Nigeria‘s palliatives of privilege

Sir: In a country where Peter is raided and robbed to pay Paul, crises expose the depths of public perversity and inhumanity.

When the novel but ruthless COVID-19 pandemic arrived from a harried and sickened world to set up camp in the country, Nigerians were caught cold by its invasiveness and implications.

It was in blind panic that programmes and plans were hurriedly scaled down and new containment measures put in place to confront the invisible but invidious enemy.

Tough restrictions were immediately put place all over the country to halt the rampaging enemy. Most states in the country went into a lockdown of some sorts as Nigerians began to witness an unprecedented disruption to their lives.

Many have struggled to make sense of the situation as many more have openly defied the government‘s position on the pandemic as age-old suspicions have resurfaced and thrived.

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To cushion the effects of the pandemic and the many changes it has wrought to people‘s lives, the government rolled out strings of palliatives aimed at the poorest Nigerians.

These palliatives have come in many forms which have included the distribution of food items, personal protective equipment, tax reliefs.
There is even a jobs scheme in the works to assuage the livelihoods of those most hit by the effects of the pandemic.

However, as with everything Nigerian, a unique challenge has reared its head in the distribution of these palliatives. It is the challenge of equitable distribution.

As a country that has historically struggled with its statistics, the pandemic brought on a national nightmare – a nightmare of figures.

The numbers became a question and were immediately called into question. How many Nigerians were most in need of help?

Today, in spite of the efforts of the government, because these questions of number and location have been poorly answered, most of the poorest Nigerians have fallen through the cracks of the distribution of these palliatives, effectively making them palliatives of privilege and for the privileged.

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A lot of Nigerians who scrape and scratch on the breadlines have only heard but seen nothing of these palliatives.

It would also not be far-fetched to say that some of those tasked with the distribution of these palliatives have been rather helping themselves, showing cold indifference towards those they are supposed to assist.

The net effect of these is that a lot of Nigerians, especially those who stutter below the poverty line have been left unduly crushed by a pandemic they never saw coming.

It again exasperatingly calls into question the questions that surround the distribution of Nigeria‘s national wealth.

For many years, many key partners in the Nigerian project have cried out that they have been short changed as the distribution of Nigeria‘s commonwealth has been skewed against them.

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For a country‘s of Nigeria‘s diversity and many injustices, it is a genuine miracle that the country is yet to break up in over half a century of nationhood.

The pandemic rages forward with vengeance. A lot of Nigerians have seen their livelihoods strangled by the virus. Many more would reel under its crushing weight for a long time to come. It will be a long and difficult road going forward.

Because the times are uncertain, these palliatives must largely stay in place and their distribution taken away from the sticky fingers of Nigeria‘s privileged avaricious. To do otherwise would be to deprive Nigeria‘s poorest of invaluable lifelines.

Kene Obiezu, Abuja.

What are your thoughts?

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