Where is the Money?
Donations have been flooding in from the private sector and wealthy individuals to help countries battle COVID-19. Africa, an economic powerhouse, is also a continent overwhelmingly full of small businesses, petty traders and small firms. Small businesses that fall into these formal and informal sectors are most hard hit during these times. In addition, the most vulnerable marginalized populations are in dire need of economic assistance. With that being said, where is the money? The masses desperately want to know.
In Nigeria, for example, government leaders released names of wealthy individuals and corporate sector leaders who donated millions and billions of Naira to aid in the fight against COVID-19. States also have received federal allotments to ensure the safety of their citizens. The biggest problem is not the donation of money; the problem is that there is no transparency and accountability of what the money is being spent on and who is actually managing it.
President Muhammadu Buhari has put into a place a relief stimulus package; however, the majority of the country has yet to receive it. Governors whose states have been largely hit, such as Lagos and Abuja have been trying their best to contain the spread. Unfortunately states such as Kano have seen an increase in their COVID-19 numbers, and high rates of poverty in Kano is an example of a disaster waiting to happen.
To be honest, no one asked for the list of all of the wealthy individuals and private sector leaders or corporations who graciously donated their money. But the simple fact that the list was presented publicly begs many to ask, where did the money go? Where is it being spent? Who is really managing it? I say this because hundreds and thousands of people are in the streets begging for food, begging for the government to at least provide monetary transfers to the rest of the population to survive the imposed lock down.
You cannot lock people down without providing them means, at least the means to eat. The most essential individual need to survive under the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs is first and foremost shelter and food. All of the money that is donated, including the federal allotments, is enough to provide at least a starting point for individuals, whether through money transfers to banking accounts, distribution of free masks and gloves, and most importantly, food. For far too long, Nigerians have had to rely on the goodwill of their fellow citizens through local philanthropic initiatives in order to survive, especially during a crisis or emergency situation.
Corruption and lack of transparency has plagued many African countries, although historically not entirely their fault. However, currently we have a government that is not transparent with its citizens and has often mismanaged public funds. In addition, there is always a total disregard for keeping citizens abreast of new developments or pertinent information.
Not only has Nigeria had a long-standing issue of lack of government transparency and accountability; its lack of investment in creating a sustainable social welfare program and a viable and adequate healthcare sector further compound the impact of this lock down. To receive money from wealthy individuals, who have been seen at times as the ones hoarding the country’s wealth, when the real intended recipients are still struggling to stay alive, is an insult to injury and a travesty.
Dr. Yetunde A. Odugbesan-Omede is a Professor of Global Affairs and Politics and political writer. www.dryetunde.com
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