Okechukwu Nnodim, Abuja
The Federal Government on Monday debunked claims that it distributed weevil-infested rice to South-West states, arguing that the palliatives were certified fit for human consumption.
The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar-Farouq, specifically said the distributed trucks of rice were certified by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control.
Umar-Farouq, who said this at the daily briefing on COVID-19 in Abuja, also refuted claims that her ministry had diverted N-Power funds for COVID-19 response.
Oyo State had on Friday indicated that it might return the 1,800 bags of rice donated to the state by the Federal Government as COVID-19 palliative on the grounds that the rice had been infested with weevils.
Also, there had been claims that other states in the South-West were planning to return the rice they got from the Federal Government as well.
Reacting to this on Monday, Umar-Farouq said, “On the issue of rice distribution, we distributed the rice to states.
“The trucks of rice were handed over to us by the Nigeria Customs Service and were assessed by NAFDAC, who issued a clearance before the goods were released for onward distribution to the states.
“So, as far as we are concerned, the rice was certified fit for human consumption. We had an issue in Oyo, which was officially reported this morning.”
She added, “But two or three days back, we’ve seen news flying that all the rice we took to the South-West and parts of this country are bad.
“And that Lagos has taken its own to the lagoon and that other states have rejected them. I want to say categorically that those are fake news. They are not true.”
The minister said she spoke with the Governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, on Monday, who confirmed that the rice was edible enough.
Umar-Farouq said, “I just spoke with the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum (Fayemi) and he assured me that the ones he received in Ekiti and other states are in good condition.
“Let us be very clear on this issue of rice. We all know that even in our houses if we keep foodstuff, especially grains of that nature in a damp place, they are bound to have a change in colour.
“But that does not mean that it is not fit for human consumption. So, please this is what I can say about the issue of rice and they (beneficiaries) are very happy that the Federal Government is supporting them.”
On the issue of diverting payments for N-Power to address COVID-19 concerns, Umar-Farouq said this was impossible.
The minister said, “I know that we all know that it is practically impossible for anybody, whether a minister or chief executive, to divert funds that have been appropriated and are in a particular budget line to another budget line for the simple reason that we are operating the Treasury Single Account.
“It is just not possible. I don’t know how we can divert N-Power funds for the COVID-19 response and palliatives. That is another fake news.”
She said the Federal Government was working with states in the distribution of the palliatives.
“We have engaged CSOs and NGOs and the Red Cross in the monitoring and evaluation process,” Umar-Farouq stated.
She further noted that her ministry was also ensuring that women were not marginalised in the distribution of the palliatives.