Abuja: ‘Palliatives only for indigenes – FCTA officials tell residents amid chaos

There was chaos on Monday in an area in Kubwa, a residential district in Bwari, Abuja.

This followed the declaration by officials of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) regarding the food items taken to Bhyazin, an outskirt of Kubwa.

A resident told DAILY POST on Tuesday that the officials and Bhyazin traditional leader distinctly told them that the palliatives were “for only indigenes”.

The ensuing arguments led to violent altercations which eventually resulted in shots being fired, leaving some citizens, including youths and the elderly – injured.

In a chat with our correspondent, a resident and an eye witness narrated how the drama played out.

The Nigerian, in his sixties, explained: “We had received information that the FCTA would share some palliatives on Monday. The truck that conveyed the food items arrived at the community Sunday night. The truck was parked close to the Bhyazin Police Station not far from Winners Church.

“As early as 6am on Monday, people gathered and formed a queue. Around 8/9 am, the distribution commenced. The officials started sharing rice and beans to people in nylon bags, buckets, large bowls or whatever the person is holding.

After an hour, people started to jump the line or give local boys N200 or N500 to help them fast-track collection. This led to shouting by some of us who had been orderly and on queue since 6am. Later, the Bhyazin Chief and FCTA people announced that they would, from that point, share the food items to indigenes only.

“According to them, at least they tried by giving a few non-indigenes, so we should be grateful. Imagine such comments from government workers and a so-called chief. The comment caused the atmosphere to get tense.

“The residents insisted that if Bhyazin Chief and FCTA people wanted to be partial, they should go with their palliatives or face their wrath. As they maintained their ground, protest erupted and everywhere became rowdy. Police and Civil Defence (NSCDC) operatives then fired gunshots in the air.

“It was while this was going on that they hurriedly drove the truck away, That was how their palliative disbursement in Bhyazin ended. Help us tell them that God is watching what every human is doing and we will all give account.”

But the FCTA recalled that clear instructions were given that the distribution must be done without fear or favour, ethnicity or state, religious or political leanings.

In an interview with DAILY POST, Aderonke Bello, Special Assistant to the FCT Minister of State, Ramatu Aliyu, expressed dismay at the Bhyazin incident.

The aide, however, guaranteed that the FCTA will investigate what transpired and make immediate amendments.

Bello said: “It is unfortunate that this happened. I can assure you that the minister (Aliyu) will look into the matter; she usually gets detailed reports of distributions in areas covered.

“You will recall that the minister (Aliyu) made it known to Nigerians that the palliatives should be distributed to everyone; that this from the FCT Administration to all residents, not indigenes. Your organisation published the news.

“Her directives were echoed in meetings with stakeholders including FCTA officials, council chairmen, ward councillors, community and religious heads as well as leaders of political parties. It is expected of these people to respect and effect what the minister mandated.

On the shootings by security operatives, the minister’s aide said she was not aware.

“I don’t think it’s true because no one said anything like that. Of course, we heard about people not being happy due to what happened because some tried to disrupt the process that was laid down. There was no record of gunshots, so I cannot particularly tell you that shots were fired at the venue.

“I can confirm to you that since we started the disbursement, we’ve been to Abaji, Kwali, Gwagwalada, Kuje and did not record any form of violence. We actually got good feedback from the residents. I don’t know why Bwari’s case is different. It is sad, but the FCTA is on top of the matter”, Bello added.

The situation in the Bhyazin community appears to be part of the reasons Nigerians want the Buhari administration to pay cash directly into their bank accounts.

Unfortunately, critics say the government has continued to dilly dally on the cash palliative matter despite having over 40 million Nigerians registered on the Bank Verification Numbers (BVN) policy.

Analysts suggest that if the government excludes Nigerians earning a salary from the civil service, minus bank accounts with specific amounts, identify and remove flagged or corporate bank accounts, that registered BVN accounts could reduce to 20 – 30 million.

They argue that With N10,000 transfer to each of the remaining qualified BVNs, the Nigerian government will only have to spend between N200billion and N300billion on the masses.

Recall that the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Sadiya Umar, was heavily criticised after her statement that the federal government considered Nigerians who buy N100 call credit and have an account balance of N5,000, suitable for Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT).

Last week, Farouq announced that of the 428,941 beneficiaries that have received the Conditional Cash Transfer, 130,455 were from Katsina, the home state of President Muhammadu Buhari.

Nigerians and many CSOs insist that the CCT policy is enmeshed in fraud and have been requesting the full list of beneficiaries.

In mid-April, Bola Tinubu, national leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and one of the key figures behind Buhari’s victories in 2015 and 2019, suggested that the administration send money to Nigerians via BVNs.

“Payments can be made quickly by using the BVNs of prospective recipients. This will encourage those without bank accounts to get one. This process will bring millions of people into formal banking. It will also be safer and not lead to the types of violence and crime that might follow physical cash transfers,” Tinubu posited.

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