Press Release: The COVID-19 SITUATION ROOM is an intervention to monitor and report in response to the covid-19 pandemic, from the angle of the civil society and the Media.We have followed closely, with keen interest, Rivers States government’s responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic, including the provision and distribution of food palliatives to citizens aimed at cushioning the harsh impacts of the government imposed corona virus containment measures that involved certain level of restrictions, social distancing amongst others. We note that these measures were stipulated by experts as being indispensable in containment and management of the pandemic and therefore encourage the public to endeavor to adhere to these rules. Thus, we appreciate the efforts of the state government, health and aid workers, corporate bodies, civil society organizations, the media and public spirited individuals aimed at controlling the spread of the virus.
Findings from our monitoring of the COVID-19 responses in the State shows that the state food store has been stocked with large quantities of different types of valuable foodstuffs including beans, rice, garri, cartons of indomie and tubers of yam, in addition to gallons of oil and other edibles. This, the Situation finds impressive. We are however burdened to flag some issues we have observed in the distribution of the palliatives process, which constitute fundamental gaps in the process of which has the potential of rendering government’s good intention on the economic palliative null and void. This flaws are centered around the actual distribution of the palliative items to citizens; We recall that when the palliatives ship anchored at Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt City local government areas respectively on the 15th of April, 2020 only Indomie and Macaroni that were given to the people, with some families receiving as small as one sachet/pack of Indomie which costs about N60.
We wonder how one sachet of Indomie, which can be cooked just once, will quench the hunger of a family, irrespective of the size, whose sources of livelihood has been obstructed, cut short, if not destroyed in the process of fighting the covid-19.We note that the indomie noodles distributed at Portharcourt and OBIO/AKPOR have little or no nutritional value, and therefore may have little or nothing to add in terms of generating, in the body, nutrients required for its nourishment and sustenance. IT IS WORRISOME and also curious, that those in charge of the palliatives and its distribution did not include other food items, but chose to distribute only Indomie and Macaroni.
Furthermore, our findings reveal that, contrary to the government’s stated intention of ensuring non- discrimination in the distribution of the palliatives, non-indigenes were excluded in some areas, such as Rumuigbo, Ogbunabali, Rumuokalagbo, while in some communities like Okuru-Ama in Portharcourt Local Government, every family was given the Indomie, irrespective of whether they were poor or not. This implies that the palliatives only ended up in many wrong hands.
A holistic look at both the nature and manner of the said palliatives distribution in the state so far, shows that it is largely what can be considered as not just appalling but an embarrassment to, not only to the recipients, but also the state at large; Some specific mention of such scenarios might suffice here; , In Borokiri axis of the old Port Harcourt town for instance, the palliatives distribution was as follows:
1: 1 tuber of Yam for 5 households
2: 1 tomatoe cup of rice for 1 household
3: 1 tomatoe cup of beans for 1 household.
4: 1 tomatoe cup of garri for 1 household.
5: 2 small pack of indomie for 1 household.
6: 1 pack of Macaroni for 1 household.
At New road axis of the old Port Harcourt township, each community was given;
7: 2 bags of rice, 100 cartons of Indomie and Macaroni, 1 bag of Beans, 5 tubers of Yam and a 20 litre of groundnut oil. These were in turn shared as follows:
8: 1 macaroni per adult.
9: 1 Indomie per child. Nobody was given the beans, yams, rice or even oil.
The above scenario in the mentioned locations and places, captures the same state of affairs in most places where the said palliatives are claimed to have been given. It is worrisome, that even the nutritional needs of young and growing children seem to have been overlooked in the exercise so far.
The recent expansion of the State’s palliatives committee to include media and CSOs representatives while being a welcome development, is still however shrouded with inconsistencies as there is no structured pattern or plan for distribution of the palliatives towards ensuring it reaches the target vulnerable and poor people for whom they were procured. There is also no clear sharing formula and means of identifying those who really need the palliatives.
We believe that what is worth doing at all, is worth doing well. In view of the forgoing, and the implication it holds both for the exercise in itself and for the generality of the people of the State, The COVID-19 Civil Situation Room hereby reiterates its earlier call on the Palliatives Committee, for better structuring and planning of its processes. This should be backed up with proper stratification to determine persons and corresponding needs accordingly as it has emerged that its present practice of blind-sharing (without the aid of any reliable data or statistics), is ineffectual in achieving set goals. Additionally, the committee need to very importantly incorporate transparency in the distribution process as evidence has emerged of allocated food items not reaching the target individuals and/or in the manner they should. Discarding this important element, would completely defeat the aim of the exercise. For the LGAs where only indomie and macaroni were distributed, we demand a thorough investigation of the process to be carried out to determine what happened to other food items. If anybody is found wanton, the person should be prosecuted.
For the remaining LGAs where distribution is yet to take place, we call for a well-structured distribution system with clearly defined sharing formula. We suggest that a list of beneficiaries should be Compiled by governance structures of every streets and communities in the LGAs. The governance structures should be mandated by the palliatives committee to compile the list of potential beneficiaries. The list should give preference to poor widows, the elderly, persons with disability, and those who really need assistance. The list should include verifiable contacts and should be submitted to the palliatives committee, it is only for those who cannot fend for themselves and their families without going out to hustle on a daily basis;
Food depots should be opened at designated areas at the LGAs, Community leaders and street representatives should collect the items meant for their people from the food depots. The food items should be issued according
to the list. At the street and community levels, a collection point should be agreed upon where the identified/ identifiable recipients can easily go to collect their own share without necessarily overcrowding the collection points.
Work plans or schedule for the distributions should be made public to enable CSOs and the media monitor the process.
We urge those involved in the distributions to ensure they avoid tribal/ethnic, religious and political sentiments in carrying out the exercise.
They should also adhere to the social distancing rules so that they do not end up defeating the primary purposes of the sit at home order.,
We urge the general public to comply with directives of the Federal and State Governments on the COVID-19 pandemic.
Signed for the Situation Room
Stevyn Obodoekwe Chairman
Sebastian Kpalap Co- Chair
Karl Chinedu Uchegbu Spokesperson
Green Isaac Co-Secretary
Prince Ekpere Co-Secretary
Vivian Bellonwu Convener
For information and enquiries, contact:
Prince Ekpere – prince[at]saction.org
Green Isaac – green[at]saction.org
Rivers State CSO/Media COVID-19 Situation Room c/o Social Action
33, Oromineke Layout, D-Line Port Harcourt