Sunday, April 21, 2024

Nationwide Hunger: Nigerians decry government corruption, want decentralised food distribution to avoid stampede

Mr Johnson-Akubo regretted that the corruption of top government functionaries had always come into play during such exercises.

• April 3, 2024

Some stakeholders in Kogi, Niger and Nasarawa have called on governments and spirited individuals to always adopt decentralised and systematic measures in the distribution of palliatives to avoid stampede.

They aired their views in separate interviews on Wednesday in Lokoja, Minna and Lafia that such measures had become imperative to avoid a repeat of recent cases of stampedes during palliative distribution exercises in Lagos, Keffi and Bauchi, where two students and others lost their lives.

In Lokoja, Alewo Johnson-Akubo, the vice-chancellor of Salem University Lokoja, said the government had never been effective in distributing palliatives to deserving poor people in society.

Mr Johnson-Akubo regretted that the corruption of top government functionaries had always come into play during such exercises.

“Therefore, if you want to achieve success in palliatives distribution, the government and its officials should completely steer clear of it. They should allow non-governmental organisations, spirited individuals of proven integrity, religious leaders and the traditional rulers should be engaged in the distribution so that targeted persons can get the palliatives.

“Even if these set of people have interest, it will be minimal compared to government officials. This is the way I think they should go to succeed and avoid wastage of lives of innocent citizens,” he said.

Ibrahim Nasir, a lecturer in the Department of Political Science, Prince Abubakar Audu University (PAAU), Ayingba, Kogi, said the death of students while scrambling for palliatives was unfortunate.

“What the government should do going forward to avoid future occurrence is to put in place the usual payment of bursary/scholarship to students as we used to know.

“This is far more scientific and better way to reduce the suffering of students without necessarily having to lose any life due to stampede.

“In addition, the government should reduce school fees paid by students as a way of palliatives instead of distributing food items,” he said.

Jerry Omodara, Governor Usman Ododo’s special adviser, said palliatives had always been systematically distributed in Kogi and directed at the most vulnerable people.

Omodara said, “We designed a system where the items can trickle down to the masses at the grassroots. Firstly, the people must see the genuineness of the government in distribution of the palliatives. It should be done as we did here in Kogi.

“The beneficiaries sit in their houses and the palliatives will get to them without any problem. This is because it was distributed through the local government chairmen of the 21 local government areas with specific instructions and strict supervision with adequate security that it must get to the 239 units of the state.

“The downtrodden and the people that really need the palliatives must first be identified in the units and be monitored for it to get to them as expected.”

In Minna, Suleiman Farinwata, a public affairs analyst, called on the three tiers of government to identify the target beneficiaries of any palliative before distributing the items to the people.

Farinwata said, “The government must first identify the beneficiaries of every palliative before embarking on the distribution of such items to the people, or else there will be stamped and corruption where others will get the items at the expense of intended beneficiaries.

“Another way we can prevent stampedes during the sharing of palliatives is to allow the beneficiaries/communities to constitute a committee made up of people with proven integrity.

“Among these class of people, we have the youth, middle age and elderly, but you find out that the politicians who are in charge will not appoint responsible people to take charge of the distribution of palliatives because of their selfish interests.”

In Lafia, Ezekiel Baba, a lecturer at the College of Agriculture, Science and Technology Lafia, applauded the palliatives distribution initiative to address the short-term effect of the hardship on the people.

The lecturer, however, appealed to the government to be more proactive regarding logistic and security arrangements for the distribution exercise in future.

He also charged the beneficiaries, especially students, to organise themselves properly and follow the laid down procedures for the distribution of palliatives to avoid the recent sad incident where two students died in Keffi.

Francis Ewuga, a secondary school teacher, said that the government should have declared free education for one semester as palliative.

Mr Ewuga noted that doing so could have prevented the stampede at Nasarawa State University Keffi.

“How will you share food to 3,000 students in an institution with over 20,000 students and expect orderliness,” he said.

Saidu Bako, a parent, expressed gratitude to the government for the gesture but appealed that all students be considered for palliative care.

He also added that the government should utilise the existing structures, such as departments and faculties, for the distribution to avoid further loss of lives. 


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