AKWA IBOM REPORT
The Civil Society Organisation Forum in Akwa Ibom State under the auspices of the CSO Situation Room has called on the State Government to account for the COVID-19 intervention funds which it has so far, received. According to the CSO Network, the demand was made in the interest of promoting transparency and accountability in the management and utilisation of public resources, as well as building public trust. It noted that the Akwa Ibom State Government has an obligation to make public every source of funding, received with respect to the COVID-19 outbreak to help the State respond effectively to the scourge and curtail its impacts. But till date, the government has failed to disclose this very important information to the public. The State Government had earlier disclosed that the State had spent One Billion Naira in fighting COVID-19, but no further detail was given with regards to how the funds were sourced and expended.
With the uptick in the number of fresh COVID-19 cases in the State and the dwindling confidence in the government’s ability to manage the health crisis, the State Government ought to rekindle hope in the residents of the State by revealing how the reported One Billion Naira fund was expended. This is necessary to promote public accountability and convince the people of the government’s genuine efforts in tackling the pandemic. A recent update by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, showed that Akwa Ibom recorded 18 new cases of COVID-19 on July 2, 2020, bringing to 104 the number of confirmed cases in the State. Only a month ago, the State had less than 50 confirmed cases. The surge in the number of confirmed cases is largely attributable to the government’s inability to enforce a strict compliance to all public safety guidelines in the State.
It will be recalled that the State Government in April this year, imposed a lockdown in the State which was later relaxed, within which period, palliatives were distributed to indigent persons who were most-affected economically by the lockdown. The government however, did not deem it necessary to disclose the sums of money expended on palliatives and the number of beneficiaries. Also, the government has so far not bothered to give an account of the cost of running the isolation centres in the State, as well as related expenditure such as personnel costs, et al.
A commercial street in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State
The CSO Situation Room therefore calls on the State Government to make public the names of donors who have donated funds meant for combating the pandemic, and the expenditures incurred. The government must also inform the people of Akwa Ibom State about its plans on curtailing an increase in fresh infections. With the recent NCDC confirmation of the presence of a community transmission in the country and the implication that contact-tracing may no longer be possible as people who are getting infected now find it hard to identify the source of their infection, the government needs to formulate and publicly disclose its Plan B. The government must show its readiness to cater to the health needs of the increasing number of infected persons at the State’s Isolation centres, whilst doing everything necessary to checkmate the community spread of the virus. By assuring the people of its commitment to overcome the scourge, the government can restore public confidence, but this can only be through the effective implementation of strategic policies and initiatives, in a vividly transparent and accountable manner.