As Deltans battled hunger during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s administration persisted in robbing the populace and treating them unfairly. Documents available to SecretReporters showed, that the government outrageously spent millions of Naira on the purchase of rice and beans, distributed to a small number of recipients with many low-income families left out, even though the food bank initiative was set up to help them.
SecretReporters learned that a total of N92,950,000.00 (ninety-two million, nine hundred and fifty thousand Naira) was recommended for the purchase and distribution of 20,000 10kg bags of rice in a proposal headlined “PROVISION OF FOOD BANK AS RELIEF AGAINST COVID-19 PANDEMIC.”
The cost estimation in the proposal dated March 30 2020, includes 10kg bag of Southern grain rice with a quantity of 20,000 bags at the rate of N4,000 amounting to 80,000,000. Offloading and on loading at State warehouse, Asaba was put at N800,000, with each bag costing N40. While offloading and loading at local government area was put at another N800,000000. Meanwhile, the transportation of 16 bags each from Asaba to 16 Local Government area Headquarters in Delta Central and South is 2,400,000 at 150,000 per LGA. The cost of transportation from Asaba to the 9 LGA Headquarters in Delta North Senatorial District was put at 900,000 at N100,000 per local government. Logistics for internal distribution at the LGA level were proposed at N875,000 for 35,000 bags. While the provision of pallets for stacking is estimated at 300,000 at 5,000 for 60 bags. Meanwhile, stipends for 15 (nos.) Red Cross and NSCDC support staff in 25 LGAs were put at 1,875,000. While contingency, including logistics for distributing additional relief materials from donors, was estimated to cost N5,000,000.
The proposal was approved by the governor, on March 31, 2020, and was signed, by Chiedu Ebie, Secretary to the State Government, with file number SGD.1046/T/10-11. A notice authorizing the immediate transfer of the N85,800,000 from the state’s Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) account was granted.
The cost of acquiring and dispersing the rice would be “charged to IPSAS Code No. 011101300001/22040109-Grants to Communities/NGOs/FBOs/CBOs – in the 2020 approved Budget,” the proposal states.
Although it was stated that the distribution of the rice would be done in an equitable way that recognized the COVID-19 pandemic as a humanitarian crisis and that the aid would be available to all regardless of political affiliations and religious beliefs, public outcry during the period and observation revealed that a significant portion of Deltans received nothing from the project, not even a cup of rice.
Additionally, in another proposal titled “PURCHASE OF ADDITIONAL BAGS OF BEANS FOR COVID-19 PANDEMIC FOOD BANK,” the sum of N62,370,000 was approved for the procurement of more bags of beans.
Using an “agreed” price of N23,000.00 for each 100kg bag of beans, the projected cost of purchasing 2,700 bags in the proposal, which would enrich the diet of the target population, came to N62,370,000 (after the earlier purchase of 5,400 bags of 100kg beans atN194,700,000). However, it was said that N3,780,000 was left over from the previous purchase, therefore N58,590,000 was needed.
Despite all these, including other funds approved for the procurement of food items and operation of the food bank, Deltans arguably, were the most affected among many Nigerians who suffered the severe hunger during the 2020 covid pandemic which ravaged the nation.