In August 2023, the Federal Government announced a palliative of N5 billion for each state of the federation, including the Federal Capital Territory, to alleviate the impact of the petrol subsidy removal.
The governor of Borno State, Babagana Zulum, announced this in Abuja after a National Economic Council meeting headed by Vice President Kashim Shettima.
Zulum said the 5 billion is to enable the state government to procure 100,000 bags of rice, 40,000 bags of maize, and fertilizers to reduce the effect of fuel subsidies.
The food palliative was expected to be a measure geared towards alleviating or easing the difficult situation Nigerians face.
However, the palliative has been tagged as ridiculous, and its idea and execution have been ineffective in some states.
Other observers say the palliative can barely cover for the hardship many Nigerians are going through, especially with rising inflation.
Not channelled to the right people.
When announcing the palliative, Zulum had said, “The council has taken bold decisions to ensure the speedy release of grains and other items to cushion the effects of subsidy removal on the underprivileged in society.”
However, many have posited that palliative in many communities has not found its way to the houses of those who need it the most.
According to social researcher Olamide Philip, the Palliative measure is ineffective, as the intended recipients do not receive it.”The way it is distributed makes it a waste of money. The government isn’t monitoring it thoroughly. Local government chairmen, who don’t need it, often keep it for themselves. The palliative should be channelled to those who are unemployed, the elderly, and the disabled without food,” Philip said.
He added, “The palliative program should be halted as it facilitates embezzlement at the subnational level, and it fails to reach the intended beneficiaries. Recall the COVID-19 palliative where food items were hoarded, hidden, and even wasted.”
Iyabo Adio, 45, a widow with three children, said that she had to beg and sit in the scorching heat for hours before it was her turn to get palliative in Omu-Aran, Kwara state.
Adio complained bitterly about the quality of the rice she was able to get from the community leader, Chief Oladipo, who was in charge of the sharing.
“When it was time to cook it, I put the rice and beans on the fire at the same time, but the beans got softer before the rice, contrary to the normal. But I had no choice, I ate it with my children”, she told Prime Progress.
Likewise, in the state capital, Ilorin, some residents of Adewole Ward in the Ilorin West Local Government Area of the state were seen walking away from the venue of the distribution of foodstuffs in the Agunbelewo area in a viral video.
The residents said the whole Agunbelewo was given just six measures of rice, which is approximately one and a half painted plastic containers out of the eight bags allocated to the Adewole Ward, where the state governor, Abdulrahman AbdulRazaq, is from.
Also, in Ogun State, an Estate Chairman returned the one bag of rice reportedly given to him as palliative to distribute to 147 families in his estate; this he tagged an insult.
“If you people know you can not do something, don’t do it; this is an insult“, the Chairman said in the viral video on social media.
Phillip insisted that the government had not put in place enough mechanisms in place to protect the whole scheme from corruption.
His fears are not unfounded; in February 2023, Transparency International, or TI, revealed that Nigeria has moved four places up in the global Corruption Perception Index, CPI, ranking 150 out of 180 countries.
Africa’s largest democracy struggles with transparency and accountability, especially with government-funded programs.
“The government should establish a monitoring committee to ensure equitable distribution, but in this country, such efforts are often undermined by collusion and corruption. The program should be discontinued.”, Philip said, about how corruption has fostered the inefficiency of the palliative.
And it doesn’t stop there; only the people familiar with the distributors have been the recipients of the palliative.
According to Mrs Yemi Yejide, a resident of Omu-Aran, only party members and other people whom the politicians feel they are indebted to during the election receive palliative, and the community leaders also follow the same pattern. “If you are not friends with them, you can not benefit from them“.
The money could have been better used
On a radio program in July 2023, Mr Goke Akinrogunde, a medical practitioner, said that palliative is not a means out of the mess that Nigerians have found themselves in, as the high cost of living has become a huge concern to the living.
“Given the assessment of the cost of living even in the rural area where we probably have most of the poor families in Nigeria, I think there is nothing commendable about that proposal”, Akinrogunde said about the Palliative idea, as reported by TheCable.
The public health expert insisted on addressing the root of lack and hardship in the nation, “I don’t think that is the way to go. The way to go is to attack the foundation of poverty in Nigeria and not to remove subsidies that have a damaging impact on the lives of ordinary Nigerians.”
Nankpak Cirfat, an advocate for Accountability and Transparency, noted that only a small fraction of those in greatest need received the food palliative, which itself consisted of just one meal a day.
“Hardly can you find anyone who collected the palliative and fed his or her family with it for up to three days. So how effective is it, because people go back to starvation.”
He emphasized the need for Nigerians to be manufacturers and not consumers instead of exhausting the available funds on ineffective measures, “if the palliative went into production, we would be able to produce things that will sustain the economy and will even provide jobs which will provide food and the tables for people. Imagine that the 5 billion naira given to states was used to build industries where they have a comparative advantage; imagine the number of jobs it will create. An industry producing, manufacturing, and selling to the people will boost the economy.”