COVID-19: Investigative Journalists Knock Lagos Govt on Lockdown Palliative Measures

Recently the Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu announced a palliative care for poor Nigerians in the state during the COVID-19 lockdown meant to slow down the spread of Coronavirus disease in the state.

The government had said it engaged community leaders and nongovernmental organisations in the distribution of the emergency food.

However,  the Nigerian Guild of Investigative Journalists (NGIJ) has berated the state government for adopting a weak and defective approach in distribution of the emergency food package for residents.

The journalists described as disgraceful the emergency food pack distribution, despite performing well in curtailing the COVID-19 pandemic so far.

This lapse, the Guild lamented, has resulted in widespread condemnation of the government.

According to the NGIJ, there have allegations of negligence and insensitivity from the residents of the state, including the Community Development Association (CDA) representatives and the general public who managed to received beggarly and pitiful portions of foodstuff during the distribution.

The association of journalists, in a statement issued on Monday and signed by Mr Israel Bolaji, Vice President (Information and Strategy) of the Guild, said “whereas the state government’s efforts at curtailing the pandemic were commendable, its palliative measures for residents, especially the emergency food pack currently being distributed to residents is disgraceful, poor and ineffective, charging Gov. Sanwo-Olu to urgently revisit and overhaul the lockdown palliative plan”.

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The spokesman said as expected and applicable globally, Lagos State government came up with an apt idea of providing food especially for aged parents, widows, widowers and less privileged households with an emergency food pack.

But however, decried “the selective distribution approach shrouded in mystery, beggarly food pack quantities, lack of transparency and alleged large scale diversion of the food packs by officials”.

The NGIJ insisted that such shortcomings make “a mess and mockery of the entire process.”

Bolaji said the guild was “shocked and appalled by the various reports and the attendant disillusionment generated.

“NGIJ has been inundated with reports, viral video accounts and verified cases of residents receiving pitiful food packs, including multiple videotaped cases of two sachets of tomatoes, and two bowls of rice and beans given to an entire street.

“For example, there are embarrassing accounts from Ijede communities under Ikorodu constituency made up of 127 CDA, where each of the CDAs was asked to compile a list of names of aged parents, widow, less privileged and widower with at least 40 in some and some between 50 and 80 names submitted since last week Sunday.

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“Surprisingly on Saturday only five packs were handed for 80 persons for my own CDA, said one of the CDA representatives.

“In my CDA at Agege where 40 names were forwarded 5packs for 40 persons. I did not know what is going on because personally, the government is not fair to us.

“If they want the emergency food to go around I believe religious bodies, stakeholders and Royal father should be part of the programme, said another source.

“Many of the CDAs here did not have at all, a source said, adding that the local government chairman kept the food packs for sharing to their members later.”

The Guild therefore charged the government to “show more sensitivity to the people considering that the lockdown had crippled the economic activities as well as the source of livelihood for many residents.

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“As much as the government may not choose to share food packs to all residents, a basic threshold is at least expected to be met. Giving 5 units of very small food pack to an entire street of about 2000 people amounts to reckless insensitivity, humiliation and travesty.”

The Guild clearly urged the state government to “urgently rejig the entire plan, make sufficient units available, work with trusted social and community leaders, block leakages and reverse the deplorable trend.

“We also urge the government to be transparent in handling the disbursement of the various donations from well-meaning Nigerians, philanthropists and multinationals that have donated handsomely to cushion the impact of the crises”, the statement read.

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