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Policy Alert, a non-governmental organisation working to promote social, environmental and economic justice in Nigeria, has called on the Government of Akwa Ibom State to publish the criteria for selecting beneficiaries of its Covid19 palliatives in the proposed second round of palliatives distribution recently announced by the state government.

A statement signed by the organisation’s Communications and Stakeholder Engagement Officer, Utibe Archibong, said: “Policy Alert commends the Akwa Ibom State Government for the distribution of palliatives to poor citizens of the state during the month of April 2020 and the recent announcement of approval for the “second-round of State Government funded palliatives.”

“However, we observe that “over 50,000 bags of palliative items comprising garri, rice, flour and beans to about 3,000 villages across the state” which the state government purportedly distributed during the first round of palliatives distribution were not verified by independent stakeholders. Also, the procurement of the said palliatives was not informed by any clear assessment of the real needs of target beneficiaries, neither was the public informed of the criteria for the selection of beneficiaries and the format of the distribution, which resulted in the process being administered in an ad hoc and highly partisan manner. Policy Alert community monitors who tracked the distribution across the 31 Local Government Areas report that very meagre and grossly inadequate portions actually reached a small percentage of the poor and vulnerable people who really need it, while the majority of the poorest citizens across the state did not access any palliatives.”

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The statement continued: “There were also official reports that some “miscreants” diverted some of the palliatives meant for the vulnerable in the State, but up till date, there is no indication that the government is making any efforts to apprehend and prosecute any culprits.”

The statement further said: “In the proposed second round of palliatives distribution, the State Government needs to ramp up the quantity of palliatives to be distributed and proactively publish the criteria for selecting beneficiaries. There has to be a plan otherwise you’re planning to fail. There has to be pre-established criteria that are publicly known, so that when the distribution deviates from that standard, it is easier for those in charge to be held accountable. We also call on the government to include community leaders, civil society groups and the media in the Palliatives Committee as third-party monitors rather than depend on political middlemen as experienced during the first-round.”

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