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Palliative Distribution: Enabling Social Accountability and Lessons from Lere Local Government

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By Yusuf Ishaku Goje

A fortnight ago, the Governor of Kaduna State, Senator Uba Sani, flagged off some social protection interventions – food palliative and financial support meant for the poor and vulnerable.

This came after the State Government via a letter to the Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON) had directed the 23 Council Chairmen to set up palliative distribution committees at the Local Government and ward level.

While the motive behind palliative distribution may be noble, however, motive alone is not enough. That the government is flagging off palliative interventions is good news, but the flag-off is still not enough.

What matters most is that the right people get to benefit, at the right quantity and quality as well as at the right time. To achieve this, it will require a transparent process of targeting, evidence-based coverage, independent monitoring by civil society groups, and responsiveness to accountability demands.

Therefore, it is imperative to turn the searchlight of scrutiny on the ongoing palliative distribution, worth N3.31 billion, across the 23 local governments of Kaduna State.

The State government had stated, in the letter to ALGON, it has procured 1,165 metric tons of rice (38 trucks), worth N1.90 billion, and 2,572 metric tons of maize (86 trucks), worth M1.41 billion.

Even though it is not clear what each LGA got, other questions yet unanswered are: how objective was the targeting process and how many are the targeted beneficiaries – disaggregated in terms of men, women, persons with disability, geo-location, etc.

Nonetheless, now that most of the LGAs have constituted the committees, flagged off the distribution and it is ongoing, it remains to be seen whether the right people are the beneficiaries and have gotten the right quantity and quality of foodstuff.

This can only be ascertained by the effective demonstration of transparency, accountability, citizens’ engagement, and responsiveness by the Councils. Given the foregoing, Lere Local Government is focused on setting an example for the other LGAs to emulate.

While most of the LGAs relied solely on the committees, as directed in the reference, Lere Local Government has opened its door for the participation and involvement of civil society groups for social accountability.

While civil society groups in other LGAs are complaining of no or late involvement or low level of transparency and accountability in the distribution process, two civil society representatives in Lere were not only inaugurated as part of the Committee but the representatives were also involved in the planning meetings.

The Council Chairman of Lere Local Government, Hon. Mathew Kaku, provided the civil society representatives the needed information before the flag-off of the distribution of the foodstuffs meant for the poor and vulnerable groups across the 11 wards of the Local Government.

As reported by the civil society representatives, the breakdown shows that the local government got 1,200 bags of 100kg of maize and 900 bags of 50kg of rice.

The foodstuffs are reported to have been divided equally among the 11 wards of the Local Government. However, the distribution to the poor and vulnerable groups will be carried out at the polling unit level. This if executed well will ensure no area is left out in the process. While we await the full civil society report of the distribution process, the steps already taken, subject to improvements, in enabling social accountability by the Council of Lere LGA are worthy of emulation by the other LGAs.

The big lesson from Lere for other LGAs is that involving accountability-focused civil society should not be an afterthought.

Only a few weeks back the Council Chairman established the civil society-led Lere Local Government Community Engagement and Project Monitors Initiative. As well as also appointed two civil society leaders from the Local Government Accountability Mechanism (KAD-LGAM) as Coordinators and Secretaries.

The representatives are now working with Ward civil society champions to ensure awareness creation and independent social accountability of the palliative distribution at the grassroots. This is no surprise as the Local Government had over the past few years benefitted from having reform-minded Chairmen.

The immediate past Chairman, Hon. Abubakar Buba, now the Commissioner of Environment and Natural Resources, had set the stage for being the first to embrace the Open Government Partnership (OGP) reforms and structures in promoting community engagement and social accountability.

The incumbent, who was the Vice of the immediate past Chairman, seems to be building on these reforms. At a time when people are suffering and expectations are high, the involvement of independent civil society groups in local governance needs to be encouraged and emulated to ensure no one is left behind.

Therefore, it is worthy of note that local governments need to embrace the culture of Open Government Partnership (OGP) in line with the ‘Nurturing Citizens Engagement’ pillar of the SUSTAIN agenda of the current administration. Due to rising multidimensional poverty, it is key that Council Chairmen ensure the process of palliative distribution is not outrightly politicized and that only the right people are benefiting.

Finally, without a clear-cut targeting methodology and adherence to it, palliative distribution will just be another political jamboree with no bottom-line impact on the real poor and vulnerable.

Let us engage, ask the right questions, and hold the government accountable.

Goje is an active citizen, civil society actor, and OGP enthusiast in Kaduna

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