We have been following developments concerning the governments’responses to the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria. We commend several efforts so far made, including financial and other contributions by public-spirited individuals, corporate bodies, and organizations towards containing the spread of the pandemic and cushioning the harsh impacts of the various responses.We recall that the federal government has earmarked many billions of naira, including contributions from non-state actors for fighting the pandemic. The money is expected to be used 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.
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 marginalization and exclusion of the Niger Delta states in selective distribution of test kits, the building of isolation centres, interventions funds distribution, and even sharing of relief materials by the federal government.
The federal government appears insensitive in the needs of the Niger Delta states that have enforced social distancing restriction to the detriment of livelihoods. While there are reports of grants of 20 thousand naira to residents of states that have not implemented strict social restrictions, the residents of the Niger Delta have been excluded by federal government palliatives. For example, Rivers State has not received any kind of support from the federal government to tackle to 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 marginalization 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.
The social and economic challenges posed by COVID-19 pandemic cut across all the states of the federation. Thus, the distribution of aids and palliatives should not be selective; it is not in the best interest of the country at this trying period, it will only send the wrong message and aggravate the situation as seen within the past few weeks.
If we must make significant progress in the fight against this ravaging disease, the country must remain united, and anything that will divide the country at this challenging moment must be avoided.
As we continue to stress to the people the importance of adhering to the lockdown order and other procedures and guidelines pronounced by the government as an important step towards curbing the COVID-19 pandemic, we call on the federal government to avoid any situation where the process of palliatives distribution would be politicized.
We demand an equitable use of the COVID 19 funds.
Signed for the Situation Room
Stevyn Obodoekwe Co- Chair
Sebastian Kpalap Co- Chair
Karl Chinedu Uchegbu Spokesperson
Green Isaac Co-Secretary
Prince Ekpere Co-Secretary
Vivian Bellownu 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