N500m Relief Fund in Kaduna: Coalition of CSO’s, Media Tasks el-Rufai on Transparency, Accountability

By Hauwa Negedu, Kaduna

A coalition of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and Media has tasked the Kaduna State Government to ensure social accountability and transparency in the distribution of relief materials to poor and vulnerable households largely affected by the total lockdown of the state as part of measures to prevent the spread of Coronavirus pandemic.

The coalition under the auspice of Kaduna Social Protection Accountability Coalition (KADSPAC), raised concerns in a statement signed by the chairperson, Jessica Bartholomew, that at the low level of information dissemination on the modalities for the distribution of relief materials in the pilot local government areas, there is need for the government to be transparent and accountable in it’s handling of the distributions.

“There are fears that the composition of the state and local government committees is without the inclusion of active civil society, people with disabilities and media partners with the capacity to effectively proffer solutions, track and ensure that the relief materials get to the target beneficiaries.” They added.

KADSPAC, is a network of active civil society and media partners working together to strengthen transparency and accountability in the Social Protection system in the State.

The coalition has the goal to improve coordination and delivery of Social Protection programmes to benefit poor and vulnerable people in Kaduna state’.

According to the statement, “we need to jointly confront and defeat the spread of the deadly Coronavirus (Covid-19) ravaging the world. For us in Kaduna State, the Government has continued to take proactive measures to stop the spread of the virus among its citizenry as well as the laudable step to put relief measures in place to cushion the impact of the current lockdown across the state.

“We commend Gov. Nasir El-Rufai and his Covid-19 emergency team for being decisive in communicating preventive measures that have culminated into the imposition of indefinite curfew on the State, as best alternative to preventing the spread of the virus in the state.

“Equally important is the palliative measures being taken to cushion the effect of the lockdown, particularly on the most vulnerable groups in the State.”

The statement further said that, the Commissioner, Ministry for Human Services and Social Development, Hajiya Hafsat Baba, had announced that a sum of N500 million has been earmarked for the procurement and distribution of relief materials in eight pilot local government areas which are: Kaduna North, Kaduna South, Igabi, Chikun, Zaria, Sabon Gari, Kaura and Jema’a, covering the three (3) geo political zones.

This the coalition noted “is timely and a right step in the right direction, as residents of the State have expressed serious concern over growing hunger, particularly among the poor and vulnerable households/groups in our communities due to the lockdown. This quick response did not come as a surprise as the government has already initiated the process of establishing a social protection system in the State.

“However, while we are fully aware that due process and procedures in unusual times like this might be suspended in order to effectively confront humanitarian emergencies, the government needs to strengthen its fiscal transparency and accountability instruments.

“In addition, the deployment of information and communication mechanism are critical at ensuring citizens and civil societies are carried along in the interventions.”

“As you are aware, the State government has signed unto the Open Government Partnership (OGP), which is a commitment to reforms that ensure active citizen’s access to information and participation in government’s decision-making processes.

“The modalities for the constitution of the distribution clusters and the committees in the benefiting local government areas as well as the identification and selection of targeted beneficiaries were not clear. There are fears that the intervention might be hijacked by politicians with vested interest as the composition of the committees is rumored to include local government chairmen of the ruling political party. Some vulnerable groups are already concerned that they might not benefit from the intervention.

“We are optimistic that the State Steering Committee will consider and take appropriate actions on the above concerns to ensure a hitch free distribution of the relief items.” The group said.

They however recommend the inclusion of civil society and media partners with a track record of tracking governance processes in all the relevant committees and clusters, adding “an official feedback and response channels should be established by the government to ensure accountability;

“The government should put in place additional modalities to protect the distribution from hijack, for instance making public the disaggregated list of beneficiaries for follow-up and verification. The state social register should be used as it captures data on the vulnerable households/groups in 9 LGA of the state.

“We strongly believe that, if the issues herein are critically looked into and addressed in good time, the intervention will not only be seen to have taken place, but will significantly touch the lives of the poor and vulnerable among us that were badly affected by the lockdown.”

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