OP-UNEDITED | The Palliatives Regime: Questions and Suggestions – By John Danfulani
The Ministry of Disaster Management (MDM) is a key player in the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on Covid-19. The MDM is manning the flank responsible for implementing palliative policies designed to cushion the apocalyptic consequences the pandemic inflected on economic backbone of poor households in Nigeria.
Incorporating national economic institutions, ministries, and bodies responsible for welfare related matters in covid-19 management teams has a global pattern. In the U.S.,Capitol appropriated over $2tr to support businesses and people that were thrown out of jobs because of the pandemic. In the Western world, welfare institutions received additional financial backings from their governments and donors.
In April of 2020,the MDM bankrolled its first covid-19 economic palliative scheme. MDM claimed that 2.6m vulnerable households got N20,000 in cash or transfers into their bank accounts. The MDM piqued, they used a data base of the poorest Nigerians from the Social National Register they compiled and released on 30th March 2020 . And the SIP data that has been existing since 2016.
MDM commenced another scheme: feeding Kids in their homes on Thursday 14th May 2020. Hajiya Sadiya Farooq the minister of MDM announced that, the feeding regime will gulp N13.B monthly. A rough breakdown of the figure shows that they will spend N679m, daily. The programme covered 31 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory(FCT).
MDM’s palliatives have generated negative reactions from; pressure groups, organised labour, social commentators, opposition juggernauts and their parties, and elected personas. These clusters and individuals raised fundamental questions surrounding the philosophy behind MDM’s decisions and their executions.
The most damning criticism of the first palliative came from Sen.Ali Ndume (APC Borno) a member of the ruling party. He labelled the scheme a monumental fraud, in its entirety. The senator inflicted uppercut punches on MDM’s fundamental declations and statistics of the beneficiaries. Distinguished Ndume landed by beseeching President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately pull the brakes on MDM’s intervention projects.
More, the social media was saturated with protests and inquiries of evidences of payments and beneficiaries. They refused to be hoodwinked or bamboozled with photos ops of affluent suburban women collecting money in different locations from the minister or her teams. Many asked their followers to search and report a single poor that truly benefitted from the scheme. Nobody got a feedback of a Nigerian that got cash or alert from his bankers.
Criticism that accompanied MDM’s decisions and actions are quintessential and worth pondering on. Poignant questions like :a) are the palliatives necessary vis a vis the challenge on our economic base?; b) are the timings right considering the fact that most of the country was/is on a lockdown?; c) how are their exercises rolling in tandem with NCDC guidelines of social distancing and anti-large gathering?; and (d how credible and reliable are the data on the poor households in Nigeria? A walk through these posers will leave no soul with a spec of doubt that; the philosophy was wrongly conceived and catastrophically executed.
The 2019 Statistics from UNDP, World Bank and others shows that over 91m Nigerians live in extreme poverty. Covid-19 has undoubtedly expanded the percentage dramatically. With this, what difference has the controversial N20,000 to 2.6m poor households made? What is the fate of over 100m wretched Nigerians that the palliatives didn’t cover? Above all, was the money a support to their businesses or a gesture to restock food banks of the so-called beneficiaries?
Concerns are being raised on the home feeding scheme they started on 14th May 2020. Many states are in total lockdown, thus schools are shutdown. How is the food reaching kids scattered in cities and remotest areas in Nigeria? Who supervised the sanitary and nutritional aspect of the meals being served? How will this be executed without violating basic NCDC principles of social distancing ? When did they recruit food vendors and the distribution teams? Again, a careful look at the single and double barrel questions posed will convince doubting Thomases that; this programme will be a gargantuan disaster. Aside the unfortunate economic squandermania, lives of kids and parent will be expose to avoidable dangers.
MDM’s palliatives regime is misplaced, misguided, and an unmitigated catastrophe . A fraction of the money should have been invested in educating Nigerians on basic safety measures against the disease. The comatose National Orientation Agency, and some agencies of the federal ministry of information should get financial support from PTF on Covid-19, and directive to go on mass education of Nigerians. The knowledge they will equip citizens with will enable them avoid habits that will expose them and others to the killer disease. It will excuse us the horror of seeing thousands of people ignorantly attending burials of covid-19 victims without protective kits. Or attending large gatherings in the name of worship and other social activities like naming ceremonies and weddings.
The remaining billions should go into immediate procurement of medical equipment and setting up of covid-19 centres in all federal medical centres and some teaching hospitals. Experts postulated that N250m can set up a standard medical facility with ventilators and other essentials desirable in ICUs. Break the billions misapplied in projects in focus, and see the number of standard medical centres we will have in Nigeria.
It is time we wise up and get going on the path of development and growth. This and multiple misplaced, misguided, and selfish decisions are factors responsible for making a country with a gargantuan reserve of human capital and natural resources a basket case. And the headquarters of negativities and sorrows in the world .
We were projected to be one of the success stories of the 20th century. Poor decisions by rulers and leaders rocked the boat. The same leaders are starting our 21st century journey on quicksand.
Sequel to reasons advanced herein, I urge the President to stop most activities of the palliative department of the PTF on covid-19. They are wasting our scarce resources and widening the gap of distrust between government and the governed. And de-marketing believe in the dictum that democratic governments are sensitive and better managers of economies and nations.
John Danfulani, Ph.D tweets at @john_danfulani. He can be reached at [email protected]
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