The call for palliatives during this pandemic was too loud. Every decision made by the government to extend the lockdown reminds people that the government is not providing the citizens with what they need to manage the bite of the partial economic inactivity. At a stage, the lockdown actually looked more like a punishment than a preventive measure.
The calls for providing palliatives were answered from different quarters. The federal, state and local governments did the best they could to provide food and other necessities for the citizens. Private individuals, organisations and associations also did their best. Many rural communities received one form of palliatives or another from well-meaning Nigerians and organisations. But all in all, these kind gestures did not stop the loud cry for palliation from Nigerians.
The fact that people complained about being neglected by the government during this lockdown shows that the impact of the palliatives was not felt. It is either these outcries came from people who have not received any kind gestures during this pandemic or from those who received “little”. These complaints are actually signs that Oliver wants some more.
But then, it should be understood that palliatives can never solve the hunger situation in Nigeria, especially during this pandemic. The reasons for this are noted below:
- Many Dependents
An average Nigerian home is made up of 5 biological children. When you add up the number of cousins, nieces, nephews, helpers, brothers, sisters, grandmothers, and other extended family members, you may find about ten people in a household and they are all taken care of by one man. Note that I didn’t include wife to the number of dependents because I’m assuming that wives also work and contribute towards the upkeep of homes. So, if you look at all these people in one man’s house and you now give him one painter of garri, one painter of rice, five super-pack Indomie, and things like that, how will he care for his family with them? Of course, the palliative will only serve as a snack while the family waits for the main course.
When the federal government shared 20k to some households in Nigeria, people were more interested in identifying the beneficiaries of this palliative. One thing a lot of people didn’t consider is the purchasing power of twenty thousand naira in today’s Nigerian open market. A 25kg (it is not even up to that) bag of Abakaliki Rice sells currently at #8,500, and it is not even up to 100 cups of rice. Now, remove that amount from the 20k and tell me what remains. Believe me that money will disappear immediately when it finds its way into the market and its impact will be forgotten almost as fast as the money disappears.
- Inconsistency with Palliative Distribution
The irregular way palliatives are distributed will not help people that much. If the distribution is done in such a way that the beneficiaries receive something say every two weeks, it will be better. But here, once something is shared, that is it. People don’t know if another one will come from that same quarter or if they should turn to another direction and expect help from there. The effect of this inconsistency is that it creates anxiety in the minds of those that depended on palliatives.
- Population Explosion
I think part of the reasons the quantity of things shared are so small is that the number of beneficiaries are much. The population of the country is actually going up but the problem isn’t just the increasing population. The problem here is that the few palliative providers are overwhelmed by the huge number of beneficiaries. For instance, in my hometown, private individuals and associations send in tens of trailers of food stuff to be shared in their different clans. These food stuff, when still in the trailers, appear so massive. But when they are shared amongst the available families within the clan or village, the food items seem so small because these people will go home with half “Bagco” bags or the “noise-maker” poly bags of food stuff.
Although this has not been proven, it is possible that corruption is part of the reason palliatives are not reaching the people that need them. It is possible that some of the people that benefit from this exercise are not those it is meant for. And it is also possible that funds and food stuff are diverted during this practice. One thing that is so certain here is that there was no transparency with how palliatives were shared.
It is good that the lockdown is gradually coming to an end. It is also good that many Nigerians survived the period. Hopefully, in a few weeks time nobody will depend on palliatives to survive (except the very poor in our midst). However, it is hoped that Nigerians have learnt not to depend on others for all their needs because they may get disappointed. It is also time for the concerned authorities to put in place measures and facilities that will help Nigerians to save for a rainy day.