Stakeholders decry women’s exclusion, hoarding of palliatives
A group of stakeholders has lamented the hardships Nigerian women experienced during the lockdown and are still experiencing since they were mostly excluded during the sharing of palliatives by the government at all levels. They also decried the ‘corrupt action’ of state governors who hoarded palliatives meant for Nigerians, forcing them to break into warehouses where they were stored in order to get something to eat.
At a zoom webinar organized by Women’s radio 91.7 recently, it was revealed that 98 percent of women-owned businesses were badly affected during the lockdown with many unable to recover to date, and some that recovered suffered looting during last month’s unrest.
The Executive Director, Women Advocates, Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC), Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi regretted that women were sadly excluded and marginalised during the palliatives distribution whereas their inclusion would have broadened and helped the distribution so that many would have benefitted.
“We weaponise female poverty so much in Nigeria. There is miscommunication in governance; the women that are most in need are in the rural areas and they got absolutely nothing. Women represent 70 per cent of subsistence farmers and by locking them down then with no options, they couldn’t provide for their children. They said they gave palliatives to vulnerable people, they should show us the people that benefitted. Planning for a “second wave” without resolving the challenges from the first time doesn’t make sense. I would blame the government for the looting of palliatives and businesses that took place then because the people were pushed to the wall. The deaths during the #EndSARS protests happened as a result of the government’s failure to deal with corruption.
“Government’s interventions are easily verifiable in other countries by the click of a button which isn’t the case here. Our politicians love to subjugate and exploit us. How can you use what’s supposed to be for everyone for your personal use and begin to share it piecemeal like you’re doing us a favour. Our leaders at all levels enjoy dehumanising us and seeing people hungry and suffering.
Speaking on the legal implications of the raided palliatives, vice chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Abuja, Chioma Onyenucheya-Uko, said by law, it’s a crime and those found guilty must be punished. “People were desperately hungry; I’m not justifying what they did but we’re looking at compelling circumstances that made people less than human. We heard about interventions being made but personally, I don’t know a single person that has enjoyed any government intervention.
“It baffles me that there’s no way to verify the government’s claims and we can’t trust the government because they are very dishonest. Social media is the only way we can get the government to listen to us and if we sustain it, it would be difficult for them to claim they don’t know what we want. We need better representatives; they can’t be saying they’re speaking for us without knowing what we want. When people see a lavish display of wealth amongst government people, it stirs anger and when we see we’re being exploited, it leads to provocation. You see people that were nothing before, join politics and suddenly begin to live largely and oppress others.”
Deputy Director, SERAP, Kolawole Oludare called on the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) to investigate the governors for hoarding palliatives. “What is the government’s plan for Nigerians, we keep hearing about budgetary allocations but it never translates to economic growth. There are so much corruption and a lack of accountability in governance in this country. We need information on how Covid-19 funds were managed.
“Government allows corruption to thrive and there’s so much lack of trust. You can’t give this government any benefit of the doubt because they’re deliberately wicked. You tell us you’re keeping palliatives for us, but what if people die from hunger during the first wave, who then are you keeping it for during a second wave? It’s a crime against humanity and the only way to achieve transparency and accountability with the government is by us demanding it from them. Government must begin to do better and be seen to be working for us.”
Commissioner for information, Kwara state, Adenike Afolabi-Oshatimehin said what happened in the state was unfortunate but can’t be justified. “If you say hunger and anger led you to loot government warehouses, why did you loot private businesses?” She claimed that in the state, the people are carried along in terms of budgeting and called for a re-orientation of values. She acknowledged that resources are limited but there was a need to be transparent with the people who should in turn be patient with them.
While the executive director of, Center for Social and Economic Rights, Nelson Ekujumi added that recent happenings must serve as a lesson to Nigerian leaders. “They must embrace transparency and involve the people in everything if not, things can easily result in great conflict as we saw a couple of weeks ago.”