EXTREME poverty, extreme hunger and extreme anger – what a dangerous and combustible combination! This combination triggered the widespread disorder and destruction that followed the #EndSARS protests against police brutality and abuse of power in the country.
Hardship caused by the coronavirus crisis had compounded the combination. The extremely poor, extremely hungry and extremely angry took advantage of the protests to loot warehouses containing COVID-19 lockdown relief items. There was a lot to loot in several states, giving rise to the allegation that those who should have distributed the relief items hoarded them.
There was a need to explain why relief items that should have been distributed to the needy were seen in abundance in warehouses. The looters demonstrated that those in charge of the distribution failed to grasp the depth of their deprivation, which required swift remedial action.
Swiftness mattered. But it was lacking. This is why the private sector-led Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) and the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) have a lot of explaining to do.
CACOVID spokesman Nwanosiobi Osita explained: “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 resultant delay in delivery of the food palliatives by the state governors.”
NGF spokesman Abdulrazaque Bello-Barkindo said “no state has been involved in or has hoarded any palliatives,” explaining that about 10 states had delayed the distribution of the relief items because “the items meant for distribution in these states had not been completely received from CACOVID.” But the concerned states should have distributed the items they had received.
He added: “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.” But the items should have been distributed.
He also said “as of a couple of weeks ago, some states were still receiving palliatives from the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development.” Received items should have been distributed.
These efforts to rationalise the delay in distributing the relief items, and their abundance in warehouses in several states, suggest that CACOVID and several governors had failed to act with a sense of urgency. It is inexcusable that items meant to alleviate hardship were not supplied and distributed promptly.
Those who were supposed to get the relief items needed immediate relief. They were faced with an emergency. But those who were supposed to deal with the situation lacked a sense of urgency.
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