As citizens groups continue to voice concerns about the lack of a clear framework for transparency and accountability in the distribution of COVID-19 palliatives, a coalition of civil society groups led by Human and Environmental Development Agenda, (HEDA Resource Centre) has urged federal and state governments to produce simple and verifiable means of funds collected and materials being distributed to poor people affected by the lockdown.
HEDA Chairman, Olanrewaju Suraju made the call in a statement, just as he said the coalition is mobilizing 510 volunteers across the country to monitor process employed in the distribution of food items. According to the group, some of the volunteers will be empowered with audio-visual equipment for effective monitoring. Suraju said the distribution of food to the vulnerable has witnessed a string of challenges including allegations that the process is being politicized. He cited instances where beneficiaries scramble to receive foodstuffs in a chaotic manner undermining the social distancing rule necessary for COVID-19 prevention. He said there were also feelers that in some areas in Lagos, religious and political leaders were given special consideration in distribution. This, the coalition noted is contrary to public understanding of target group and distribution modalities.
“We are concerned about what appears to be a lack of data, a process devoid of digital dashboard that will ensure the food being distributed reaches the poorest of the poor and not vested political interests” Suraju said. The coalition said it has strengthened its network to collate how much money and materials the Federal Government and States received during the COVID-19 lock down, saying that the authorities have the moral and constitutional responsibility to ensure openness and transparency in the handling of the funds.
He said further “beyond the palliatives, the Federal and State Governments should work at a long term framework that will ensure social and health security for Nigerians. It should be clear to Nigerian authorities that public health security is key to sustainable development. COVID-19 has provided the impetus for urgent need to focus on the essentials of life of Nigerians which are food, housing and public health.”