Nze Ugo-Akpe Onwuka (Oyi) International Coordinator - Igbo Renaissance Forum

…Drawing the bad card for South East

Igbo Renaissance Forum has berated the preparedness of the federal government of Nigeria to confront the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

The group in a press release signed by Nze Ugo-Akpe Onwuka (Oyi), the International Coordinator – Igbo Renaissance Forum commended the FG for establishing a testing centre in Ebonyi state but called on them to do more by opening up more centres across the country ” to help with the efforts at curbing the spread of the virus.”

The statement reads;

1. Just like we projected in our last release on the 23rd of March, 2020, the infection figures have soared to 224 confirmed cases. It has also become very evident that the preparedness level of the Federal and state Governments is nothing to write home about. We were caught napping, even though citizens were told that there was full proof readiness by government. This we view as capable of completely eroding the little trust the citizens have for the political leadership in place today. There is a complete failure from the state to the federal level, including the National assembly that is abnormally obsessed with sucking the nation dry; sharing exotic cars in the middle of a health crisis and still bent on spending a whooping 37 billion on the renovation of the National Assembly building while the federal government went BEGGING for ventilators to keep themselves and the citizens alive. What a shame!

2. Having missed the initial opportunity of preventing COVID-19 from setting foot here, we are also not being efficient in tracking returnees and their contacts. This is going to compound the spread index and bloat the rate of infection as data is not readily available, while testing is still at snail speed.

3. We commend the Federal Government for expeditiously as we demanded, site a COVID-19 test centre in Ebonyi state in the South East and establishing another test centre in Lagos, South West Nigeria. We are also requesting that more of these test centres be opened up in the South East and Northern Regions to help with the efforts at curbing the spread of the virus.

4. We want to use this opportunity to thank the dedicated health workers across the country for putting their lives on the line for others. Your efforts are highly appreciated and we pray for divine protection for you all.

5. We are aware that the Federal Government has announced palliative measures, which included disbursement of stimulus cash of twenty thousand naira to the ‘poorest in the society’ as they claimed.
It is however very shocking to see the crudest form of disbursement of the stimulus cash that would give medieval men goose bumps, as cash is given to individuals across the table. Equally perplexing is the claim that 2.6m million individuals would benefit from N20,000 CORONAVIRUS palliative immediately, even as the 11,400 others are still to benefit. What baffles us is that government says it plans to share a total of ₦52bn to 2.6 million poor families IN CASH, without a clear system for accountability and transparency!

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6. We demand that in this period of very lean resources, that the ministry should immediately make available on their website, the details of those who are benefitting from this stimulus exercise.
We want to state categorically that we are far from convinced with the figures put out on the number of Nigerians living in extreme poverty, which is clearly defined by UN standards as those living below $1.90 per day. This figure according to the World Poverty Clock stands at 95,903,776 million or 48% of our 201,623,008 million population. It is therefore absurd to read the minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, Sadiya Umar Farouq state that the social national register that we have as at March 31, 2020 is made up of 11,450,537 poor and vulnerable people in 35 states and 453 Local Government Areas across the country. We demand to know the fate of those that are not captured in this exercise.

7. We however wish to condemn in very strong terms, the approach adopted by the ministry for sharing this stimulus cash. It very clearly contravenes the money laundering Act and we demand immediate explanation to the citizens for such action.

8. We also want to make it known to the honourable minster, that she broke the social distancing policy in the fight against COVID-19. It’s unfortunate to hear her try to justify the situation by saying that while those involved with the CRUDE TABLETOP MONEY SHARING maintained safe social distance, that it was onlookers who gathered to watch the SHOW that didn’t observe safe distancing. We ask that she immediately apologize to the public for shifting the blame. If the honourable minister and her team electronically credited everyone that needs to receive the stimulus cash as it should have been. If due diligence was done by the minister and her team, there won’t be any MONEY SHARING SHOW for the poor masses to crowd around, breaking safe distancing rules and exposing themselves to COVID-19 infection.

9. We have cause to believe that the South East has not been adequately factored into the disbursement bracket of the ministry for this palliative.

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10. We demand that the minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, Sadiya Umar Farouq make public the register that is being used for these disbursements so we can verify that the South East is not relegated and shortchanged as we have seen severally. It’s sad to recall that there is a total exclusion of the South East Zone in the $22.7 Billion loan approved by the Senate just recently. Also, we should not forget in a hurry that the South East Zone was conveniently forgotten in the rail infrastructure development when the plan for the Portharcourt to Maiduguri line was being designed. From General Electric (GE) taking over the South East rail lines, the story changed dramatically to the Chinese being asked to take over the eastern axis under a Public Private Partnership, where they use their own money to fix it and recover their money over time. It is sad and absurd that the South East is subjected to such treatment. The Akanu Ibiam International Airport Enugu renovation works which has taken over seven months of work has been halted for ambiguous reasons. First the ministry of aviation attributed their inability to complete the job as announced earlier to the scarcity of quarry dust, only to twist a few days later to put the blame on COVID-19 lockdown and shutdown. It is interesting to note that the Abuja International Airport with a longer runway was done and dusted in 6 weeks. There has been so many instances of a deliberate or accidental neglect of the South East Zone, and it would be awesome to prove that this is not the case with this COVID-19 stimulus package. We ask that you surprise us for once!

11. We shall continually sustain our demand through legal means until we are satisfied that there is equity in the actions of the ministry.

12. Once more, we call on the South East Governors and Ohaneze Ndi Igbo to immediately convene an emergency meeting to assess the global/local threat of COVID-19 on Igbo investments and propose measures to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

13. We are reinforcing our demand that COVID-19 requires emergency funding and the use of State security votes controlled by the Governors to acquire necessary medical kits and equipment. It is shameful to see how our Governors are parading cap in hand begging for funds, when they should have expeditiously put their security votes to good use and save their citizens who entrusted their lives in their hands.

14. We advice and encourage citizens to adhere strictly to prescribed social distancing and safety precautions as recommended and approved by health experts to stay safe and healthy through this period.

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15. We are grossly grieved by the rise in cases of brutality meted out on civilians by security agencies in their efforts to enforce the lockdown order.

16. We commiserate with the families of those who have list loved ones to the highhanded approach by the security agencies and demand that those involved be quickly brought to book as a deterrent to others that might have same tendencies.

17. We want to use this medium to condemn in unequivocal terms, the horrid instructions from Governor Dave Umahi that those who try to escape from isolation centres be shot on sight. This is highly unacceptable and we demand that the Governor retracts those words as they might give vim to trigger happy security operatives. We appreciate the pressures of dealing with issues at this trying times, but we must be able as leaders to be calm while being efficient and effective in our approach.

18. We are not enthused by the political dust being raised in Anambra state by the state government in trying to subdue the efforts of other respected members of the state offering assistance and support in their own capacities against the COVID-19 PANDEMIC.

19. We are still waiting patiently for the breakdown of how Anambra state spent a whooping ONE BILLION naira on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and where they distributed same and other claimed items. We want to remind the Anambra state Governor that the state is already prostrate due to the hits it has taken from unfortunate ventures marketed as viable projects, and citizens shall not fold their hands and watch the state become a debt haven.

20. We want to give our people hope, that together, doing the right things and staying safe, we shall overcome this pandemic and rise again as a strong people.

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