By Musa Sunusi Ahmad

The Federal and State Governments have been cautioned to stop confusing the three-year old Conditional Cash Transfer with relief package designed to alleviate people confronted with fresh conditions of poverty brought by the COVID-19 lockdown.

In a statement on Sunday, leading Nigerian anti-corruption group, Human and Environmental Development Agenda, (HEDA Resource Centre) accused the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, Sadiya Umar Farouq, for confusing the Conditional Cash Transfer programme launched in 2016 with the palliative measures aimed at reducing the economic hardship associated with the COVID-19 spread and governments’ lockdown directives. The group also called for due process and transparency in the disbursement of local and international donations the FG and States are receiving in the fight against the coronavirus.

HEDA in the statement signed by its Chairman, Mr Olanrewaju Suraju said “The least we owe Nigerians is not to play politics with the misery of millions of people. The fact is that the CCT began in 2016. It should not be confused with any measure of any Government to tackle the hunger and poverty occasioned by the lockdown. They are two different distinct programmes. One cannot substitute for the other.” The group calls for “Democratic and Legislative” inclusion in any economic measures being taken by all tiers of government to deal with COVIP-19 fallouts, adding that the process must involve the National and State Assemblies and also the civil society.

HEDA said for hanging on the CCT as a palliative measure suggests that the State Governors have no indigenous means of responding to the economic hardship brought by the lockdown.

HEDA berated state Governors launching the CCT as if it is a palliative conceived by them, adding that the N20,000 being transferred belongs to the people who ought to know the source and the motive.

He said it is important for the Federal and State Governments to be “honest and transparent” with the people they govern. HEDA said some state Governors are already presenting the CCT in their state as a new measure conceived, designed and being implemented by them. This is tantamount to setting the tune for diversion of fund originally meant for the palliative measures.

HEDA said the CCT was sourced from stolen funds recovered from the late dictator, Sanni Abacha and that the disbursement to indigent people began in 2016.

HEDA said the Minister’s recently set the unfortunate tune and precedence with a misleading announcement of responding to the situation with payment of N20,000 to the beneficiaries whereas this payment is the accumulation of outstanding four months payment under the CCT scheme.

Suraju said “The minister is suspected to have deliberately acted in this manner to blur the line of accountability, disguising the conditional cash transfer as payment under the COVID-19 intervention and relief package. The payment presently is only made to about 900,000 households and not over 2 millions as claimed by the ministers.”

“We are hereby calling on State Governors suddenly launching the payment of CCT, a programme that has began three years ago as if it is a new intervention and project. They should desist from this misrepresentation and come forward with their latest intervention to cushion the effect of the lockdown on their citizens,” HEDA said

The anti-graft group said in partnership with other civil right groups, HEDA is monitoring the entire process and would demand accountability for all the donations to the states and Federal Governments.

“The citizens are also hereby informed that the N20,000 being paid is part of the recovered Abacha paid to the country since 2015 under the National Social Intervention Programme and not part of contributions from private citizens and organizations.”

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