Against the backdrop of the wholesale looting of COVID-19 palliatives from warehouses across Nigeria, the private sector-led Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) that donated many of the items has explained why the distribution was delayed in some states.
CACOVID, consisting of Nigerian businesspersons and corporate organisations, contributed billions of naira to help the country reduce the impact of the lockdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic on the most vulnerable citizens.
The #EndSARS protest, in which youth demanded the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigeria Police, was hijacked by hoodlums who have been on a looting spree across Nigeria since last week.
PREMIUM TIMES reported many cases of jailbreaks, destruction of properties and massive looting of government warehouses and private businesses.
Warehouses for the COVID-19 palliatives donated by CACOVID were massively looted in Lagos, Osun, Kwara, Cross River, Kaduna, Plateau and some other states. The stolen food items including garri, rice, spaghetti, Indomie and vegetable oil were carted away.
The food item packs were labelled ‘Not for Sale’, indicating that they should only be distributed for free.
While state governments and the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 have condemned the looting, many Nigerians have also asked why the donated items were warehoused while hunger ravaged the country.
While states like Lagos and Kwara began distribution of the items before the looting started last week, many others were yet to flag-off the distribution.
However, for the latter, the CACOVID team has taken responsibility for the delay.
“Some other states that still had palliatives in their warehouses chose to keep a strategic reserve ahead of a projected second wave of Covid-19,” the Nigerian Governors’ Forum earlier explained on Monday
But in a statement issued on behalf of the coalition on Monday, the Central Bank of Nigeria’s acting Director, Corporate Communications, Osita Nwanisobi, said the food relief items were to be delivered to almost two million most vulnerable families across the 774 LGAS in the country, as part of the private sector’s support to the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“At the time CACOVID embarked on the palliatives effort in April, we decided to procure the food directly from the manufacturers, to avoid a distortion of prices in the market. The food package was designed such that each of the nearly 2 million vulnerable families received: 10kg bag of rice, 5kg bag of garri/maize flour/semolina, 1 carton of pasta, 2 cartons of noodles, 5kg of sugar and 1kg of salt.
“Unfortunately, the very large size of the order, and the production cycle required to meet the demand, caused delays in delivering the food items to the states in an expeditious manner; hence the resulting delay in delivery of the food palliatives by the state governors. For instance, rice had to be milled, semolina and maize flour had to be processed, noodles and pasta had to be manufactured, and sugar had to be refined.”
According to Mr Nwanisobi, the first deliveries could not start until June while a sizable portion of the items had been delivered but yet to be distributed by the governors by October.
“Although various states and the FCT had commenced flag off of the distribution of the food items since early August, some could not conclude the distribution as they were yet to receive complete deliveries of the items allotted to them. In the interest of transparency and accountability, CACOVID will, in due course, be providing the full delivery schedule and flag-off dates by each state,” he said.
“Given that the states and local government authorities oversee all relief efforts in their jurisdictions and know their citizens best, we had worked with each governor and the Minister of the FCT, utilising a combination of our protocols and their existing structures and processes to ensure food items reach the intended beneficiaries. We also appointed an independent monitoring team to ensure that the items would be delivered as intended.
“We are aware that official flagging-off and handover of the palliatives has taken place in 28 states and the FCT, and state governments have been distributing at various paces. As of today, October 26th, 2020, some states have confirmed completion of their distribution while others were in the process of proceeding with the distribution before these looting took place.
“By these looting incidents, some intended beneficiaries had been deprived of the opportunity of benefitting from CACOVID’s good intentions,” Mr Nwanisobi added.
He disclosed that external auditors are completing the audit of all contributions from the donors, as well as a listing of all medical and food items procured with these funds.
“We will be sharing the external audit reports of our spending, alongside a full report of CACOVID activities, including delivery and planned flag-off dates of our donations to Nigerians.”
The CBN spokesperson, however, noted that not every warehouse in Nigeria that contains palliatives is affiliated to the CACOVID donation, given that the states, the federal government and other organisations also made donations.
The group appealed for calm and for states to be allowed to proceed with their palliatives distribution peacefully.
“We urge all to be law-abiding, to be our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, and to end the raiding of these warehouses.”