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Averting COVID-19 Hunger Action 

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Reading about the hunger protest in Philippine on Wednesday, I couldn’t help but picture what may happen in our country should there be further delay in delivering relief materials and other palliatives promised by the federal and some state governments to cushion the effect of the lockdown occasioned by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak .
Residents of a slum area in the capital city, Manila, staged a protest to demand relief goods amid a month-long Coronavirus lockdown that had left many of them without work, claiming they had not been given any food packs and other relief supplies since the lockdown began over two weeks now.
Back home here in Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, during a national address last Sunday, ordered the lockdown of Lagos, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and Ogun State for two weeks as one of the measures to control and contain the spread of the pandemic. He announced that relief materials would be deployed to ease the pains of residents of satellite and commuter towns and communities around Lagos and Abuja whose livelihoods would be affected by the restrictive measure. Other palliative measures include: feeding of school children (though schools are on holiday); a conditional two months cash transfer for the most vulnerable in the society; two months of food rations for internally displaced persons (IDPs) and many more.
However, days into the lockdown, we are yet to see these measures come to light. Yes, the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 told us on Wednesday that the President had approved the release of 70,000 metric tonnes of grains from the National Strategic Grain Reserves, to be distributed to the poor and vulnerable in the worst hit states, as well as persons whose livelihoods will be affected by the lockdown. A day before then, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajiya Sadiya Farouk, had announced that no fewer than 11 million Nigerian citizens would benefit from the palliative measures. But what we have not seen is the poor people around us who have nothing to feed on, especially at this critical period, getting these relief materials. And why the beneficiaries are pegged at 11 million; the statistics used to select them are still unclear to me.
Furthermore, the minister said the palliatives distribution has started with the IDPs in the North-East who received two months’ rations of relief materials. Commendable! But should this handful of persons be the ones to have gotten these materials four days into the lockdown? How long will it take for it to go round? Is it when the lockdown ends? Perhaps, we need to be reminded that millions of those who are compelled to self-isolate for two weeks are hustlers, who eat from hand to mouth and that staying this long without food or money in their pockets is as good as asking them to choose death either by hunger or the virus.
Is government right in taking the harsh decisions? Of course, yes. Seeing the devastating effects of the novel virus all over the world, how people are dying in hundreds daily, our government, both at the federal and state levels, must be commended for all their efforts so far in checking the spread of the disease in the country. The closure of the inter-state borders, restriction of movement, banning of public gatherings, among other measures are in the interest of the people. However, one would expect that these measures will have human face. Many would have expected the palliative measures be delivered to the people before the lockdown as it obtains in other countries.  In Lagos State, though markets are shut, neighbourhood food markets are set up at selected locations to cater for the needs of the people. Wouldn’t other governors and the FCT Minister adopt this? With these, you can be sure of compliance and commitment from all citizens.
However, one sure thing is that government cannot do it alone. In a country of over 200 million people with a greater population living on less than a dollar a day, coupled with our dwindling economy, we will not be realistic to think that government alone can adequately cater for the huge number of poor citizens. A whole lot of assistance is needed from individuals, organisations and corporate bodies. Gladly, we have seen actions in this direction in the past few days with the donations from banks, well-to-do individuals and even federal, state lawmakers, ministers and governors pledging their salaries for the same course.
As at Wednesday, monetary contributions to the account set up at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) under the auspices of the private sector Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) was said to have hit N15 billion with 37 donors on the list. Some faith based organisations have also been quietly doing what they know how to do best – reaching out to the poor.  It goes to prove the saying that when faced with a threatening situation; Nigerians never fail to aggressively tackle it, putting aside all religious, ethnic and even political sentiments. We hope that the mangers of this and other COVID-19 relief fund will use the monies for the purpose they are meant for so that when the Coronavirus war is over, there will be no need for the setting up of panel on mismanagement of COVID-19 funds as had been the case with other such funds in the past.
Meanwhile, while more corporate bodies are expected to join in the donation, other citizens should not fail to play their own role. Individually, we can help our poor neighbours by sharing what we have with them. Sellers of food items and other essential items should desist from exploiting other Nigerians by creating artificial scarcity of their goods and increasing their prices arbitrarily. As a matter of fact, there should be price control mechanism in the country which will place restrictions on the prices that can be charged for goods and services in our markets going forward. Let those truly in need of the relief materials go for them when they are eventually brought.
However, while we believe that together we can make the economic, psychological and mental torture of the pandemic bearable, government should do the needful to avert the wrath of the hungry masses.

 

By: Calista Ezeaku

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Opinion

The Tomfoolery of RIVLEAF

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There indeed seems to be no end, as far as nay sayers are concerned, in the quest to frustrate the efforts being made by the Rivers State Government to ensure that the spread of the coronavirus in Rivers State is reasonably checked.
On a daily basis, this becomes more apparent to the chagrin of genuinely concerned people of the State.
Although it is not a surprise that RIVLEAF, supposedly a pressure group has always announced itself as a purveyor of ill-contrived negative information, its latest attempt to dismiss a genuine alarm raised by the Rivers State Government regarding a foreseen build-up to a declaration of State of emergency in the State, has further exposed the membership of the organisation as persons with cowardly and sychophantic intentions.
At a time like this, when the whole world is still baffled over the COVID-19 pandemic, which has not only exposed even the hitherto world super powers in all spheres of their existence, but has so made it clear that everyone must be involved in order to check the pandemic, all RIVLEAF has to offer is an attempt to discredit the world acclaimed efforts of the Rivers State

Government under the leadership of Governor Nyesom Wike to ensure that the coronavirus does not get to the stage of Community transmission in the State.
It is indeed an irony of faith, that people who say they’re a pressure group do not actually know what it means to be a pressure group. They do not know, for instance, that one key role of a pressure group in the development of a society is to provide specialised and expert information to the government and explain government policies to the understanding and benefit of the general public. Thus they are an important link between the government and the people.
This explains their choice of caption, “Governor Wike Needs Help”, and the fact that rather than address in cogent terms the issue at stake, all they could do is to seek to raise irrelevant issues to cause rife between the President and the Governor, and with his Deputy.
What is really “funny and disturbing” about a clear statement that there is “a plan to declare a state of emergency in Rivers State? And, rather than categorically state what makes it funny and disturbing, all Onyeche Nnatah Peters could say is that Governor Wike “boasted that he was beyond the reproach of the Federal Government and, could do and undo as he so wishes”.
This statement in itself is a confirmation of the Governor’s proclamation of a plot to declare a state of emergency in the State, for reasons that have to do with Wike being seen as somebody who must be dealt with. The question is, for what reason?.
The most clear answer to this question is that from the point he started preparing to be the Governor of Rivers State, through his first tenure, and about a year into his second tenure, Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike had had to accept the peculiarities of Rivers State in the present State of affairs in the country, and had adjusted to the point of being able to provide good governance to Rivers people as minimally as possible in the face of unrelenting and determined efforts to frustrate him.
This is why every step of governance he has taken has turned out to be timely, and lauded in the given circumstance it is taken by all well-meaning public globally, especially as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic, which the world knows is a new virus, hence decisions to combat it are mostly taken based on the exigencies of the moment. This is, of course, knowing the peculiarity of the virus as it relates to Nigeria, and Rivers State in healthcare delivery.
To say the least, Governor Wike has been setting the pace in steps taken to contain the coronavirus across Nigeria: amongst others, he was the first to set up an Interministarial COVID-19 Committee, the first to set up a palliatives committee, first to declare border lockdown, etc.
Even in the face of clear attempts to sabotage his efforts, Wike had been undeterred towards ensuring that the State does not get to Community transmission of the virus as is the case with some States. Beyond this determination to give good and transparent leadership to a people who understand his every step, and so are fully behind him, what else can the likes of RIVLEAF blame Wike of?
If the membership of RIVLEAF are truly of Rivers origin, and have the State at heart, they should be in a better position to appreciate the kind of development the State has recorded in the last five years.
Therefore, seeking to forment trouble where there’s none, such as between the Governor and his Deputy, Dr Ipalibo Harry-Banigo, is a wasteful venture. This is because Rivers people have come to know what the interest of RIVLEAF is, and it has nothing to do with the overall interest of Rivers people.
Soibi Max-Alalibo
SA on Media to the Hon Commissioner for Information and Communications
Rivers State
May 21, 2020.
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Opinion

Dakuku Should Stop Playing To The Gallery

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Sociologists have what they call “Looking Glass Theory”. The crux of this theory is that people are prone to naming others, or something, by what they truly are, or what they have in store as experience.
For someone whose dream to be governor had been scuttled severally because of his unpopularity ,one can easily understand where Dakuku Peterside is coming from.
In his veiled attempt to be one of those who “came out openly to oppose Governor Nyesom Wike” at this point in time he exposed himself as a political toddler.
 All over the world today, well-meaning people are joining hands with their governments to check the spread of the pandemic.
Unfortunately, it is in this context that Dr Dakuku Peterside has displayed his lack of knowledge of the key ingredients of governance at crisis periods.
The need for law and order at all times, more so in crisis periods as the COVID-19 pandemic has instituted globally, compels governments  to take painful but necessary actions to save lives.
Thank God Dakuku Peterside supports “the Governor to ensure that the state is free from Coronavirus”, but how he expects this to come to fruition if people disobey directives put in place at will, raises a huge question mark.
In the light of  his latest condemnation of the Governor’s order to demolish two hotels found to have flouted a lockdown directive, Dakuku has again displayed his penchant for grandstanding.
Maybe he should learn some lessons from the role played by the  Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva who attracted Federal presence  to Bayelsa State during this period eventhough he belonged to the opposition in home State.
Dakuku’s stance in the face of an affront on an Executive Order which resulted in the demolition of two hotels in Eleme yesterday, without  considering the true circumstances that led to the demolition questions his citizenship as a Rivers son.
He should know what it means  to attack people authorised to perform legitimate duties under an  Executive Order.  Dakuku would not have declared genuine people-oriented actions by Governor Wike as “destructive” if he was well informed.
Rivers people are not foolish enough not to know that but for the stringent proactive measures put in place to check the spread of the virus by Governor Wike, the State would have entered community transmission like some other States in the Country.
Dakuku Peterside should therefore desist from the temptation of endangering the lives of the people he pontificates to care for, knowing that every act has its day of reckoning.
Soibi Max-Alalibo,
SA on Media to the Hon Commissioner
Ministry of Information and Communications
Rivers State.
May 11, 2020
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Opinion

Austin Tam-George: An Intellectual Prostitute Let Loose

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Austin Tam-George has consistently been biting the finger that fed him because he is an intellectual prostitute.
He looks for every available opportunity to lampoon Governor Nyesom Wike in order to impress his paymasters as a paid hack without conscience.
Someone like Austin Tam-George does not have the moral standing to discuss governance because his tenure as Commissioner for Information in Rivers State was a monumental failure.
A man who used his first month in office as Commissioner to throw 2O Rivers indigenes who were earning a living in the Ministry as casual workers into the unemployment market surely loves Rivers State.
Perhaps Austin Tam-George’s patriotism also led him to seize the monthly imprests meant for Departments in the Ministry.
Maybe he should explain to Rivers people and the those he is serving why a Commissioner should arm twist Heads of Parastatals under him to make monthly returns to quench his voracious appetite for money.
Was it not his kinsman in one of the parastatals that engaged him in a verbal warfare along William Jumbo Street in Port Harcourt that helped to tame his unquenchable taste for money?
His grouse with Governor Wike is because the over inflated and bogus proposals he made under the guise of upgrading the State Media Houses without recourse to the Bureau for Public Procurement were turned down by the governor who insisted on due process.
Austin Tam-George was quoted as saying that he will never forgive Governor Wike for not allowing him dupe the government.
The likes of Austin Tam-George are always available for the highest bidder that is why his recent outburst should not be taken seriously.
When he was looting the money generated by parastatals under him he never remembered United Nations and European Union.
As the proverbial dog that eats the bone hung on his neck, he milked the media houses dry before he was sacked from the State Executive Council.
He should know that the record of monies siphoned from the Media houses are still in the archives and will be released if he dares to make any more noise.
If Governor Wike did not retain him in his cabinet because he lacked character is it enough to look for any slightest opportunity to impugn his integrity?
Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones. A word is enough for the wise.
Paulinus Nsirim, Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State
May 11,2020.
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