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‘Lagos stimulus package is for the aged, vulnerable’

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Director, Public Affairs, Lagos State Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. Jide Lawal, in this interview with DANIEL ANAZIA sheds light on the palliative measures announced by the state.

Why delay in delivering the stimulus package promised by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu as Lagosians are complaining that the package is yet to get to them?
What we had in Lagos prior to the presidential lockdown directive of two states and the FCT – Lagos, Ogun and Abuja – was partial restriction of movements. It is in line with Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s partial restriction order and the subsequent presidential lockdown directive that the governor promised a stimulus package, which is aimed at cushioning the impact of the stay at home order on Lagosians. The stimulus package is designed to support the aged and the vulnerable. And the governor had during his speech said that the state would roll out 200,000 packages which, like I said earlier, is to cater for the aged and the vulnerable.

If you say the targeted group is the aged and the vulnerable, which constitutes less than 30 per cent of the population of the state, what happens to the remaining 70 per cent?
We don’t just want to meet people half way. We are mindful of the fact that we have limited resources, and we cannot meet every resident’s needs. So, it is on that premise that we prioritised our strategy to meet the needs of the aged and the vulnerable. In determining who are and should be the real beneficiaries, we decided to work with the Community Development Associations, clergymen and the councilors in the localities. And if you check very well, you will see that these people know those people who fall within our targeted group and reside in their communities. So, they know who is aged and who is vulnerable. Like I said earlier, the package in the first instance is for 200,000 beneficiaries. If we already had these target groups in mind, people will not say that the package is being politicised because in the first instance, it cannot go round everybody.

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Most residents who are not within the said target group have spoken through traditional and social media platforms lamenting that they don’t know how they will survive the two weeks’ lockdown. What is the Lagos COVID-19 Emergency Food Response team doing to assuage their complaints?
They cannot say that there is no food because the state government in addition to the emergency food response created what we called 27 COVID-19 makeshift or relief markets across the 20 Local Government Areas (LGAs) and 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs), as part of the palliative measures.

These markets are located in schools not too far away from the people. The idea behind the creation of the markets is for the people especially the active and non-vulnerable to go to such places and stock their houses with food. The Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 on April 1, while reviewing the impact of the presidential lockdown directive said that markets (essentially the food markets) could be open from 10:00am to 2:00pm. So there won’t be any excuse for people (the active and non-vulnerable) to say they cannot access food. In some local governments that these makeshift markets don’t exist, the thinking is that there is already an existing market in that locality, bearing in mind like I said earlier that the food markets are to open between the stipulated time of the day.

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How many local governments have the Emergency Food Response team covered so far?
Well, as at yesterday we have been able to cover 17 local governments. For the purpose of planning, we are using the old 20 LGAs in the state, but don’t forget that the 37 LCDAs are also embedded in the 20 LGAs. So we are covering all simultaneously. We have covered Epe, Badagry, Agege, Kosofe, Surulere, Alimosho, Amuwo-Odofin, Apapa, Shomolu. The outstanding local governments should be Ikorodu, Mushin.

What have been the challenges of the team so far?
Well, the challenge is what I may refer to as lack of awareness of the people on the dangers of the coronavirus pandemic. The misconception most resident hold is that they are doing the government a favour by staying at home; it is for our good. Because my number is part of the Emergency Food Response hotlines, I keep telling people that it is only when you are healthy that you can go to work, business or to the market. A healthy person is a wealthy person; if you are not healthy you cannot stand up not to talk of going out to transact a business or buy something from the market. So, it is in our interest to stay at home, and we should also bear in mind that the package is a stimulus for the aged and the vulnerable.

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