On May 30, the government of the State of Osun had announced that it took delivery of five truck-loads of food items from the private sector Coalition Against COVID-19 (CA-COVID), adding that 75 trucks were expected to be delivered to the state.
The food items ranging from noodles, spaghetti, salt, sugar among others were donated to the state to cushion the effects of lockdown occasioned by the pandemic.
This followed earlier interventions by the government and its 21-man Food and Relief Committee, which distributed palliatives to citizens between April and June.
The announcement on the said date featured more details than the news of the donation; there was an inclusion that the food items were stored at one of the warehouses in Cocoa Products Industry, Ede.
The Commissioner of Commerce, Industry, Cooperatives and Empowerment, Dr. Bode Olaonipekun, who received the donations on behalf of the state, had said that the warehouse was chosen in view of the quantity of items being expected.
On July 30, the government also announced its readiness to commence distribution of the palliative by August 11, after the flag-off and official handover had been done by CACOVID at Ede.
The distribution could not follow the timeline set by the government because CACOVID had not officially handed over the donations to the state due to a delay in the delivery of the rice component.
The Osun Food and Relief Committee wrote to CACOVID on September 28, reminding it of the rice component, which was yet to be delivered, until there was a twist of event on October 23, when suspected hoodlums engaged in looting of government properties and personal businesses, including the palliatives donated by CACOVID awaiting distribution directive by the donors.
The narrative soon changed against the government that it had hoarded the palliative to punish its citizens. Although, the government made efforts to set the records straight as soon as the misinformation began to spread like fire in the harmattan, it soon got vindicated through a letter from CACOVID in the later part of November.
The letter, which was signed by its Co-Administrator, Osayi Alile, read in part: “In continuation of our efforts to conclude the delivery of all CACOVID food relief items to Osun State, you will be pleased to be informed that we have now secured the full consignment of the rice component of the food relief items designated for the good people of Osun State that was previously unavailable due to the procurement challenges faced during the earlier nationwide lockdown”.
In spite of this development, more questions continued to emerge in the public space, which made it necessary for the government to hold a press briefing December 21, where it informed the public that the rice component from CACOVID was yet to be delivered to Osun, and also described the modalities for distribution upon arrival into the State.
Speaking during the media briefing, the Commissioner for Commerce and Industries, Dr Bode Olaonipekun, had said that by reason of current exegesis in terms of security and storage, especially due to the past experience, the government would not warehouse any of the the food items coming into the state from CACOVID.
He continued: “Instead, it would deploy a direct distribution model, from the supplier’s truck to each local government. Each local government would provide its own truck to take delivery of the number of bags shared to it.
“Also, to ensure transparency in the distribution, the government would set up a monitoring team in each of the local government, comprising: CACOVID monitoring and evaluation officials, representatives of civil society organisations, representatives of the christian and muslim communities, representatives of the traditional institutions, representatives of the informal sector, and representatives of youths and students”, Olaonipekun stated.
Following the delivery of the much expected 40,332 of 10kg bags of rice on December 24, the government began the immediate distribution of the components from CACOVID’s trucks to the trucks provided by each local government.
This approach, which dispelled the possibilities of security breach and accusations of hoarding and cruelty on the part of the government, was commended by the CACOVID Monitoring and Evaluation Team, which applauded the State government for adopting a strategic distribution process that captures every segment of the society.
The Coordinator of the team, Mr. Ademola Adebisi,
said the government of the State of Osun had distinguished itself and demonstrated high sense of transparency and accountability in its resolve to ensure that the food items get to the targeted beneficiaries across the State.
Another observer, Comrade Ajala Adetunji, the Public Relations Officer, Osun Chapter of the National Youth Council of Nigeria, lauded the state government for adopting a transparent process in the distribution exercise.
The transparency of the Osun government was not so much a function of the events of December 24 and 25, when the palliative was eventually distributed. Rather, the government of the State of Osun had, as a matter of duty, not failed to inform its citizens about the donations from CACOVID. The government has been transparent, from the point of promise by CACOVID to the time of the eventual delivery.
The crisis that brought about the twist was rather unfortunate; but interestingly, it afforded the government the turf to showcase its creative problem-solving tendencies and averting a possible recurrence of the dastardly act that threatened the collective peace of the State.