Coronavirus: Indigents, physically-challenged persons lament distribution of Lagos food relief

Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu (middle); Commissioner of Police, Lagos Command, Mr. Hakeem Odumosu (left) and Commander, Nigeria Navy Ship (NNS) Beecroft, Apapa, Commodore Ibrahim Aliyu Shettima (right), during a media address after the State Security Council meeting at Lagos House, Marina, on Saturday, April 4, 2020.
Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu (middle); Commissioner of Police, Lagos Command, Mr. Hakeem Odumosu (left) and Commander, Nigeria Navy Ship (NNS) Beecroft, Apapa, Commodore Ibrahim Aliyu Shettima (right), during a media address after the State Security Council meeting at Lagos House, Marina, on Saturday, April 4, 2020.

The distribution of a stimulus package in Lagos has not only eluded many residents, it has also increased the burden of others who had expectations of receiving the packages.

Persons living with disabilities in Lagos are among the worst hit by the failure to properly distribute the stimulus package.

“Only 100 packs were given to us by the state government. Not that they even gave it to us, our leaders at the state level went to the Ministry of Agriculture to lobby for the packs,” Babatunde Mohammed, the state coordinator for the National Association for the Blind, told PREMIUM TIMES.

The Lagos State Economic Stimulus Package

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on March 27, announced the food relief initiative to cushion the effect of stay-at-home order on the people during the coronavirus pandemic.

The governor said the stimulus package will be distributed to every local government, with priority to the indigents and most vulnerable people in the state, which includes the elderly, the poor and the physically challenged people.

“The stimulus package will contain bags of rice, beans, garri, bread, dry pepper, drinking water and vitamins. We want each ration to last for 14 days as we continue to evaluate the impact of COVID-19,” the governor said.

“I am happy to announce an economic stimulus package to help our residents cushion the effects of our StayAtHome directive to stop the spread of COVID19.”

Mr Sanwo-Olu also said the first stage of distribution would target 200,000 households at an estimation of six people per household.

Following the announcement of the distribution of food packages, many residents were elated, hoping that the stimulus package would be distributed to all eligible residents of the state.

During monitoring of the stay-at-home order, PREMIUM TIMES’ reporter witnessed clusters of people discussing the food package and how it will be distributed.

“I heard they are using the LASRA card, if you have it, you better go and look for it before the distribution starts,” one resident said to another.

Distribution Model

The Commissioner for Agriculture in the state, Gbolahan Lawal, said the government would use the existing database of the state in the distribution of the package.

Mr Lawal said the Lagos State Social Register and about 4000 community development association registers in 377 wards across the state would be used.

PREMIUM TIMES also confirmed from an official of the ministry that those who have the Lagos State Residents Registration Agency (LASRRA) card and are Indigents are eligible to receive the package.

“Yes, they sent messages to various numbers through the LASRRA registration number, a good number of my members received the message, asking residents to verify their address in expectation of the stimulus package,” Mr Mohammed told PREMIUM TIMES.

“Things turned around as many, all those who received the messages did not receive any package,” he said, expressing displeasure over the distribution.

PREMIUM TIMES reporter who paid a visit to some houses in Kosofe local government learnt that many residents did not receive the package.

Double Tragedy for Indigents and Vulnerable people

Speaking on how the improper distribution of the stimulus package has affected persons living with disabilities, Mr Mohammed said it is a double tragedy for his people.

“Before now, many of our people go to churches and mosques to beg for alms, work which they sustain themselves. But now that churches and mosques have closed and the government gave a stay at home order, our people were happy when they heard food packages will be distributed.”

Mr Mohammed said many were left stranded and have become dejected that the stimulus packages did not get to them.

“The Lagos State Government through the Ministry of Agriculture gave 100 packs of food items to Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities, JONAWD Lagos, which is the umbrella body for all the disability clusters across the state,” he said.

Mr Mohammed said the number is grossly inadequate in comparison to the number of disabled people in the state.

Adebukola Adebayo, the State Chairperson of JONAWD, also confirmed that 100 packs were given to all persons with disabilities in the state

“We met with the ministry of agriculture last week who gave us 100 packs which we distributed to five local governments. We distributed 20 each to Agege, Ifako-Ijaye, Surulere, Shomolu and Kosofe,” he said.

Statistical Background

A 2019 data by the World Health Organisation (WHO) states that about 15 per cent of the world’s population lives with some form of disability.

This disability exposes then to adverse socio-economic outcomes that persons without disabilities are likely not to face.

In 2018, the National Population Commission of Nigeria (NPC), estimated that no fewer than 19 million Nigerians are living with disabilities.

Lagos State with a population of over 23 million people has no fewer than 500,000 persons living with disabilities, Mr Mohammed said.

“The United States says that we are at least 10 to 15 per cent of every population, if the governor says they are targeting 220,000 households, we were expecting that if they cannot give us 10 to15 per cent, they should give us 5 per cent at the worst. But they only gave us 100 packs,” Mr Adebayo said.

More Worries for Vulnerable people

Given the speculation about the possible extension of lockdown in Lagos, Ogun and the Federal Capital Territory to further curtail the spread of coronavirus, more troubles loom for the poor and vulnerable residents of Lagos.

“After the distribution last week, I personally received over 5,000 calls from members. On my phone presently, I have over 300 messages of names and addresses of people with disabilities who need help,” Mr Adebukola, the state chairperson said.

“I have been receiving calls, people call thinking I have the package in my house that I have not given to them,” Mr Mohammed added.

While the possible extension has not been ascertained, residents of Lagos are expressing displeasure over their aggravated sufferings during the lockdown period.

“They are sharing the food packages to baales, chiefs, party chairmen, local government chairmen, party members and others,” a resident at Kosofe local government said bitterly.

The resident who declined giving her name said she was joyous when she heard that food packages will be distributed.

“I heard some people are even complaining about the food, what about those of us that did not get at all?” she asked rhetorically.

“We don’t even know how that food was distributed, 200,000 packs and I have no one around me that I can say collected,” Kabiru Azeez, a resident said.

Mr Azeez said the distribution of the stimulus package was only in the media and was not done in real life.

“I even live close to the local government council, how will I not know if they are sharing any package? Everything is just a lie, they shared it amongst themselves,” he said in his local dialect.

Messrs Mohammed and Adebukola urged the government to include their members in the second phase of the distribution.

“We want them to involve us in the second batch of the distribution, we know where our people stay, we know ourselves, they need to include us, ” Mr Mohammed said.

This reporter called the Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr Lawal, and also sent a text message to his known lines, seeking clarification on the stimulus package. However, he did not respond.

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