to ensure speedy distribution of the food and relief items to the poorest of the poor.
“The government should share the food with the people as fast as possible. It is already two weeks that this lockdown process has been on the ground.
“In line with our mandate of ensuring that the interest of the people get a fair deal and ascertain if the government has matched words with action; That is why we are here today.
“First, to ascertain if the food items are available, and in what quantity? We have discovered that there are foodstuffs such as rice, beans, noodles and other items. That is quite commendable, but, we want the government also to be sincere”, he said.
On his part, the Public Relations Officer of NOCSON, Comrade Bevy Efe, appealed to the government not to allow politicians hijack the palliatives and demanded the inclusion of Civil Society Organizations in the relief package distribution due largely to the close link between them and the downtown.
TheNewspad reports that figures released by an Official of the State government who conducted the team round the warehouse in Benin City, show that over 40, 000 bags of 5 and 10 kilogrammes grains, garri, Cereal, palm oil and other condiments in addition to over 5000 cartons of noodles worth millions of Naira had been stocked while additional seven truckloads of foodstuffs were being expected.
He said that the warehouse had been fumigated ahead of the exercise after necessary sorting and administrative assignments are concluded.