By Farooq Kperogi
“Those who benefit from the conditional cash transfer of the Federal Government as palliative to cushion the effects of the lockdown caused by the deadly Coronavirus don’t want to be addressed as poor people. That is why we can’t publish their names. Also, the beneficiaries of the Federal Government’s gesture are invisible and dwell where the conventional society cannot see them, and carrying journalists along to investigate the authenticity of the payments to the target persons will be cost implicative to the scheme because the funds at hand can’t pay for extra burden as we are only managing what we have.” – Maryam Uwais, Special Adviser to the President on Social Investment on Channels TV Sunrise Daily.
When I received the above text on WhatsApp on April 10, 2020 from several people, I thought someone initially just made it up for comic relief and that it was being shared by people on social media in ignorance.
In fact, I persuaded an older friend that the quote couldn’t be real, based on what I’d read of Maryam Uwais who strikes me as an extremely smart woman. But after watching the video clip of her interview a few hours after I’d read the text, where I heard her express sentiments that were consistent with the first sentence, I was compelled to go back to WhatsApp and retract what I said to my older friend about the quote.
Anyone who is too proud to be called poor is clearly not poor. The pangs of hunger are stronger than the vanity of self-esteem. That’s why there are hordes of Nigerian “e-beggars” who drop their names and account numbers on social media without shame during social media “giveaways”—and sometimes without “giveaways.”
But the whole point of asking for the identity of the people who benefited from the government’s “palliatives” is to be able to authenticate government’s claims.
In any case, the minister of humanitarian affairs, who supervises the disbursement of the “palliatives,” was reported by the Daily Nigerian to have stolen 200 tonnes of date palms (dabino) donated to internally displaced persons in the northeast by the Saudi Arabian government in 2017. This is COVIK 4-1-9 writ large!