Sola Ojo, Kaduna
On February 27, 2020, when Nigeria recorded its first Coronavirus (Covid-19) in Lagos State, it was imagined the disease would draw more vivid pictures of Nigeria’s distressing poverty, especially among rural women.
In Kaduna State, three weeks ago, Governor Nasir El-Rufai, first announced a temporary lockdown given only those selling food items and medicals the opportunity to transact business while cautioned the larger citizens on social distancing.
However, a few days after, due to the failure of locals to maintain social distancing order, the State through the Deputy Governor, Dr Hadiza Balarabe announced total lockdown which is already two weeks old. Then, the thought of how to cushion the effect of the lockdown especially among the vulnerable groups began.
On Tuesday, March 31, the Commissioner, Ministry of Human and Social Development in Kaduna, Haniya Hafsat Baba, announced that the Government had earmarked a sum of N500 million for relief items to the vulnerable population in the State.
Her exact words “the Kaduna State Executive has earmarked ₦500 million for relief to the most vulnerable population in the state. Members of the State Executive Council have also made various forms of pledges in addition to that. This is certainly a great donation but we can do with more.”
With this declaration, procurement and distribution to the eight benefitting local government areas began. But, this development has revealed poverty among the women vogue in the State.
While the distribution of packaged varieties of food items (rice, beans, spaghetti, noodles and vegetable oil) in ten clusters in Kaduna North local government where Hajiya Hafsat Baba was in charge as monitored by the Sun observed social distancing order by way of taking the package to the doorstep of the beneficiaries, it was free-for-all scenarios in other local governments like Kaduna South and Chikun.
In all these givings and takings at the Narayi Primary School, Chikun local government, women, both single and married, young and elderly were trooping out in their numbers to struggle to get a little crumb of food from the King’s table. Some get, some don’t, some scoop from spilled rice on the ground due to lack of distributing strategy as seen done in Kaduna North.
Lending his voice to the development, the Convener, Coalition of Association for Leadership, Peace, Empowerment and Development(CALPED), Yusuf Goje said, he was in support of the idea of providing palliative measures especially in very difficult times such as this.
“The lockdown and fear of Covid-19 are crashing the global economy, which has a huge negative impact on fragile and import-dependent economies like that of Nigeria. The States with maybe the exception of Lagos State largely depend on the monthly federal allocation of which without, most of them are not viable.
“Coupled with the fact that we are the poverty capital of the world, and acutely scarce resources, the impact of the current lockdown will throw more people deeper into poverty and hunger. The palliative measures are the only step that will cushion the negative backlash that is awaiting us.
“However, there were emotional moments in some locations as seeing elderly people and disabled persons expressed unrestrained joy for the support by the government. While there were some lows as in some locations, relief materials were said to have gone missing, which shows a lack of empathy.
“My suggestion is that the State government should review lessons from the present approach being used especially, in the areas of targeting, packaging, distribution and low level of civil society involvement. Women as the nucleus of the family are missing out a lot”, Goje added.
The Executive Director, Legal Awareness for Kaduna Women (LANW), Barrister Rebecca Sako-John, called on the organisers to go back to the drawing board to ensure the needy especially, widows and elderly women are reached.
“I saw some pictures from Kaduna North that made it appear well organized unlike what I saw in Narayi yesterday which negated the principle of social distancing – a free for all struggle of able-bodied and not the needy especially women.
There is a need for a well-planned strategy of reaching the real needy at their homes as seen in some clusters in Kaduna North. The government needs to sensitize the public on the quantity given per ward and how many vulnerable households it would reach. I heard people who may not be considered as the real needy calling in on the radio to say they are waiting for theirs”, she said.
“Seen an elderly woman, scooping rice that was not up to a milk tin speaks volume of poverty and poor women empowerment in the land. She could have been crushed should there be a stampede. What about her health after cooking and eating the rice considering the environment she was scooping? Member of Care Link Foundation and Kaduna Social Protection Accountability Coalition (KADSPAC), Silas Spencer Ideva queried.
To Silas who also monitor the distribution in Kaduna North, “what happened in Kaduna North, for what we saw in the five clusters so far reached showed that we can get things like this done right in Nigeria. All we need is to be organised to support true women inclusion in all our financial planning.
From the above observations and experiences, attention is being drawn to example of Kaduna North local government where the managers were able to manage its share of the palliative care which is just one out of the eight local government currently benefitting from the intervention.
As the State is making plans to extend this to the remaining 15 local government areas, there is the need for the to seek the help of credible civil society groups, event planners especially those with rural community experience to help identify strategic beneficiaries, package the items in unison and monitor the progress other than allowing politicians who may be biased in the selection of the beneficiaries to handle the distribution.
The development partners and institutions such as Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Aliko Dangote Foundation, Tony Elumelu Foundation, The Nigeria banks, the Nigerian Bottling Company, the Nigerian Breweries etc can also identify the poverty-stricken rural women in Kaduna and reach out to them through civil society groups by way of corporate social responsibility (CSR).