The federal government has said it will now focus on poor Nigerians in urban areas as it carries out President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive on the distribution of palliatives to cushion the effects of COVID-19 on Nigerians.

Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, Hajiya Sadiya Farouq, who disclosed this while briefing State House correspondents noted that her ministry has three options in terms of methods to be adopted in selecting the beneficiaries of the scheme.

She said, “You are aware that the president, in his broadcast of Monday 13th April, directed that we expand the beneficiaries of the conditional cash transfer by one million and in this regard, we are going to focus more now on the urban poor.

“These are people who depend on the informal sector to earn their livelihood. They are daily wage earners and these are the people that we are really going to focus more on as well as people living with disabilities.

“Well, we have three options. One, we are going to use the national social register that we already have; two, we are also going to focus on the urban poor as I mentioned by using their verified BVN accounts to get them. That is people who have account balance of N5,000 and below.

“We are also using the mobile networks to know people that top up the credit units for their phones with may be N100 or less. These are also people that we consider to be poor and vulnerable. So, these are the three options that we are exploring and I am sure that by the time we get this data we will be able to give this intervention.”

The minister however said only 25 per cent of the population would benefit for now, adding that the scope might be expanded later.

“Let me also say that we have a standard. 25 percent of the total population of is what we will take out. It cannot go round everywhere but we are starting from somewhere. 25 per cent of let’s say the location of Lagos State for example is what is going to benefit from this intervention that we are doing. Going forward, we might expand it but this is what is obtainable for now,” she explained.

She further said the ministry was planning to handover the distribution of food items to state governments so as to address the challenges associated with distribution faced in the past.

Farouq continued: “On the issue of palliatives in terms of food relief, we have an emergency response plan in place. In the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, we have different functional groups.

“One of such groups is that which deals with mass care, logistics and security to be led by the National Emergency Management Agency under the ministry and they have a structure; from national, states, down to local governments where the various state emergency agencies and other security agencies are involved in this distribution.

“So far, we have already done  the distribution together with the state authorities in these two states affected by the lockdown, together with the FCT but going forward, when we are going to give these food items we are going to hand them over to the states because issues have come up. As at yesterday our people were mobbed; some of them were attacked in the course of carrying out this assignment. So, the general conclusion is that we give this food relief directly to the state governments for them to distribute to the beneficiaries”.

Shedding more light on the N21billion support given to Nigeria by the European Union to fight COVID-19, the minister said the donation is coming in form of medical equipment and provision of structures that will help Nigeria fight the deadly disease.

She said, “This donation is coming in kind basically by way of medical equipment and also some structure to be put in place as a response to this COVID-19 pandemic.

“In that intervention, there are also humanitarian issues that would be addressed. As you are aware, this is a health emergency but at the same time it is also a humanitarian emergency. So, the ministry is going to come in here because we are to coordinate all humanitarian interventions coming into the country by way of making sure that such interventions get to the poor and vulnerable in our society”.

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