From Kolawole Omoniyi, Kano
A number of stakeholders including Kano Anti-Corruption Agency, Civil Society Groups and Persons Living With Disability (PLWD) have decried the irregularities recorded during the last two batches of COVID-19 palliative distributions in Kano over alleged hijack by politicians and poor monitoring of the distribution to the last stage of delivery targeting poorest of the poor residents.
Though the Kano Fund Raising Committee on COVID-19 palliatives had claimed to have generated over N745 million naira cash and food items as well as other relief materials worth billions of naira from the State, Local, Federal Government, Corporate Bodies and many well-to-do individuals, the stakeholders said the exercise lacked transparency and accountability mechanisms.
The Kano Civil Society Group had earlier raised the alarm over alleged deliberate exclusion of the Group in the composition of the palliative committee to ensure adequate monitoring and evaluation. Also, people with special needs decried the composition of the 35-man committee over alleged marginalization.
Executive Director of African Center for Transparency and Anticorruption Advocacy in Kano, Ismail Auwal, told our correspondent that there were no clearly defined modalities and criteria for the selection of the beneficiaries and the palliatives distributed did not include Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) rather, only food stuff.
“There were no explanations from government on; how much was used to procure the palliatives? Who procured the palliatives? What are the sources of the money used to procure the palliatives? And how much the palliatives cost per beneficiary?” he added.
On his part, even though they applauded the good intention of the COVID-19 palliative distribution programme, the Civil Society Organisations in Kano accused the committee of excluding People with Special Needs and the CSOs in its composition, palliatives diversion and lack of transparency and accountability as well as total among others.
Hijacked by Politicians
Chairman of Kano Civil Society Groups, Ibrahim Waiya lamented that the exercise has been hijacked by some politicians, hence questioning its credibility. “Firstly we need to applaud the good intention of government on the COVID-19 palliative distribution. However the whole process was overtaken or I could say being politicized.
The process was not transparent because up till now, nobody could tell you actually the total amount of money that was received by the fund raising committee in Kano and the quantity of the items they have collected.”
Waiya also commented on the inefficiency of the committee due to its limited capacity in monitoring the palliative to the last beneficiaries. “the committee has only 35 members or thereabout, it is humanly impossible for them to reach every part of Kano State, that is the reason why we expect them to engage the CSOs and other relevant stakeholders who have structures across the 44 local government areas of the State to ensure transparency and accountability” he added.
In the meantime, the vulnerable people with special needs in the State also decried exclusion of their members in the composition of the palliative committee and the distribution of the foods items and N2, 000 cash.
Chairman of the Joint National Association for Persons with Disability, Kano Branch, Engr. Musa Muhammed Sa’ada, told our correspondent that his members were excluded despite their several appeals and a formal letter written to the Secretary to the State Government, Usman Alhaji in respect of their plights during the mandatory lockdown.
“We have Chairmen in all the 44 LGAs in Kano and I have their per day data, they have not received palliative from the Government. Also at the State level, we contacted the chairman of the Fund Raising and Palliative Committee, he said no PWDs in the program. We wrote letter to SSG Kano and the SSG referred the letter to the committee, I have seen the letter and the date it was delivered to the committee, for now as I am talking to you, there is no action taken by the committee.” He lamented.
Some of the beneficiaries told our correspondent that they got a bag of 25kg of one of the following grains including rice, millet, sorghum, maize and guinea corn, four liters of cooking oil and N2000 cash. There were mixed feelings among the residents who benefitted from the palliatives and those who only got the information on the media.
Mr. Felix Okonkwo told our reporter that he only saw the palliatives when it was distributed in his area but was not legible despite his predicament as a father of three who was sharing a loaf of bread with his children and wife on daily basis during the lockdown.
“Life was so difficult for me, my children and my wife, five of us were sharing only a loaf of bread daily and we have to sleep like that till another day. We saw some people sharing the palliatives but they refused to give us”.
Another resident, Hajiya Zainab Haruna, lambasted some well-to-do individuals who were allegedly using their cars to divert the palliatives within the metropolis despite the committee’s position of sharing it at each polling point.
“I know it is not possible for Government to feed all of us, but it is unfortunate seeing rich rich people using their cars to come and carry the palliative at the ward to their respective homes, they even destroyed vehicle of one woman when she loaded her car with grains,” she lamented.
One of the beneficiaries, who preferred anonymity, said he got his own palliative through his Mosque but it was lower than what was budgeted for each beneficiary by the Committee.
“The portion of our Mosque is not enough to cater for the vulnerable people so our leaders decided to cut it into smaller part to enable more people to benefit, so I got two plates of rice, some got other grains, some who didn’t get grains also went home with cooking oil”.
Kano Anti-Graft Agency Accuses People in High Positions of Palliative Diversion
However, the prosecution of Kumbotso Local Government Area, Alhaji Kabiru Ado Panshekara, by the Kano State Public Complaints and Anti-Corruption Commission over alleged criminal breach of trust and making a false statement regarding the distribution of COVID-19 palliatives in his area was the last straw that broke the camel’s back.
In the suit, the Commission listed Panshekara’s alleged offence to include distributing palliatives to security personnel, comprising of the police, Department of State Services, Immigration and Hisbah guards in his area, saying that the action was a violation the Provision of Section 22, 23 and 26 of the Kano State Public Complaints and Anti-Corruption Commission Law 2008 (as amended).
The Commission insisted that all political office holders, civil servants at federal, state and local government levels, political party officials at ward level, traditional rulers, imams, pastors and casual workers at Federal, State and Local Government were all excluded from the beneficiaries of the COVID-19 palliative materials.
His words: “People tried to take advantage of that palliative distribution to corner the materials for their own personal use and the most unfortunate event we noticed is that it is done with the involvement of people in high positions especially at the local level”.
Palliative Committee Dismisses Alleged Politization and Poor Coordination
Responding to the allegations, Publicity Chairman of the Palliative Committee, who doubles as the State Commissioner for Information, Muhammed Garba in an exclusive interview with our correspondent denies the alleged politization and poor coordination of the exercise.
He claimed that the committee successfully distributed the palliatives, including food items and N2, 000 each to 100, 000 households and eight people had so far benefitted in each polling units across the 44 local Government areas of the State.
“In each polling unit in Kano, four poorest of the poor benefitted in the first batch, the second batch is the same thing, four people also benefitted, which means in each polling units, eight people have benefitted, in a ward you can find about 10, 15… polling units and our target is three hundred thousand households, so that is the system we adopted.”
Findings of our correspondent at the office of the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC indicates that Kano has 11, 222 polling points, the figure when multiplied by eight beneficiaries in each polling point, is equivalent to 89, 778, but the Commissioner later clarified that the balance of 10, 222 were expanded to prisons and orphanage homes.
The Commissioner said apart from the major contributions in cash, food items and materials running into billions of naira, donated the Local Government, Federal Government, Corporate Bodies and private individuals, the State Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje also released N285 million (in two batches) to enable them give the beneficiaries N2, 000 each and cater for other logistics.
“We spent millions of naira on logistics including re-bagging of 50kg grains (comprising 110 trucks of rice, millet, sorghum and maize donated by the federal government) to 25kg, loading and off loading of the grains as well as transportation of the food items to the respective LGAs, wards and each polling point,” he said.
After painstaking follow ups and fruitless attempts to access the financial statements of the committee following the alleged lack of accountability, the Commissioner refused to release hard copy of the committee’s activities detailing its financial records so far, rather he verbally explained to our correspondent via telephone that the committee had spent over N668m out of the over N745m generated so far.
“The amount of money that was realized from N50, 000 above, anything less than N50, 000 is not captured, is N745, 975, 600, total amount of money expanded is N668, 375, 869.18, we have a balance of N77, 599, 730.82 and that is what we have in our account as a balance. We may need to request for more support if the money is not enough to share in the next phase of the palliative distribution” He explained.
On the alleged exclusion of the CSOs in the composition of the committee, Garba said what they discovered was that Kano CSOs were divided, hence instead of engaging them as a body, the committee decided to pick some individuals among them to be part of the committee members.