The sharing of coronavirus emergency relief items in Lagos State was marred by poor communication, which led to misinformation about the intended beneficiaries, political favouritism, and random distribution, a report by the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) stated.
The state government promised to share 200,000 food relief packages among the 20 local governments in the state.
The items were to serve as palliatives for poor Lagosians affected by the lockdown in the state, imposed to check the spread of coronavirus.
More than half of about 343 coronavirus cases in Nigeria are in Lagos.
Misinformation about beneficiaries
The report stated that despite the state governor’s clear statement that the items were meant for some of the most vulnerable people in the state, the distribution was marred because the government subsequently failed to properly inform residents leading to misinformation and false expectations.
In fact, officials sent to distribute the items were not properly informed about the intended beneficiaries and could not dispel the misinformation around the distribution of the items.
“These people are those that fall below the pyramid, the aged and the physically challenged who need to move from one part of the city to another for them to have a living. We felt that as a government, the least we can do is to identify them and give them these stimulus packages immediately,” The governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu had said.
However, many residents of the state thought the items were meant for everyone.
“The announcement widely misinterpreted by many Lagos residents led to some controversies with many people who are not on the category of vulnerable ones expecting to benefit from the palliative packages,” the report stated.
For instance, residents of Zone 3 in Alimosho local government complained about the quantity of the relief materials provided by the government to all its residents.
“According to the residents, the government delivered two small sachets of tomato paste, about 15 cups (about 1,800 grams) of both rice and beans for the entire members of the community. These items were packaged in sacks – tagged COVID-19 Emergency Food Response.
“In Ikotun area of Lagos, an unidentified man while making delivery of three sacks (about 30 cups of rice in each sack) and three big loaves of bread said the items were from the Lagos state government and the Ikotun Local Council Development Areas (LCDA).
“In addition, a government representative captured in the video said although he cannot say for sure how many people the food items could support, he was at the venue to only make the delivery,” the report stated.
According to Involve Africa, which was contracted by CDD to monitor the distribution of the items, in several places, political consideration was “the main formulae for identifying beneficiaries.”
“Our monitors observed that partisanship became the main formulae for identifying beneficiaries.
“CDD gathered that the state government did not spell out any distribution plan for the relief materials as food items were allegedly distributed based on political party favouritism.
“For example, in Ejigbo Local Government Area of Lagos, political party loyalties and members were the only people provided with food materials,” the report stated.
Another factor that marred the distribution of the relief items was the random mode the items were distributed in many communities in the state.
The report observed that this led to discontent among residents and in some areas large crowd of people gathered at the distribution centres thus defeating the principle of social distancing critical to slowing the spread of the pandemic.
“CDD’s downstream monitors observed that there is currently no definite mapping or distribution schedule for the Emergency food items from the Lagos state government to the people. Most of the Lagos state residents who fall into the category of those who need the materials barely got any item.
“It was also observed that the state government failed to work with local government heads of chairpersons who could identify those in dire need of these reliefs and as well give an account of beneficiaries of these items.
“CDD using banners, jingles and all kinds of public enlightenment materials, the centre has emphasised on the need for social distancing, a practice the Lagos state government failed to abide by in the distribution of the relief materials.
“Most of the instance recorded by the CDD, residents were seen clustering among each other and defying the social distance advice of maintaining a 1-2 meters distance between each other as approved by experts.
“Also, none of the people both the government representatives and the residents were protected with either masks, gloves or any of such.
“This was observed in cases like the distribution in Badagry, Alimosho and many other locations were Involve Africa visited.”
Alleged sharp practices
There were also widespread allegations among residents that officials in charge of the distribution of the items either diverted them or repackaged in smaller quantities.
“In Anuooluwapo community in Igando, residents were seen protesting the materials released and delivered by the Lagos state government.
“The relief materials which were expected to cushion the burden of citizens on the streets was met with worry from community officials on distribution pattern as it was observed that the items would not get to the all vulnerable people in the locality.
“It was alleged that in some local government areas, the food relief material meant for the residence were repackaged and sealed back before distributing them to residents.
For instance, there was pandemonium at Ikorodu near Olowu Market in Ikeja as residents who came out for the food items and other materials provided by the Lagos State government protested against indiscriminate distribution of the items.
“The protesters claimed that tickets for the purpose had been given to some people at midnight ahead of the exercise, which was to commence the following day, thereby making it impossible for those who were on the queue to be attended to.
“Also, Involve Africa, monitoring team reported that there is poor communication from the Nigerian government in respect to collection points by residents of communities,” the report stated.
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