In the wake of the Nigerian Federal Government’s announcement of a N180 billion palliative package to the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, confusion and allegations of mismanagement have arisen. The palliative package was intended to alleviate the impact of the fuel subsidy removal, which has led to soaring fuel prices and increased costs of goods and services across the country.
While some states have already begun the distribution of funds and food items earmarked for residents, others are yet to receive their share, causing agitation among citizens. The distribution process has been marked by allegations of underhand dealings, inadequacy of materials, and dissatisfaction over the quantity of rice provided.
The N180 billion package, announced after the 135th National Economic Council meeting, entails a grant of N5 billion to each state, along with 180 trucks of rice. The relief fund is intended to help states procure essential commodities like rice, maize, and fertilizers to address food shortages triggered by escalating food prices.
Babagana Zulum, the Governor of Borno State, disclosed that the N5 billion grant was structured as 52% given as grants and 48% to be repaid to the Central Bank of Nigeria by states and local government areas over a 20-month period.
While some states like Kwara, Osun, Lagos, Ondo, Ekiti, and Gombe have commenced distributing palliatives, others such as Sokoto, Kebbi, Oyo, Katsina, and Borno are still in the planning stages. Reports suggest disparities in the quantity of rice allocated to different regions, leading to dissatisfaction among recipients.
Critics are calling for transparency in the distribution process, as concerns arise over politicians benefiting from the funds rather than the intended beneficiaries. Civil society organizations and the media are being urged to monitor and hold state governments accountable for the equitable distribution of palliatives.
Labor unions, including the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress, have also expressed skepticism about the distribution process, arguing that state governments cannot be trusted to ensure that the palliatives reach the most vulnerable citizens.
To ensure fairness, suggestions have been made to establish committees comprising labor unions, community leaders, religious groups, and civil society organizations to monitor the distribution of the palliatives at both state and federal levels.