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Hardship Continues Five Months After N72bn Palliatives: Fuel Subsidy Removal

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The 36 state governments received a total sum of N72 billion from the federal government in August 2023 to provide palliatives for the people following the hardship occasioned by the removal of fuel subsidy.

However, five months after the funds were released, the state governors are yet to account for the money or show any evidence of how it was utilised.

The palliatives were meant to cushion the effects of the removal of fuel subsidy on the people, especially the vulnerable ones. However, reports suggest that the funds have been largely mismanaged, misappropriated, or diverted by the state governments.

The people are still faced with hardship as they struggle to make ends meet amid high cost of foods and services and rising inflation.

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The situation is worse now than it was five months ago when the federal government released the first tranche of the palliatives, worth N72b billion.

The country’s inflation rate is now at 28.9 %, according to figures from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

The lack of transparency as well as improper utilisation of the funds by the state governors has led to widespread criticism from members of the public, who are calling for accountability.

The situation has sparked outrage and demands for action from the federal government to hold the state governors accountable and ensure that the funds are used for the intended purpose.

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As the country continues to battle economic hardship, it is imperative that the state governments prioritize the welfare of the people and ensure that the palliatives provided by the federal government and other funds are not misused or diverted. The people deserve to know the truth about the whereabouts of the funds and the actions taken by their elected leaders to alleviate their suffering.

LEADERSHIP had in December 2023 written to the 36 state governments to inquire about the N2 billion they each received from the federal government in August, last year, to help alleviate the economic hardship that most Nigerians were facing due to the removal of fuel subsidy.

As a newspaper, we made the inquiry in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act, asking them to provide us with a detailed account of how the money was spent because we were eager to ascertain how the money was spent towards helping those most in need.

Fuel subsidy

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But six weeks after, most of the state governments have failed to respond to LEADERSHIP’s inquiry, not even acknowledging the receipt of the letter.

Only four state governments have so far responded.

In Osun State, the state commissioner for information and public enlightenment, Oluomo Kolapo Alimi explained that the N2 billion received by the state was disbursed for food palliatives, transport services and refurbishment of health centres.

Alimi stated that for transparency and in line with Governor Ademola Adeleke’s commitment to meeting the needs of the people, a committee consisting of stakeholders across labour, religious, civil society organisations, student body, market men and women, among others, handled the distribution of food items cross the local governments of the state.

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According to him, the distribution at local level and, by extension, the teeming beneficiaries were also handled by stakeholders under local government council monitoring.

In Benue State, the commissioner for information culture and tourism, Mathew Abo, disclosed that out of the N5 billion proposed as palliatives to cushion the effects of subsidy removal on Benue citizens, the state government has been able to access only N2 billion.

The commissioner who disclosed this in his office during an interview with our correspondent explained that the Benue State Government had distributed the N2bn received as follows: registration of WAEC and NECO examinations for graduating students in all government approved secondary schools across the state for the 2023/2024 academic year which is ongoing; provision of intensive computer and ICT training for 10,000 youth of the state to enable them acquire jobs within and outside the state, with training ongoing; provision of grants to 5,000 women in the state based on revised social register of the women cooperatives, etc.

Meanwhile, Kwara State government has so far received N2bn, being the first tranche of the N4bn of the federal government palliative, the chief press secretary to the state governor, Rafiu Ajakaye, revealed.

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He said: “With that, the government purchased and distributed at least 250,000 10kg bags of rice across the state. This was done through a nonpartisan committee headed by a commissioner of police and peopled by community and religious leaders.”Similarly, the government received N1bn worth of maize from the CBN. This is not free. This maize was then distributed to the general public, especially (poultry) farmers, at 50% subsidised rate.

On its part, the Delta State government said rice was distributed to the people from the local government level down to the community level. It said the aged, people living with disabilities and the vulnerable households were all captured.

According to the secretary to the state government, Dr Kingsley Emu, the 696 bags of rice were distributed along the Delta State Independent Electoral Commission (DSIEC) wards, comprising 20 wards in each of the 25 local government areas of the state.

He said farmers were advised not to pay money to anybody for the palliatives, saying that all genuine farmers received their share of maize and fertilisers without hitches.

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However, Sir Festus Ahon, chief press secretary to the governor of Delta state said the palliative from the federal government to states was a repayable loan and not a grant as being speculated in some quarters.

According to him, there was a distribution model by the state palliative committee which, in its wisdom, set up a subcommittee made up of local government coordinators, traditional rulers or their representatives, and representatives of faith groups, among others.

On whether the state would get a loan to further continue the palliative, he said the state didn’t go for the loan in the first instance.

“The federal government gave all the states, and Delta is not contemplating asking for a loan from the federal government. Just for the record, Governor Sheriff Oborevwori has not borrowed since he came on board on May 29,” Ahon disclosed.

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