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Thursday, September 28, 2023

NGOs deploy 1,000 volunteers to monitor COVID-19 palliatives

Some civil society groups in Nigeria have deployed about 1,000 monitors to evaluate the processes and impact of the various Covid-19 palliatives across the country.

Dr. Osagie Ehanire
Dr. Osagie Ehanire, Health Minister

The groups said the deployment was aimed at ensuring transparency in the distribution process and to ensure the measures reach the end users.

Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA Resource Centre) in collaboration with the Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARD-C) deployed the monitors last weekend across nine focal States and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

They were also mandated to monitor and evaluate the COVID-19 palliatives and utilisation of the various intervention funds.

Nigeria had seen a string of intervention funds ranging from private donations to channelled local and international funds estimated to be in billions of naira in cash and other materials, including food and medicare.

The civil right groups said that, despite the generous donations and on-going disbursements, there has been no transparency framework at the federal and state levels on fund utilisation, fuelling a public mill of rumours.

As at last week, funds raised at home stood at N25.8 billion apart from the N21 billion European Union (EU) support and donations material for China. The groups said public knowledge on the expenditure of COVID-19 donations is critical to sustainable development.

According to a statement signed in Lagos by HEDA’s Chairman, Mr Olanrewaju Suraju, and his WARD-C counterpart, Dr. Abiola Akiode-Afolabi, the volunteers will produce a comprehensive report covering strategic areas using jointly developed questionnaire tools designed to meet global best practices.

Respondents in the selected states of Ogun, Enugu, Osun, Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Lagos, Borno, Kano and Kaduna as well as the FCT, Abuja are critical stakeholders including but not limited to health workers. The monitors include women, People Living with Disabilities (PLWD), and media practitioners.

“The continued spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria has informed several political, economic, social and corporate actions including the lockdown of some states and changes in Nigeria’s political-economy to reflect new realities. This has been followed by funds being disbursed to meet public needs. It is important that Nigerians ensure the funds meet the target audience,” the two groups said.

HEDA and WARD-C stated that “citizens have had to resort to rumours, hearsays, fake news and unofficial sources for information on the relief packages and governments’ spending. Also, videos confirming reported anomalies in the distribution of relief materials and economic packages are all over the social media.”

They observed that there are several unanswered issues around the hazard allowance and the general wellbeing of health workers.

The groups said they stepped in to fill the information gap as well as monitor and evaluate loose ends with a view to engaging critical stakeholders on the outcomes.

“Many Nigerians have faced untoward hardship since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly since government started to restrict movement and lockdown states. Yet, reports from the field also indicate that despite the huge donations and support to government, many deserving and indigent Nigerians are yet to receive any real relief or support.

“It would then amount to great injustice to keep people in the dark or fail to publicly account for the spending, particularly in a country where corruption remains rife, ” Suraju and Abiola Akiode stated.

They added: “Our objective is not all about pointing accusing fingers after the deed has been done, but to assist the people and the government alike in identifying red flags or opportunity for corruption in the process; and in cases where the funds are already diverted or mismanaged by corrupt elements in government, ensure that the looted public funds are recovered and perpetrators adequately prosecuted.

“This is why we are not just evaluating the impact; we are equally monitoring implementation through the tools that will be administered by the volunteers.”

The groups noted that women and PWDs are most affected by the lockdown informed by the COVID-19 pandemic and any corruption in the process or failure to provide the expected relief and welfare packages will spell doom for many women and other vulnerable groups.

They referred to the African Union Youth Regional Consultation Report, 2018 which noted that: “All forms of corruption embody gender discrimination and inequalities which further disempowers women and children. The time spent by women and girls on unpaid care work, for example, is increased by limited access and inadequate provision of key infrastructure such as energy, water and sanitation facilities.

Over seventy percent of the burden of collecting water for households falls on women and girls who spend 40 billion hours collecting water annually. When funds meant for social services and welfare are embezzled or mismanaged, women are disproportionately affected.”

Now that most people across the country are having to stay at home, women and vulnerable groups bear even higher burden of providing household care in a predominantly Nigerian patriarchal system especially in the context of limited resources due to the current COVID-19 situation.

The groups said: “Without an effective intervention and relief packages, women will bear the most brunt. Therefore, we must pull resources together to ensure that the palliatives and intervention funds are monitored, evaluated and stakeholders are effectively engaged.”

The reports of the monitoring and evaluation, with its findings, observations and recommendations will be made available for public engagement and addressed to affected governments and agencies while suspected cases of corruption will be forwarded to the relevant anti-corruption agencies for monitoring investigation and prosecution.

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