N32.4bn palliatives: Senate Committee grills Sadiya Umar Farouq over spending

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Senate Committee on Special Duties on Thursday grilled the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, Hajia Sadiya Umar Farouq on how the sum of N32.4 billion allocated to her office for palliative in the heat of COVID – 19 pandemic was disbursed.

Chairman of the Committee, Senator Yusuf Abubakar Yusuf stressed the importance of running an accountable system, hence he called for openness in the course of interaction.

A member of the Committee and Senator representing Borno South Senatorial district, Senator Ali Ndume said Nigerians have not felt the impact of the so called interventions made by the Ministry in the heat of the COVID-19 pandemic, which he said, the Ministry did not do enough.

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“You are not doing enough as far as poverty eradication in the country is concerned.

“The modus operandi being adopted by your Ministry cannot in any way help in fixing the country.

“Humanitarian intervention should be looked at more holistically”, he said.

On his part, the Vice Chairman of the Committee, Senator Biobarakuma Degi Eremionyo faulted the hand-outs being doled out to some Nigerians as palliatives by the Ministry, cannot in any way take them out of poverty line.

“Giving unemployed people N10,000 or even N20,000 a month or two, cannot help them out of the poverty related problems facing them.

“The hand-outs should be channelled into creation of employment for the unemployed”, he said.

As a face-saving device for the Minister, the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Yusuf Abubakar Yusuf quickly intervened by telling the members that the interactive session was not on poverty eradication by the ministry, but interventions made by it as palliatives against COVID – 19 from the 32.4 billion earmarked for it out of the N500 billion appropriated by the National Assembly last year.

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But the Minister in her response said only N2.4 billion was released to her Ministry from the N32.4 billion earmarked.

She said the N2.4 billion was expended on feeding of School pupils even while Schools were closed down last year and direct monetary interventions made to vulnerable Nigerians across the 36 States of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory.

When asked to explain how the School pupils were allegedly fed in their various homes, the Minister said: “We drove to some of their homes based on addresses gathered from their Schools and also adopted the template of six persons per family and three children in a home.”

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She explained further that aside feeding of School pupils at home, other interventions such as rice distributions totalling about 33,000 tonnes were made to vulnerable Nigerians across the 36 states of the federations.

“We also got a lot of consignments from the Nigerian Customs Service for distribution as palliatives during the period under review aside 70,000 metric tonnes of grains, millets, guinea corn and gari released from strategic reserves on the orders of Mr President”, she added.

The Committee Chairman in his closing remarks, tasked the Minister to ensure collection of the N30 billion balance from the Ministry of Finance and forward to the committee intervention programmes of action it had on ground for it.

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