By Okechukwu Nwafor
Governor of Enugu State, Dr Peter Mbah on Wednesday flagged off the distribution of palliatives in Enugu State, ordering the immediate delivery of 52,000 bags of rice and 52,000 bags of maize to the urban and rural poor in Enugu State.
The palliatives include 200 bags of rice and 200 bags of maize to each of the 260 wards in the state.
Mbah, however, said the palliatives were part of the short-term strategies to fighting poverty, saying the medium and long-term plans of his administration remained to eradicate poverty in the state in line with his manifesto.
“Part of our vision is to eradicate poverty in Enugu State. And we knew that at the time we were saying that, there was a high rate of poverty in the state. But, a few days into our administration, we have had to contend with a number of policies initiated by the Federal Government such as the removal of the petrol subsidy, and also the unification of the foreign exchange rates.
“What that meant was that the people we have in our poverty bracket suddenly expanded because their purchasing power declined drastically.
“As a government that is pro-people, we have the quick fix or short-term strategy to reduce the pressure on our people, while still bearing in mind the long-term goal of eradicating poverty, making sure that we introduce strategic programmes that would in the long run get our people constructively engaged, and make a living from such engagements.
“So, what we have simply come to do here today is to present palliatives to the people of Enugu State, particularly our rural poor, urban poor and our downtrodden.
“We have also put a structure in place to make that happen by decentralising the distribution, involving local council leaderships, the town unions, the religious institutions, among others such that once we leave here, these items will begin to get distributed across the 17 local governments from today”.
The governor also announced the procurement of busses to subsidise transportation and enable the people to go about their socio-economic activities with ease, recalling that his administration had earlier set up committees to verify and clear all arrears of pensions and gratuities owed public servants in the state. This he said would ensure that the elderly and most vulnerable were able to live a meaningful life in the midst of the economic hardship.
Also speaking at the event, the Chairman of the Enugu State Chapter of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria, Hon. Okechukwu Edeh, who is also a member of the state palliatives committee, assured that the items would trickle down to the poor immediately.
“As the ALGON Chairman, I promise you that I will work with my colleagues to make sure that these get to the downtrodden. It is not for everybody; it is for the poor, and it must get to them based on the expanded social register that has been compiled”, he said.
Meanwhile, different sections of the beneficiaries have commended the Enugu State Government for transparency and inclusiveness in the management of the palliatives.
Speaking, the Chairman of the Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities, Enugu State chapter, Onyebuchi Mbah, said: “I wish to say kudos to the current administration in Enugu State because they deemed it fit to practice inclusiveness, involving the most vulnerable groups, persons with disabilities in this exercise. I want them to continue in that direction.
“Let me also say that in the exercise so far, the state governor has played his own role and we hope that the directives he has given will be followed so that these items will get to the most vulnerable population”
Also speaking, Mrs Chika Nwankwo, Councillor representing Awgu Ward I in Awgu LGA described the palliatives as “sweet news to the poor in the rural areas where I come from”.
“The poor, the sick, and many who cannot afford one square meal in a day are eargerly waiting for us to return with the goodies”, she stated.