Palliative looting and the Bauchi narrative

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Some of the residents carrying palliatives

On October 22, President Muhammadu Buhari addressed the nation on the #EndSARS protests, which many believed would calm the ravaging storm of the protests and bring an end to the rampages of hoodlums who found the protests as niche to wreak havoc on innocent citizens and the Nigerian government.

It is unfortunate that the president’s address had little or did not even have effect on the hoodlums as they seemed to have taken over the country with lootings, thereby taking advantage of the opportunity brought by #EndSARS protests. 

However, the activities of these hoodlums have revealed irregularities associated with the distribution of Covid-19 palliatives as state governors were saddled with the responsibility. It could be recalled that the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management Sadiya Umar Farouq claimed the ministry distributed Covid-19 palliatives worth billions of naira to various states to cushion the effect of the coronavirus pandemic. 

The federal government had earlier said the palliatives were for the most vulnerable in the society, though there were no laid down parameters for determining the most vulnerable. The minister said, “There is hardly anyone who didn’t receive the federal government’s palliatives care in this Covid-19 pandemic. All the tribes in Nigeria received the palliatives; in fact it was evenly distributed”.

When she made the above assertions, it was received with boos and grumbles on the account that the minister is a liar. Sadiya Umar Farouq was called all sorts of ignoble names. However, the recent operations of hoodlums on warehouses have vindicated the minister, thanks to the so-called hoodlums.

With allegations against governors of having hijacked and politicized the process of the distribution of the Covid-19 palliatives, I came to discover that in every general rule, there must be an exception; in Bauchi state there is incidence of looting or vandalism. 

Just as the looting continues by the activities of hoodlums on warehouses where Covid-19 palliatives are kept, the narrative in Bauchi state is different. In fact, if one is not following the development of #EndSARS activities, he could swear by God that all is well in Nigeria. This is due to the fact that Governor Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed could not sit in comfort while the common man is anguished by the pandemic. Hence, he had since judiciously distributed the items to the designated beneficiaries.

On August 11, 2020, the governor launched the distribution of Covid-19 palliative to beneficiaries across all the 20 local government areas of the state. For transparency and unbiased distribution of the relief materials,  he set up a committee headed by the Emir of Bauchi, Dr. Rilwanu Suleimanu Adamu, the governor himself, the deputy governor, Sen. Baba Tela, PDP chairman and all chairmen of political parties.

Governor Mohammed during the distribution exercise said that the relief materials to be distributed were received by the Bauchi state government from the CACOVID committee and other federal government agencies. The items included 269,350kg of rice, 100,500kg of maize, 320,000kg of beans, 795,000 pieces of spaghetti, 400,000 pieces of noodles, 16,000kg of salt, 292,934kg of sugar, 11,950 litres of palm oil, 150,000 pieces of spice cubes and 406,900kg of millet.
During the launch of the distribution exercise, the governor emphasised that any person found wanting in the distribution of the palliatives would be penalised. 
“I want to let you know that I have a third eye on the mode of operation of this distribution. A grain or any component of this palliative commodity diverted by any group of persons would be treated as an act of both theft and sabotage. I want to appreciate the CACOVID-19 and its foot soldiers, the federal government and its agencies, our state committee on Covid-19 and all those who are involved in the fight against Covid-19,” he said.
One funny event that happened on Sunday was hoodlums attempting to follow the footsteps of their counterparts of other states in the looting spree but unfortunately, what they found was contrary to their expectation. Governor Bala said in the early hours of Sunday, hoodlums in Bauchi state had attempted to raid Covid-19 palliative warehouse, but found it empty.
“My chief of staff was informed and he ordered the warehouse to be opened. They looked in and saw it was empty, and they turned back. And that’s because we shared everything to beneficiaries as and when due.Unlike other states where the state governors have no explanation as to the reason why the palliatives meant to be distributed to the vulnerable were hoarded in warehouses.”
A report says President Buhari, through his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, charged religious leaders to ask their subjects, parents to ask their children and wives to ask their husbands to return looted palliatives. At this trying time? To return to the governors? When what some of these looters think is God-given booty? Perhaps, the president has forgotten ‘a hungry man is an angry man’. 

My disposition may appear to support the atrocities of looters, no! I shall never as a law abiding citizen be an advocate to crime. In fact, I am leaning to the president assertion that attack on private property would scare away investors and is inimical to our economy. However, I am left in-between as to whether to commend the “looters” or some state governors for hoarding. I think no one is innocent if justice is to be done.

As all these dramas keep happening, I couldn’t help but linked it with the popular saying that an idle mind is a devil workshop. Youths’ restiveness and joblessness which are major factors that propelled the protests, lootings and vandalism attested to the above saying. It unveils the high level of poverty and unemployment among the youths of today.

Although the Buhari administration had come up with different initiatives to better the lives of youths, women and children such as the National Social Investment Programme (NSIP), there is need to expedite the implementation.

I wish to call the attention of the federal government whenever any relief materials are allocated to states for distribution to the poor masses to set up a committee that will monitor and ensure they are distributed at the right time and to the right persons. Failure to do that, is tantamount to giving saboteurs green light to proceed with their sabotage on this administration.

Mahmud Yahaya,
Bauchi State University, Gadau[email protected]

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