The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has called for prompt, thorough, transparent and effective investigation of the circumstances surrounding the alleged hoarding of COVID-19 palliatives in warehouses in several states, which ought to have been distributed to the poorest and most vulnerable people during the lockdown, and to publish the outcome of any such investigation.SERAP’s petition to Nigeria’s Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) followed reports that some people have discovered and taken away COVID-19 palliatives stored in warehouses in several states.
The petition sent to Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, Chairman, ICPC, asked the agency to “ensure the prompt and effective prosecution of anyone suspected to be responsible if there is relevant and sufficient admissible evidence of hoarding and diversion of the palliatives.”
In the petition dated 24 October 2020 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “It would seem that Nigerian authorities asked people to stay at home as a protective lockdown measure but then failed to discharge a legal responsibility to timely, effectively, and transparently distribute COVID-19 palliatives to ease the hardship faced by the poorest and most vulnerable people.”
SERAP also said: “Unless promptly investigated, the allegations of hoarding and diversion would undermine public trust in any efforts to bring the spread of the pandemic under control, exacerbate the negative impact of the crisis, and deny those most in need access to basic necessities of life.”
SERAP argued: “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.”
SERAP expressed: “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.”
SERAP also urged the ICPC “to 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, which was also copied to Professor Itse Sagay, Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), also said that “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’.”