The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) would like to use this medium to comment on some developments around the accountability and transparency in the disbursement of the COVID-19 palliatives. This statement has been prompted by the worrisome discovery of undistributed palliatives which was kept in various warehouses in most states across the country.
We find it scandalous that these materials donated by groups of well-meaning Nigerian businesspersons, corporate entities, development partners and others, under the Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) were left inexplicably undistributed by the federal, state and local governments, and in some cases these items got expired while others got rotten and thereby not fit for consumption.
In an attempt by the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) to clarify why some items were not distributed, they made spurious, baseless and unjustifiable statement that the palliatives which were discovered in some states were mischievous stories by the populace. We, however, are forced to wonder why it took this long to distribute essential goods that was meant to alleviate the hardship faced during the lockdown period (April-June, 2020).
This condemnable act is a clear abuse of entrusted power for personal gain. Meanwhile certain lawmakers also issued statements to defend why they stored valuable goods that was supposed to be distributed to the population that they are supposed to serve. No lawmaker has any business storing public property in private quarters! This display of monumental arrogance bordering on corruption should not only be condemned, but it should be investigated by the relevant anti-graft agencies, the National Assembly and all other relevant stakeholders. Above all, these individuals have to apologise to the public and face the consequences of their actions.
Since the start of the pandemic, CISLAC has been in the forefront demanding for transparency and accountability in the distribution of the palliatives in the context of the devastating economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Part of the demands by CISLAC was the involvement of stakeholders – both state and non-state actors – which would have included genuine CSOs, community-based organisations, religious institutions and anti-corruption agencies that would have forestalled the current crisis faced by the country emanating from the undistributed palliatives. Current distrust of the population, social disorder and raids on government and private property is a consequence of non-existent transparency and communication to the public about government’s measures taken to combat the pandemic.
We therefore resolutely reiterate the demand for a transparent and verifiable system of the distribution of the palliatives so that the public can trust the government. We demand that the states that are yet to distribute their palliatives to emulate the few states that have distributed essential goods to the citizens judiciously. We urge government officials, lawmakers and others, to resist justifying personal and institutional failures with laughable and discredited excuses.
The government’s lack of argument and explanation has prompted anger and distrust in the population. Once again, we urge the government at all levels to include community and religious leaders, genuine civil society organisations and representatives from the media in the future disbursement of palliatives to ensure transparency in the process. Both the National Assembly and anti-corruption agencies must investigate why the palliatives were not distributed in a timely and transparent manner to the target vulnerable groups.
CISLAC unequivocably condemns the actions of some individuals who took advantage of the peaceful protest to raid public and private properties. Their actions are totally criminal as it cannot have any justification. It is important to draw a line between peaceful protesters who want security sector reform to save lives of harassed citizens and accountable governance r and the hoodlums who have infiltrated these protests and are unleashing mayhem in different parts of the country. We see all of these scenarios as a lapse in governance at one point or the order.
While CISLAC identifies gaps in governance, we totally reject the call by some groups asking that Nigeria be sanctioned by the international community. This will bring untold hardship and compound the economic woes that is bedevilling the country presently. This call smacks of shortsightedness and is totally unpatriotic.
We commiserate with the families of Nigerians, including innocent security personnel who lost their lives, and in some cases properties during the protest and aftermath of the protest. We pray that God will grant the families the fortitude to bear the loss.
In conclusion, we request that the government and security actors ensure security of citizens by respecting the rights of genuine protesters while arresting miscreants who are bent on theft and vandalism.
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria!
Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani)