By Clifford Christopher Solomon
CSOs Coalition holding a press brief on COVID-19 in Port Harcourt, April 21
Rivers State Civil Society Coalition on COVID-19 condemned the federal government’s brazen exclusion of the Niger Delta and other southern states from the distribution of palliatives to cushion the harsh effects of the lockdown against the spread of the Coronavirus on citizens.
Addressing journalists at on Tuesday, April 21, 2020 at a press briefing organized in Port Harcourt, spokesperson of the COVID-19 Civil Society Organizations Coalition, Comrade Karl Chinedu Uchegbu, said:
“We recall that the federal government has earmarked many billions of naira, including contributions from non-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 the states in containing the pandemic.
“We have observed with dismay, that in the disbursement of the funds, the federal government has as usual, excluded the Niger Delta and other southern states. We have seen nepotism and political bias at play in the course of the distribution of the palliatives, including cash transfers by the federal government. We have received disquieting reports of marginalization and exclusion of the Niger Delta state in selective distribution of test kits, the distribution, and even sharing of relief materials by the federal government”
The coalition noted a neglect of the zone even in the distribution of medical equipment to fight the pandemic.
“The federal government appears insensitive to the needs of the Niger Delta states that have enforced social distancing restriction with reports of grants of N20,000 to residents of states that have not implemented strict social restrictions while residents of the Niger Delta since under lockdown, have been excluded from the federal government palliatives. For example Rivers State has not received any kind of support from the federal government to tackle the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic despite the effort made by the state to curtail the spread of the virus and the attendant disruptions to local livelihood”.
Comrade Karl Chinedu further stated that the social and economic challenges posed by COVID-19 pandemic cut across all the states of the federation and so, the distribution of aids and palliatives should not be selective.
“It is not in the best interest of the country at this trying period, it will only send a wrong message and aggravate the situation as seen within the past few weeks”, the coalition noted and called for a unified fight against the virus that has killed over two million people across the globe and seriously disrupted economies.
“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”, the CSOs cautioned.
Some 428,941 Nigerians from24 states in the country received cash from the federal government as palliatives according to the minister for Humanitarian Affairs ,Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouk. This was disclosed in a release by the minister’s spokesperson, Salisu Dambatta who said the representative of the minister, Abubakar Sulaiman in charge of Disaster Management in the ministry made the disclosure while giving an update on Conditional Money Transfer, CCT to Nigerians at the flag-off of the disbursement of Trader Moni and Market Moni to hundreds of beneficiaries in Katsina State to boost their businesses.
He said of the 428,941 beneficiaries to the 24 states, Katsina State, the president’s home state has 130, 455 beneficiaries while Rivers State and most other Niger Delta states have no beneficiaries.
Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State had also made repeated calls on the National Task Force on Coronavirus to support the state.