Rivers COVID-19 palliative committee denies allegations of foods hijack

Distribution Committee has debunked allegations from some quarters of foodstuffs meant for the less privileged being hijacked by those who are supposed to distribute them to the targeted people.

The State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, who cleared the air on a live television programme, Stewardship, today, at the Rivers State Television, stated that such allegations are not true.

Nsirim, who serves as the Secretary of the Committee, explained that the
Rivers State COVID-19 chances of anyone highjacking the foodstuffs are not even there, as alleged, based on the constitution of the Committee and its modus operandi.

According to him, towards ensuring that the palliatives get to the less privileged in the 23 Local Government Areas (LGAs) of the State that it is meant for, conscious and strategic measures have been put in place.

“We (the Committee) have ensured that monitoring is effective. So, we challenge anybody who has evidence that these materials (foodstuffs) were hijacked to get it to us. We’ll investigate and take appropriate action.

“Right now, what we’re dealing with is hearsay, and, of course, you know that hearsays are neither here nor there”, he said.

Part of the measures taken to forestall any attempt to hijack the foodstuffs, and for it to get to those it was meant for, he said, is the fact that besides the 24-man Palliative Committee that was appointed by the State Governor, Nyesom Wike, the Committee hands over the foodstuffs to notable persons at the Ward levels of each LGA.

The Commissioner explained that “when the issue of palliatives came up, the committee he (Governor Wike) set up was drawn from critical stakeholder groups: you have members of the State Executive Council, Council Chairmen, members of the Armed Forces, and religious groups that made up the 24-man Committee set up for food distribution.

“At the inauguration of the Committee, because it’s a grassroots Committee, he set out the criteria: he said these palliatives will be for the vulnerable, and that has to do with the aged, widows, those who cannot afford anything within this period. He also said this is not for partisan interest, it’s not for tribal interest. The criteria for this (Committee) was clearly spelt out”, he said.

These criteria, he continued, was carried to the letter by the Chairman of the Committee, Ambassador Desmond Akawor, in order to ensure that the Governor’s directive was strictly adhered to.

“When we had the inaugural meeting, he (Akawor) ensured that the Committee set up a kind of a community-based approach to the distribution of the palliatives. The way it is run, for every Ward, those who receive the palliatives from the Committee include a traditional ruler, a religious leader, a woman leader, a youth leader, Chairman of Community Development Committee (CDC), and the Councillor of the Ward”, he said.

Beyond this, the Commissioner stated further, when the palliatives get to the Ward, “a member of the Central Working Committee supervised by Ambassador Akowor, supervises the distribution of the food items”, adding that the supervisory role of the Central Committee also happens at the Ward level”.

The Commissioner, who also used the opportunity to assure Rivers people and those living and doing business in the State of the determination of the State Governor to make life easier for all by being proactive and strategic in governance, particularly as it relates to the prevention of the COVID-19 pandemic in the State, also urged Journalists in the State to be objective in their reportage.

“What I say to people is that posterity will judge every action or inaction. Journalists can make or mar, Journalists are Agenda-Setters.

“So, my advise to Journalists, even at this critical time, is to please be Objective in your reportage. We’re setting the agenda for other states to follow. Try and see the positive things that Rivers State Government is doing under Governor Nyesom Wike.

“We’re open to collaboration, we’re open to criticism. When I appear on programmes like this, I take it as a channel of feedback for governance”, he stated.

Meanwhile, following allegations of extortion to the tune of #80,000 on the police by food truck drivers being what they allegedly pay to the security agents the State’s borders to be allowed entry to the State, the Rivers State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), ASP Nnamdi Omoni, said the State Police Command is currently investigating the matter.

This, he said, also includes the allegation of bribe of lesser amount from one thousand and above paid to security agents at the State’s borders by people in order to gain entry into the State.

Omoni, who spoke via telephone on the television programme to respond to the allegations, said, “as far as I’m concerned, we’ve received pockets of complaints. … As we speak now, we’re at Oyigbo border post where we’re going to inspect the activities of our me”.

Responding to further questions, the State Police spokesperson explained that the Command currently has about nine of its men in custody over such allegations, and that investigation will be carried out on complains received so far.