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Senate Berates Humanitarian Minister Over N32.4 Billion COVID-19 Palliative Fund

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The Senate on Thursday queried the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajia Sadiya Umar Farouq, for the manner in which the N32.4billion allocated to her office for palliatives provisions against COVID – 19 pandemic was spent.

The Upper Chamber of the National Assembly through its Committee on Special Duties drilled the Minister on how the fund was spent during an interactive session on Thursday.

Senator Ali Ndume (APC Borno South) fired the first servo at the Minister by interrogating why Nigerians did not feel the impact of the acclaimed interventions by the Ministry in the heat of the COVID- 19 Pandemic.

The Borno South lawmaker told her, “You are not doing enough as far as poverty eradication in the country is concerned.

“The modus operandi being adopted by your Ministry cannot in any way help in fixing the country.

“Humanitarian intervention should be looked at more holistically”, he said.

He was not alone in the unleashing heat on the Minister, as the Vice Chairman of the committee, Senator Biobarakuma Degi Eremionyo (APC Bayelsa) in criticising the Ministry’s approach said the handouts being doled out to some Nigerians as palliatives by the Ministry, cannot in any way, take them out of poverty line.

“Giving unemployed people N10,000 or even N20, 000 for a month or two, cannot help them out of the poverty-related problems facing them.

“The handouts should be channelled into the creation of employment for the unemployed ”, he said.

But the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Yusuf Abubakar Yusuf ( APC Taraba Central), intervened by reminding embers of the Committee that the interactive session was not on poverty eradication by the Ministry but interventions made by it as palliatives against COVID-19 from the 32.4billion earmarked for it out of the N500billion appropriated by the National Assembly last year.

In her response, the Minister disclosed that only N2.4billion was released to her Ministry from the N32.4billion earmarked.

According to her, “N2.4billion was expended on the feeding of School pupils even while Schools were closed down last year and direct monetary interventions made to vulnerable Nigerians across the 36 States of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory ( FCT, Abuja ).”

She also explained that School pupils were allegedly fed in their various homes as ” We drove to some of their homes based on addresses gathered from their Schools and also adopted the template of six-person per family and three children in a home “

Besides feeding School pupils at home, Sadiya said that other interventions such as Rice distributions totalling about 33,000 tonnes were made to vulnerable Nigerians across the 36 states of the federations.

” We also got a lot of consignments from the Nigerian Customs Service for distribution as palliatives during the period under review aside 70,000 metric tonnes of Grains, Millets, Guinea Corn and Gari released from strategic reserves on the orders of Mr President “, she added.

The Committee Chairman in his closing remarks tasks the Minister to ensure collection of the N30billion balance from the Ministry of Finance and forward to the committee intervention programmes of action it had on the ground for it.

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