•Rice Distribution Far From Reaching Target Audience
The Osun State government has concluded the distribution of the first and second batches of rice which was the palliative item to cushion the effect of the fuel subsidy removal on the people of the state.
The government distributed unverified amount of bags of subsidized palliative rice provided by the Federal Government.
But the palliative was still far from reaching the target beneficiaries.
Majority of residents of the state have continued to doubt the distribution claim of the state government on the ground that they hardly come across somebody who owned up to collecting a portion of rice.
Findings by OSUN DEFENDER revealed that the State government left the distribution at the mercy of local government caretaker chairmen after giving each of them a template.
The template which was generated by the Ministry of Regional Integration and Special Duties has unnamed 12 groups in each of the local government as direct beneficiaries of the palliative rice.
Apart from the refusal of the state government to name the beneficiary 12 groups, it did not also have a supervision mechanism to ensure that the caretaker chairmen follow the template and allow the palliative to reach the target audience, according to findings.
But the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Special Duties, Alh. M. Oyedeji, told OSUN DEFENDER that the unnamed 12 groups are those that are peculiar to each of the local governments, and as might be identified by the caretaker chairmen.
According to Oyedeji, the state government decentralised the distribution of the rice because the beneficiaries are people at the grassroots who could easily be located at their various local governments.
However, findings by OSUN DEFENDER revealed that the distribution of the rice was shrouded in secrecy in many of the local governments.
Also, while some local governments were open in the distribution, some others politicised the process, making it a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) affairs.
This is just as some local governments extended the rice to the All Progressives Congress (APC) and other political parties.
But investigations revealed that the Christian Association of Nigeria, Muslim Community and pensioners were not fairly treated in majority of the local governments.
This is just as the civil servants in the state were totally shut out in the palliative provision.
OSUN DEFENDER gathered that the workers were not considered in the rice distribution in spite of having representatives in the committee.
Findings by OSUN DEFENDER revealed that none of the civil servants in the State has recieved rice or any other palliative items as of the time filling this report.
According to a leader of one of the labour unions, the distribution committee chaired by the Commissioner for Regional Integration and Special Duties, Mr. B.T Salam, refused to make provision for the workers on the ground that they would be sorted out later.
Osun and Oyo, according to findings, are the only states in the South-West without a special package for the civil servants, pensioners and other residents of the State in the face of the current economic hardship.
It would be recalled that the Ondo State Government, on August 4, announced that 18,000 “vulnerable” persons will get N10,000 monthly for three months, while all pensioners in the state will also get N10,000 starting from August.
The government also restored free shuttle buses for students starting from resumption in September, till December 31st, just as it declared that it will distribute free food packages to one million households across the 18 local governments of the state.
In Ogun, Governor Dapo Abiodun had on July 25 announced a cash palliative of N10,000 for public servants and pensioners for a period of three months in the first instance, beginning from July.
The Governor also approved hazard allowance for health and medical personnel in the state and peculiar allowance for public servants, payment of March and April, 2023 leave bonuses for public servants, and immediate cash-backing for the quarterly payment of gratuities to pensioners.
Also, the Ogun state’s ministries, departments and agencies are to work out modalities for ensuring that 20 percent of their staff strengths are off-duty daily to ease the subsidy situation, while the government is to immediately begin distributing food palliatives (rice, garri, beans, maize etc) to vulnerable citizens.
In addition, the Gateway Trading Company has been mandated to establish food distribution outlets across the state, and sell the items at the rates obtainable in the market before the removal of fuel subsidy.
Kwara State Governor, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, had on July 24 approved a multi-sectoral palliative for the state to mitigate the effects of the removal of fuel subsidy.
The palliative included cash support of N10,000 for every public sector worker in the state which began in July and last until a new minimum wage is introduced.
Abdulrazaq also directed the leadership of the civil service to continue a staggered work schedule, not exceeding three days a week, to reduce transportation expenses for workers.
The Governor also approved the payment of new hazard and skipping allowances, and 100% CONMESS for consultants and medical doctors under the government’s payroll.
He also approved a new regime of allowances for nurses working for the state government.
On July 27, the Ekiti state government announced the formation of a committee comprising critical stakeholders to devise modalities and measures for providing palliatives to the people of the state, aiming to cushion the effect of subsidy removal.
But Osun State government is yet to speak on the palliative programmes it has in plan to mitigate the effect of the fuel subsidy removal for workers and pensioners.
Speaking with OSUN DEFENDER yesterday, the Chairman, Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria in the state, Comrade Adekola Adebowale, said the government has made provision for the workers but were yet to receive it.
According to Adebowale, information about the provision of palliative rice was communicated to the labour through the office of the chairman of the palliative distribution committee sometimes ago.
He, however, urged the government to hasten the delivery of the palliative package, even as he called for a tangible special programme for the workers.
Adebowale who is the immediate past Chairman of Trade Union Congress (TUC) in the state, confirmed that Osun is the only state in the South-West that was yet to make special package for the civil servants, calling on Governor Ademola Adeleke to come up with a plan that will be a soothing balm for the plight of the workers.
He said: “The government said it has made provision for us as regard the palliative rice but we are yet to receive it. The information was communicated to us through the office of the Chairman of the palliative committee sometimes ago. However, it is yet to reach us; we believe it wont take time.
“Mr Governor has also said the N2bn palliative fund will be utilized for the generality of the people. We must however, called for tangible special palliative package for workers in the state. Workers are the ones at the receiving end of this economic hardship because the traders, artisans, transporters and others lean on civil servants.
“The market is not friendly and inflation has messed up the salary; that is why Mr Governor should come up with a plan for civil servants in the state.”
Asked if there has been discussion with the Governor in that regard, Adebowale said: “We have written Mr Governor and we believe he will respond with his plan. He is a listening Governor and we have unfettered access to him. We believe he will come out with his plan for us soon.”
In an interview with OSUN DEFENDER yesterday, the Chairman, Nigeria Union Of Teachers in the state, Comrade Olatoke Fatade, lamented that teachers in the state were yet to receive a grain of rice from the palliative package.
According to Fatade, only those who are close to politicians were able to get small portion of rice.
He said: “Our members have not gotten anything as of today. We were part of the labour union and no palliative have been given to the labour union in the state. Only those who were closer to the politicians among our members got some rice.
“I’m appealing to the state government to help the teachers in this trying time.”
Investigations by this medium also revealed that some associations in Osogbo were given between seven and eight congos of rice being their portion from the Artisan Workers Unions.
It was gathered that 15 bags of rice were given to the artisans in Osogbo and Olorunda local governments, while those in Ila were given three bags.
According to a bricklayer in Ila, Samson Ifedapo, some of the artisans, including himself, were given half congo of rice while some didn’t receive anything.
Confirming the development, the Chairman, Osun State Artisan Workers Union, Comrade Adedokun Waheed, said: “We got the rice but it was not enough. We have 55 associations under the union in Osun and under each association, we have thousands of members. In Osogbo local government, the union was given 10 bags of rice while those in Olorunda local government were given five bags.
“According to the report I got, artisans in Iwo local government, got 30 bags. In Ede, the union was given 10 bags in one council while the other coucil gets 20 bags. Three bags were given to the union in Ila local government.
“We gave the associations in Osogbo and Olorunda seven congos each to distribute to their members from the 10 bags of rice given to us.”
The palliative rice distribution did not also meet up with the expectation of IPAC which had representative in the distribution committee.
According to findings, the council was shabbily treated in majority of the local government, forcing it to raise a formal complaint with the Commissioner for Political Affairs.
The State Chairman of IPAC, Comrade Bello Adebayo, in a letter sighted by OSUN DEFENDER, said: “I speak for the council when I express our deep disappointment in the manner in which the state government distributed the Federal Government subsidy removal palliatives, disregarding the importance of engaging with our organization.
“IPAC was largely sidelined and overlooked in the decision-making process for the distribution of the palliatives, particularly across numerous local governments. “This exclusion raises serious concerns regarding the fair representation of all political parties Involved, as well as the overall accountability and efficiency of the distribution system.”
According to the template for the distribution of the rice as released by the committee, a total of 6300 bags of rice were expected to be distributed across the 332 wards in the state in the first batch.
Atakumosa West, Ayedaade, Boripe, Ede North, Ejigbo, Ife Central, Ife South, Ila, Ilesa East, Irepodun, Irewole, Isokan and Olorunda which are local government with 11 ward each received 208 bags of rice each in the first batch.
Osogbo, Iwo and Odo-otin local government with 15 wards each received 284 bags of rice.
The Area Office in Modakeke received 56 bags, which was the least.
However, there was no official information on the number of bags of rice allocated to each of the local governments for the second batch of the palliative distribution.
When asked on the total amount of bag of rice distributed in the state, the Permanent Secretary of the Minister of Regional Integration and Special Duties, Alh. M. Oyedeji, asked that the total amount of bag of rice in the first batch be multiplied by two.
The multiplication of 6300 by two resulted to 12,600 bags of rice.
However, there is confusion on the total amount of bag of rice distributed by the state government.
The Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, Barr. Kolapo Alimi, in a statement on August 8, 2023 had said: “The total number of the subsidized rice palliatives that will be distributed tomorrow is 5,700: three thousand 50kg from the first batch of palliatives, and two thousand seven hundred 50kg bags of rice from the 14,000 second batch.”
“It can be recalled that the state received 3,000 50kg bags of rice from the federal government, and it will be shared with 2,700 50kg bags of rice from the second batch approved 14,000 bags starting tomorrow, while the state is still expecting 11,300 50kg bags of rice and 3,000 metric tonnes of maize.”
All effort to get clarification on the palliative distribution and the total amount of bag of rice distributed so far proved abortive as both Alimi and the Spokesperson to the Governor, Mallam Rasheed Olawale, did not respond to calls and enquiries sent to them.
Among the beneficiaries of the palliative is Mr Arinuwola Dada in Ede who commended the state government, saying it was fair to his constituency.
He said: “The palliative distribution went well without rancour. All of us benefitted from it. It got to necessary people. There wasn’t any form of cheating in the distribution process.
“In Ede South, we physically challenge got seven bags for the first batch and five for the second batch. Each of us got two congos of rice after we shared it. Our population is over 150.
OSUN DEFENDER noted that in Ayedire local government, members of the APC and some other political groups were taken care off in both the first and second batches of the rice palliative.
The APC was given 15 bags of rice while some political groups were given between four and six bags. Also, the commercial transporters and artisans benefitted from the palliative.
The Olu of Ileogbo palace, according to sources, was given two and half bags of rice. “Some of us consider the rice given to the palace as an insult and we hope that has been communicated to the state government”, said an indigene of Ileogbo.
In Osogbo local government, members of the PDP were given three bags of rice in each ward, a development that generated controversies. In some wards, members of the PDP received as little as four cups of rice.
OSUN DEFENDER could not track the distribution of rice in Iwo as there was nobody with useful information on the palliative. But the medium learnt that five bags of rice was given to Oluwo in council.
However, the Coordinator, Osun Contributory Pensioners, Alhaji Oluwatoyin Ayinde, told the medium that two bags of rice was given to pensioners in Iwo.
“Contributory pensioners which include the primary and secondary school in Iwo Local Government were given two bags.
This is too small and I want to appeal to our state Governor to increase the bags for us whenever they wanted to distribute again”, he stated.
OSUN DEFENDER visited Ilesa East and Ilesa West local government but the was unable to obtain reasonable information on the palliative distribution.
Ife North local government has smooth distribution, according to some residents of the area. Some of the residents of Ipetu, Moro and Edunabon who spoke with the medium, acknowledged that rice was distributed to some people but they were not part of the beneficiaries.
OSUN DEFENDER gathered that the APC rejected 10 bags of rice given to it in Boluwaduro local government. According to a member of the party, five bags of rice was given to APC members in the main council and another five bags in Ajoda council. But the leadership of the party rejected the palliative. This is just as members of the PDP are major beneficiaries of the palliative in the local government.
Ismaeel Uthman is an Editor, Media Consultant with over 14 years experience in print journalism.
A consummate writer and reporter, Uthman has received accolades for his works, especially one that appeals for good governance and community development. He is a recipient of many laurels, including the Best Investigative Reporter (Print) Award of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Osun State Council, in 2020.