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SERAP recommends ICPC probe COVID-19 palliatives hoarding in Lagos, others

By Monsurudeen Olowoopejo

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to thoroughly investigate circumstances surrounding discovery of COVID-19 palliatives allegedly hoarded in Lagos and other states warehouse across the country.

SERAP asked the agency to ensure prompt and effective prosecution of anyone suspected to be responsible for hoarding and diversion palliatives that were meant to cushion COVID-19 impacts the citiens their incomes.

The organisation stated that the palliatives, which were food items, were expected to have been distributed to the poorest and most vulnerable people during the lockdown, and immediately after the lockdown was eased in the country.

In the statement made available to newsmen on Sunday, and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization argued that unless the act was investigated, future measures to prevent spread of pandemic in the country would be undermined by citizens.

“Tracking, monitoring, and ensuring COVID-19 palliatives are timely, effectively, and efficiently distributed to those most in need would improve transparency and accountability, respect for human rights, as well as remove the possibility of political considerations or bribery in the distribution of the palliatives.

“Serious concerns that the alleged hoarding of COVID-19 palliatives in several states and the apparent failure to timely, effectively, efficiently, and transparently distribute the palliatives and other reliefs to the poorest and most vulnerable people have continued to deny many citizens the much-needed support.

“ICPC should visit the states where COVID-19 palliatives have been discovered in warehouses, and to track and monitor the distribution of palliatives across the 36 states of the country, and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, to remove the risks of diversion, and ensure that the palliatives get to those most in need, and not used for political or corrupt purposes.

The petition, copied to Professor Itse Sagay, Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), read in part: “Some people have reportedly discovered and taken away COVID-19 palliatives stored in warehouses in several states including Cross River, Edo, Ekiti, Kwara, Kaduna, Lagos, Osun, Plateau, and Taraba states, with some of the people reportedly saying: ‘the food is ours but they are keeping it for themselves.

“Promptly attending to these recommendations would show your agency’s willingness to proactively exert your mandates, as this would act as a deterrent against breaches of Nigeria’s constitution, anti-corruption legislation, and international standards, as well as ensure the transparent and accountable distribution of COVID-19 palliatives and other reliefs.

“SERAP notes that billions of naira have been budgeted and donated to respond to COVID-19 and help ease the resulting impact and hardship on the poorest and most vulnerable people. Nigeria has also received millions of dollars in international aid and announced programmes to help citizens through the lockdown, including direct distribution of food to millions of vulnerable households.

“This request is consistent with the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended], the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission Act, and the country’s international obligations including under the UN Convention against Corruption, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Nigeria has ratified these treaties.

“The request is also consistent with the COVID-19 transparency frameworks that have been put together by the Nigerian authorities. These include the framework on delivering a transparent food ration distribution for the National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme; Framework for the Management of COVID-19 Funds in Nigeria under the Treasury Single Account by the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation; Guidelines for the Conduct of Procurements that respond to COVID-19; and the Accountability and Transparency Mechanisms for Delivering the Cash Transfer by the Humanitarian Affairs.

“In particular, Section 15(5) of the Nigerian Constitution provides that ‘The State shall abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power.’ Similarly, the UN Convention against Corruption requires the authorities to ensure effective, proportionate, and dissuasive sanctions and penalties for hoarding and diversion”.

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