COVID-19: Group Refutes Allegation of Inefficient Distribution of Palliatives

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Our attention has been drawn to a Press Release of Monday, 4 th May 2020 captioned “INEFFICIENT COORDINATION AND MONITORING MARS FCTA’S COVID-19 PALLIATIVES DISTRIBUTION EXERCISE “, authored and signed by Ezenwa Nwagwu Co convener “Say No Campaign” a sister anti-corruption and transparency group on the distribution of palliative items in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja by the Federal Capital Territory Administration. He noted that the process of palliative distribution was keenly monitored through its community citizen’s observers and Say no campaign anti-corruption network in the 6 LGAs of FCTA In the said press release Comrade Nwagwu made the following observations, to wit:

Say No Campaign commend the Federal Capital Territory Administration for its COVID-19 Palliatives distribution exercise in the 6 area councils of the FCT and particularly commends its effective exercise in Abaji;

We would like the administration to note some issues that blurred its efforts at achieving a transparent, orderly and accountable distribution, and make effort to address them; citizens are concerned on the modalities deployed by the FCTA in the distribution of the palliatives across the 6 area councils; Who are the beneficiaries;

What was the criteria for selection What exactly were the contents of the package What was the intended duration for household use; When will the second round of the Palliative distribution commence who will benefit from the second round of distribution in the FCT;

The distribution reportedly lacked credibility, transparency and accountability That the conduct of the exercise as with its lapses remained invariably the same all through; replicating inefficient strategy from one area council to the other;

lack of proper monitoring by the FCTA to ensure fair and equitable distribution of items;

lack of a comprehensive beneficiary lists to ensure priority for the most vulnerable and to provide orderliness in the distribution of items, Noting that the relief items were not distributed based on the beneficiary list earlier drafted, which was meant to document the most vulnerable in the community. This list was discarded; hence, indiscriminate sharing was carried out initially and later restricted to the indigenes.

observed were nepotism, inconsistency in observing social distancing regulations Non-indigenes who are resident in Kuje were reportedly discriminated against.

This was because according to the report, the distribution officials realized the items were not sufficient for the entire households in their wards. lack of effective communication raising suspicions and causing speculations There were some areas, of course, that the FCTA did improve, the most obvious was the stoppage of night sharing and the use of ‘selection pass’ as a determinant of eligibility.

Having performed the same exercise in 5 area councils, we had thought that the FCTA would have learnt from its mistakes and become fully experienced to ensure AMAC was a great success. However, that would be asking for too much as indigent Community members are still waiting and expecting the items to get to them as promised by the officials.

There were no reports of distribution exercise carried out in some major areas like Lugbe, Lokogoma and Mpape, despite the number of villages and vulnerable people in those areas. Where distribution took place, there were uneven number of items shared; inconsistent social distancing efforts; and reports of councilors politicizing the exercise as they received the items for their wards in private vehicles which some observers perceived as remuneration for voting them to office?

In AMAC that the quantity of items largely fell short of the expectant households despite an earlier submission of the total number of expectant households of vulnerable members to the council, as remarked by a particular resident Some Communities received a little above half of the numbers quoted, while others received more.

This resulted in the scramble for the palliatives experienced in some communities when it was obvious that the items were insufficient Mr Nwagwu argued that beyond the Minister’s announcement of 100 thousand bags of rice and 100 thousand bags of condiments, there were no known means of proving or verifying the actual number delivered or distributed in each area councils.

We are expecting a comprehensive report of the exercise, which will include, the amount earmarked for and spent on the entire process, the verified number of items delivered to each area council, details of logistics, vendors and the procurement processes employed. We also expect the FCTA to conduct a thorough review of the process as a means of reflection and self-evaluation, to question it’s strategy, it’s coordination exercise as well as the initiative of some area council to introduce and secretly share, in the dead of the night, a ‘selection pass’ for community members.

It is the most responsible thing to do, and we expect that the FCTA will deliver in the interest of accountability.

Consequent upon the assurance by the FCTA minister of state, Dr. Ramatu Aliyu, of a second round of distribution, we urge the minister to consider seriously the issue of beneficiary list, rightly updated for the exercise Efforts should be made to ensure individuals who were unfairly exempted from the first round are rightly served in the second round.

Active monitoring, at both council and community levels should be carried out by the FCTA officials, to ensure a fair and unbiased distribution is carried out; more hands can be deployed for this exercise We also urge the Minister to employ a simultaneous distribution across the area council.

The almost three weeks duration for the distribution, in a lockdown, only served to further agitate community members who are already frustrated about the quantity of the materials to be received, stalling the process can only aggravate tension and crisis.

Social distancing must not be further compromised as Covid-19 is yet to be contained. The FCTA must enforce it and mandate every area council to submit a working plan that takes into serious consideration the issues of social distancing before they can receive their items 2.

These observations are indeed welcome as it is expected of a pro anti-corruption watchdog. However it is also a correlative duty of us to engage stakeholders and query them before coming to the above damning and speculative conclusions which can indeed derail not only an on-gong process, but then cast aspersion on its credibility and sincere efforts to improve as expected

The struggle a pro-democracy, anti-corruption and good governance initiative would want to note its observation on the above issues raised and further state its experiences on this exercise being among the civil Society, community based groups that participated in the process.

We make these submissions with all sense of responsibility and patriotism in line with our cardinal objectives of “struggle aimed and freedom, enshrined by good governance and accountability” We shall take up the observations seriatim: i.

Say No Campaign commend the Federal Capital Territory Administration for its COVID-19 Palliatives distribution exercise in the 6 area councils of the FCT and particularly commends its effective exercise in Abaji;

We join SNC to commend the Federal Capital Territory Administration for the Palliative distribution as even developed countries are indeed rattled all round with the onset of the Pandemic.

We also note the effective distribution of the palliative not only the global flag off at Abaji but indeed all other Area Councils but with the hitches by miscreants and paid tugs who set out to sabotage the process in Bwari Area Council but was contained.

We would like the administration to note some issues that blurred its efforts at achieving a transparent, orderly and accountable distribution, and make effort to address them;

We view this conclusion by Comrade Nwagwu as not only being judgmental but indeed premeditated having not directly participated in the whole process.

It is also one that’s unfair having commended the FCTA in its flag off at Abaji and with the emergency nature of the operations and obvious structural and logistic infrastructure, it was not meant to go totally unhitched iii.

Citizens are concerned on the modalities deployed by the FCTA in the distribution of the palliatives across the 6 area councils; It will interest SNC to note that we with other Civil society groups were involved in the activities signaling the distribution.

Consultations were held across party lines, civil society groups, religious bodies, and youth groups, People with disabilities, market groups/traders, and council officials.

These efforts were to engender buy-in of all the groups and to ensure standardized modalities for the distribution. The Area councils were directed to set up committees involving these groups at the Council levels and ward levels to ensure distribution and Monitoring.

This structure is exclusive of the Ministerial monitoring teams and distribution team which were mutually exclusive and independent of these other tiers of distribution and monitoring.

The rationale in this enlarge monitoring and distribution levels is to check abuses whether political, religious or ethnic and to ensure distribution in accordance to lists as submitted by the Committee at the council level having the above stated Membership.

We must note that the various royal fathers also ensured the observance of best practices in their domain. Every Area Council with its officials and above stated Committees approached the FCTA at any of its designated warehouses at Area 10, TUNGA Maje, Kubwa and three other sites on stated dates to pick its Palliative items in trucks pre-engaged by the FCTA.

The items are loaded according to each ward and its numbers in the list. This is monitored by the committees from the Councils and wards. With the support combined teams of the Nigerian Police Force, Civil Defence Corps, Federal Road Safety officials, and Department of State Security operatives are taken straight to the wards. Distributions were done Door to Door.

It is further important to state here that every Area Council was enjoined to own the process by these modalities as we must note that it is humans that run processes and thus must be moderated to achieve best results. We witnessed these events and we speak first hand

Who are the beneficiaries; The beneficiaries we must not are the vulnerable as identified by local officials, the FCTA social welfare Department along its social welfare initiatives that involves orphanages, destitute, People with disabilities and the likes.

The Hon. Minister of State made it clear that it is not everyone that is entitled to the Palliative. So that explains some misconception that it is meant for everyone just because there is a lockdown.

We witnessed daily feeding of destitutes at the Old Parade ground, feeding at markets and distribution of Palliatives at the Army barracks. v. What was the criteria for selection

The criteria we have highlighted above in (iii). This is one designed by the FCTA in determining the vulnerable and challenged persons in their community as signified in the list produced by these broad based committees and monitored by same and the FCTA monitoring committees and Extension and Zonal officers.

As noted above, distribution of Palliatives were also made at social Welfare extant sites in such councils and identified Persons with Disabilities as they have members in every Council that participated

vi. What exactly were the contents of the package We observed that for every bag of 5kg Rice, there was a complementary sack containing salt,3kg bag beans,2kg bag Garri, bottle of groundnut oil, bag of sugar,3kg of Semovita.

All were sealed. At some point at loading certain consignments were identified and defective by the Quality Control Department of the FCTA and the supplier was asked to change them.

Such defects that go to packaging are experienced at such emergency and mass procurement and the need for quality checks is indeed necessary for accountability as was done.

vii. What was the intended duration for household use; It is indeed comical to seek for duration of such distributions for Households as no one knows the life span of the effect of the Pandemic that has led to a lockdown, but the FCTA has noted that it is going for another round of distribution, taking into account its review of the first. On enquiries by us, it noted that it was meant to support households for at least 10days, pending subsequent distributions and end of the lockdown. Government is supportive while the Lockdown lasts. Any responsible government will take up its responsibility as at when due. It is for us as watchdogs to hold it accountable and ensure transparency and best practice.

When will the second round of the Palliative distribution commence This the FCTA will have to provide answers to after reviews and assessments from responses like ours.

ix. Who will benefit from the second round of distribution in the FCT; The Hon. Minister of State has noted that that is a continuous process as long as the Lockdown lasts but every new stage will cater for such others either independent or in addition to earlier beneficiaries.

Government resources is not infinite and we must hold it accountable for same x. The distribution reportedly lacked credibility, transparency and accountability

This assertion by SNC is a paradox and indeed a sharp and suspicious departure from its noted successes but for its third party reported and faulty hitches in Kuje.

We also noted the overzealousness of certain individuals in Kubwa that led to our advice for certain steps to be taken by the Council CHAIRMAN to thwart such sabotage.

It is thus an overkill to baptize such a process as hitherto enumerated as lacking in credibility, transparency and accountability. Our monitors in the three epicenters of FCT, Lagos and Ogun State that were locked down has noted that only in the FCT did officials of state go the extra mile to work out effective distribution ,which succeeded.

Let us review other issues as the FCTA cannot be found wanting on this critical Public policy drivers as even the Honorable Minister of State placed a curse on anyone that tampered with the process to the detriment of the state and beneficiaries

xi. That the conduct of the exercise as with its lapses remained invariably the same all through; replicating inefficient strategy from one area council to the other;

My fellow Comrade at this point became economical with the truth after hailing a wonderful flag off but then relied on third party reporters who ought to have brought any such deficiencies that he claims trialed the process to the notice of senior officials of the FCTA on monitoring.

Was SNC sincerely there to ensure success or to ensure failure? We as watchdogs were there to ensure that the Nigerian people got the benefit of funds spent in their name and followed up on lapses for improvement.

The strategies which we witnessed and monitored as noted in(X) above proved largely successful. It can be improved upon.

lack of proper monitoring by the FCTA to ensure fair and equitable distribution of items;

This is most uncharitable as officials of the FCTA, Civil society groups and critical stakeholders who defied the risks of infection to them and their loved ones followed ,monitored and reported on this process, which reports are still coming in.

This is most unfair and we believe you at this point are doing a hatchet job. Note that officials of FCTA also carried enumeration of houses and marked same. dis your sources not report that?

xiii. Lack of a comprehensive beneficiary lists to ensure priority for the most vulnerable and to provide orderliness in the distribution of items, Noting that the relief items were not distributed based on the beneficiary list earlier drafted, which was meant to document the most vulnerable in the community.

This list was discarded; hence, indiscriminate sharing was carried out initially and later restricted to the indigenes.

This report is false, unverifiable and indeed wicked as none of the broad-based members of the various layers of the distribution committees, we the CSO’s, traditional rulers made this outlandish observations. List was compiled as noted above and owned by all the stakeholders.

Did they all including CSO’s, abandon their persuasions to compromise? Please be circumspect in your postulations.

xiv. Observed were nepotism, inconsistency in observing social distancing regulations. Non-indigenes who are resident in Kuje were reportedly discriminated against.

This was because according to the report, the distribution officials realized the items were not sufficient for the entire households in their wards.

Please let us start speaking truth to ourselves. We must always bring in the dividing lines in our dealings as a people. Community leaders, tribal heads in these communities led in the identification of individuals and the distribution of items. You seem to sing the same song of a fake bag of bad palliatives that was shared on Social media which did not have the security features we witnessed on the original packages. We stand for a united, peaceful and just Nigeria. We urge you to please present to the FCTA evidence that goes to show this, not arranged. On monitoring, efforts were made to ensure that beneficiaries stayed home and that they received their items at home. However in isolated cases especially in Kubwa, residents breached social distancing protocols and the process was suspended.

Lack of effective communication raising suspicions and causing speculations We must note that contrary to our push alongside other CSO’s for the distribution to commence immediately, the administration delayed to get proper data from the Councils and buy in to ensure proper door to door distribution, security of items and officials of state.

These much were communicated as the Hon. Minister of State had varying levels of consultation with critical stakeholders from traditional rulers, to politicians, youths, market women, people with disabilities, etc.

Moreover it was important to restrict movement in some places to forestall breach of peace and NCDC PROTOCOLS.

xvi. There were some areas, of course, that the FCTA did improve; the most obvious was the stoppage of night sharing and the use of ‘selection pass’ as a determinant of eligibility.

The FCTA directed its officials, security, and the communities that no distribution continued after 5pm on any day. That was why items were picked directly from stores to the wards and if it gets in late, the Wards secure same as was the case in Kubwa.

Though you made some commendation but night distribution was never the case xvii. Having performed the same exercise in 5 area councils, we had thought that the FCTA would have learnt from its mistakes and become fully experienced to ensure AMAC was a great success.

However, that would be asking for too much as indigent Community members are still waiting and expecting the items to get to them as promised by the officials.

There were no reports of distribution exercise carried out in some major areas like Lugbe, Lokogoma and Mpape, despite the number of villages and vulnerable people in those areas. This is unfounded as distribution by AMAC has been largely successful. Its plan was clinical.

The Council officials are so elated; Note that the distribution will still continue as even AMAC had different level of palliatives at the City center before its Palliative distribution got to it.

No one can be magically be experienced in this global state we find ourselves, it is our collective duty as partners to guide development partners and demand due process at every point. It’s an ongoing process. Let us ensure it gets better xviii. Where distribution took place, there were uneven number of items shared; inconsistent social distancing efforts; and reports of councilors politicizing the exercise as they received the items for their wards in private vehicles which some observers perceived as remuneration for voting them to office. It will be useful if you had gone forth to produce evidence of any official that acted in such a manner since you ought to have had your monitors on ground. We are aware of the possibility of further arrangement of cars for pickups at areas with difficult terrain which we monitored alongside FCTA officials. But the insinuation cum allegation by you is indeed worrisome and we charge you to please come forth with proof as bad is bad xix. In AMAC that the quantity of items largely fell short of the expectant households despite an earlier submission of the total number of expectant households of vulnerable members to the council, as remarked by a particular resident Acquaint yourself with paragraph (iii) above. No Council took less than its listed households as they were handed over Ward by Ward and distributed as stated hereinabove. Please be guided xx. Some Communities received a little above half of the numbers quoted, while others received more. This resulted in the scramble for the palliatives experienced in some communities when it was obvious that the items were insufficient See paragraph (xix) above and be guided xxi. Mr Nwagwu argued that beyond the Minister’s announcement of 100 thousand bags of rice and 100 thousand bags of condiments, there were no known means of proving or verifying the actual number delivered or distributed in each area councils. Mr. Nwagwu, you will do our community some good by presenting facts that are verifiable and consistent. We have just led you through the process of collection of items and its distribution. We all have our records and I’m aware the FCTA has kept its records robust. Why don’t you carry out your tasks diligently and clinically before going to press? Even the Area Councils have these records

We are expecting a comprehensive report of the exercise, which will include, the amount earmarked for and spent on the entire process, the verified number of items delivered to each area council, details of logistics, vendors and the procurement processes employed. It is preposterous to expect a public institution not to have a report for such an activity just the way one would have expected you to be diligent in producing yours. We also have ours. You can demand these details from it through the necessary process. xxiii. We also expect the FCTA to conduct a thorough review of the process as a means of reflection and self-evaluation, to question it’s strategy, it’s coordination exercise as well as the initiative of some area council to introduce and secretly share, in the dead of the night, a ‘selection pass’ for community members. It is the most responsible thing to do, and we expect that the FCTA will deliver in the interest of accountability. We entirely support such a review process by the FCTA. We further suggest the involvement of stakeholders by an enlargement of more Civil Society Groups to strengthen future processes. Kudos on this. xxiv. Consequent upon the assurance by the FCTA minister of state, Dr. Ramatu Aliyu, of a second round of distribution, we urge the minister to consider seriously the issue of beneficiary list, rightly updated for the exercise There is need to further review such lists as it can never be water tight. Human existence is dynamic. We join hands with SNC to call for continues review of such data. xxv. Efforts should be made to ensure individuals who were unfairly exempted from the first round are rightly served in the second round. Active monitoring, at both council and community levels should be carried out by the FCTA officials, to ensure a fair and unbiased distribution is carried out; more hands can be deployed for this exercise Monitoring should be re-enforced as more monitors should be engaged. We also suggest the arrest and prosecution of anyone caught subverting the process as it is criminal. These are infact the whole essence of having security officials guard these items. No one was arrested in the Kubwa debacle. xxvi. We also urge the Minister to employ a simultaneous distribution across the area council. The almost three weeks duration for the distribution, in a lockdown, only served to further agitate community members who are already frustrated about the Page 11 quantity of the materials to be received, stalling the process can only aggravate tension and crisis. Simultaneous distribution will raise security concerns and huge logistics. It is possible but undesirable and these may lead to coordination issues. Eventually we will be ripe for such systemic upgrades but for now it may pose a challenge to the authorities from our experience in the field. However its efficacy with regards to execution time can be improved going forward. xxvii. Social distancing must not be further compromised as Covid-19 is yet to be contained. The FCTA must enforce it and mandate every area council to submit a working plan that takes into serious consideration the issues of social distancing before they can receive their items Social distancing is one anthem that officials of the FCTA preach all the time. It is also our duty knowing our history as a people to preach this. 3. We have taken pain to put some of these records straight as our own social responsibility as a responsible body. The process and the problem is novel. It has taken humanity unawares. However we enjoin the government and the FCTA to ensure that due process is followed in all that it does and do take the responsibility of consistently briefing the public on its activities. We commend the enforcement Team for the lockdown as they are doing a wonderful job in ensuring compliance. We further enjoin security operatives to cause investigations over any allegation of diversion, fraud or sabotage of this process. Thank you Comrade Abdulakarim Hassan Muazu Convener Thursday May 7, 2020

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