The N57.8 billion worth of food palliatives approved for members of the National Assembly by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for onward distribution to their constituents is raising dust, [/b]Daily Trust reports.
While [b]some lawmakers confirmed receiving palliatives, said to be worth N200 million for senators and N100 million for members of the House of Representatives, others denied that.
This is just as many constituents across the country are accusing their representatives of hoarding the items.
The Presidency, while showcasing Tinubu’s scorecard in palliatives’ disbursement to Nigerians, had revealed that each senator got N200 million worth of palliatives; and N100 million for each member of the House of Representatives.
Going by the data released by the Presidency, the food items approved as palliatives for all the 469 lawmakers (109 senators and (360 House of Representatives members) amounted to N57.8 billion.
Corroborating this yesterday, the Special Adviser to the President on Information and Strategy, Bayo Onanuga, in a chat with one of our reporters, clarified that Tinubu did not send the money to the legislators.
He said the president only “asked the Ministry of Agriculture to provide the food items to them. Each Rep member is to get food items worth N100 million; senator, N200 million.”
Investigations by Daily Trust indicated that many of the lawmakers had received bags of rice from the ministry and had begun distribution to their constituents.
Meanwhile, the Presidency confirmed that some lawmakers had yet to recieve the items owing to logistics problem.
The Special Assistant to the President on Social Media, Segun Dada, had, in a post on his X handle, clarified that Tinubu “did not give cash to the National Assembly members as palliatives to the people in the constituencies and senatorial districts.”
He said the president, through the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, only distributed rice and other food items as palliatives “and sort of constituency projects worth N100 million per federal constituency and N200 million per senatorial constituency.
“The emanating insinuations from some Nigerians out there suggesting that some National Assembly members are hoarding the palliatives is grossly misleading because they can only distribute when they have received it, and this is due to logistic reasons behind the distribution process,” Dada said.
Dekeri Anamero, member representing Etsako Federal Constituency of Edo State, in a viral video, disclosed that Tinubu approved truckloads of rice for each member of the House of Representatives for onward distribution to his/her constituents. He spoke at his constituency while flagging off the distribution of 2,400 bags of rice to his constituents during the yuletide season.
“I’m back in Etsako Federal Constituency to celebrate Christmas with our people. I want to appreciate President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for deeming it fit to give all the members of the House of Representatives palliative grains.
“Here, you have two trailers of rice. You have one trailer on the right and one on the left here in Etsako Federal Constituency. So, I want us to celebrate the Christmas in a joyous mood. In all, we have four trailers of rice. That is 2,400 bags which we’ve branded in my name for my federal constituency,” he stated.
Nigerians in other constituencies across the nation have continued to mount pressure on their representatives for similar food items released by the Federal Government.
Many of them, who took to the social media, especially on X (formerly twitter) accused lawmakers of hoarding the palliatives for campaign purposes. Some social media influencers have also called on constituents to hold their lawmakers to account should they fail to share the palliatives.
@ojooluwadareemi1 said Tinubu should have engaged the services of private logistics companies to distribute the palliatives “house to house in each local government area and taking feedback from landlord associations. “Some of these reps or senators will divert the items and sell them,” he alleged.
@GAjibowu wondered why the government could not name the lawmakers who had received the items “for the masses to hold them accountable”.
JohnAde04 alleged that the release of rice to the lawmakers was contributing to the increase in the price of the commodity, “because govt will mop rice from the market and those politicians won’t give out the rice; they just hoard it.”
How N/Assembly members lobbied for palliatives
Our reporters learnt that lawmakers lobbied the presidency for the rice palliative after the passage of the 2023 supplementary budget.
The budget, among others, made provisions for palliatives to citizens to reduce the cost-of-living crisis, widely believed to have been worsened by the removal of petrol subsidy.
A senator, who spoke to Daily Trust in confidence, revealed that: “After the budget passage, our colleagues protested that since the president had given billions to state governors to provide food items to Nigerians, they should also be given palliatives for distribution.”
Another lawmaker said: “We realised that palliatives were given to the governors while we were left with nothing to help our constituents. So, we demanded something to give to our people. That was why the president approved the provision of rice for us through the Ministry of Agriculture.”
An aide to a ranking senator, who also preferred anonymity, confirmed that his principal received rice from the Ministry of Agriculture and distributed same during the yuletide.
A member of the House of Representatives, also confirmed: “Yes, there are foodstuffs that the Ministry of Agriculture was instructed to give us for distribution to our constituents.
“I’m also expecting two trucks for my constituents. But, even before this, we had been distributing rice and other foodstuffs to our constituents, especially in December,” the legislator stressed.
However, the member representing Ganjuwa/Darazo Federal Constituency of Bauchi State, Mansur Manu Soro said: “Nobody gave me rice to share. But I know of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security’s palliative programme, which members were requested to advise on the type of palliative needed in their constituencies and states.”
“Some members recommended rice; some, fertilizers and others, depending on their people’s needs. So, the report that the president gave rice to all the 360 members and 109 senators is wrong and misleading. It was targeted at tarnishing the image of the National Assembly members,” Soro said.
Lawmaker’s house vandalised
Daily Trust learnt that a lawmaker from the southern part of the country was attacked and his house vandalised by angry constituents who went there in search of palliatives.
A member of the House of Representatives from the North East said: “This thing has generated so much controversy that some of our colleagues are having problems. A friend of mine was attacked by hoodlums because of this. They went to his house looking for the said palliative and vandalised many things in the house.”
Meanwhile, some legislators, who denied receiving any food times from the presidency, said they bankrolled the palliatives’ distribution to their constituents during the festive season in anticipation for a refund from the Federal Government.
A senator’s aide said: “Since there’s a plan to give lawmakers rice for distribution, those who are yet to get theirs and could not wait used their money to get the items and distributed to their people with a plan to claim a refund.
“My principal belongs to this category. He distributed over 2,000 bags of rice, other food items and cash during the Christmas period to his constituents. But he has not received anything from what the presidency approved”, the legislative aide said.
Rep Abdulmumini Ari (APC, Nasarawa), in a chat with Daily Trust, said: “I’ve not seen any colleague who has received the rice you’re talking about.”
A beneficiary in Kwara State, said “Our wards received 500 bags of rice from our representative who had his picture on it and some additional cash. The same thing was replicated in all the ten wards in the councils.
“But nobody told us whether it came from the Presidency. So, we assumed it came from him (the lawmaker) because of the picture.”
Senate silent on largesse
The Senate spokesperson, Yemi Adaramodu, did not respond to calls to his cellphone by our correspondent. He had earlier denied receiving any item as a palliative from the Federal Government.
Reps spokesperson speaks
The spokesman of the House of Representatives, Akin Rotimi, had in a statement, said the leadership of the House “successfully lobbied for additional palliatives for our constituents across the country”.
He said this was being handled by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security in line with extant public procurement laws.
“The procurement process is at different stages depending on the constituency, but to be clear, no legislator has, nor will be given any money for palliatives.
“While, as politicians, honourable members may be visible during the process of distribution and rightfully take the credit for bringing succour to the people, the procurement and distribution of the palliatives is being handled by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security.
“As it is customary during this season, honourable members, in their respective constituencies, celebrated with their constituents in various ways in individual capacities.
“These gestures should not be misconstrued as palliatives, and honourable members will continue to engage at the grassroots to clarify these issues in order not to cause disaffection for colleagues in other constituencies”, he said.