CSOs accuse FG of excluding Niger Delta from COVID-19 interventions
Civil society groups, including the Civil Liberty Organisation (CLO), Social Action, and Media COVID-19 Situation Room, have alleged exclusion of Niger Delta states by the Federal Government from the coronavirus interventions, especially in the distribution of test kits, relief materials and establishment of isolation centres.
In a joint statement by CLO (South South zone) chairman, Stevyn Obodoekwe, and Vivian Bellonwu of Social Action, the groups said they had been following developments concerning government’s responses to the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria.
They observed that the President Muhammadu Buhari administration had earmarked billions of naira, consisting of donations from non-state actors to tackle the disease
The funds, according to them, were not only to support impoverished Nigerians to bear the harsh impacts of the lockdown, but also to support the efforts of states in containing the pandemic.
Their words:”We have observed, with dismay, that in the disbursement of the funds, the Federal Government has, as usual, excluded the Niger Delta and other southern states. We have seen nepotism and political bias at play in the course of the distribution of the palliatives, including cash transfers by the Federal Government.
“We have received disquieting reports of marginalisation and exclusion of the Niger Delta states in selective distribution of test kits and the building of isolation centres.”
The CSOs claimed that the central government appears “insensitive to the needs of the Niger Delta states that have enforced social distancing restriction to the detriment of livelihoods.”
They further pointed out “while there are reports of grants of N20,000 to residents of states that have not implemented strict social restrictions, the residents of the Niger Delta have been excluded from the Federal Government palliatives.
The groups went on: “For example, Rivers State has not received any kind of support from the Federal Government to tackle the socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic despite the efforts made by the state government to contain the spread of the virus and the attendant disruptions to local livelihoods.
“The total neglect and marginalisation of Rivers State from the Federal Government palliatives and relief packages, despite the bulk of petroleum tapped from the state, makes us to increasingly question the capacity of the Federal Government to protect all citizens of the country in the face of the ravaging effects of COVID-19.”They stressed that the social and economic challenges posed by the disease cut across all the states of the federation.
Thus, the distribution of aids and palliatives should not be selective. In his remarks, spokesperson of Media COVID-19 Situation Room, Karl Uchegbu, while giving updates on the virus yesterday in Port Harcourt, warned that the alleged discrimination was not in the best interest of the nation.
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