The state government also set aside N400 million to enable them to go through the lockdown period with ease. The Niger State Task Force on COVID-19 also announced that 8,220 bags of grains would be distributed to the 274 wards across the 25 local government areas of the state.
But many are crying in the state. They say they have only heard of the palliatives but have not benefitted.
A visit to some communities in Chachanga and Paikoro revealed that while some of the residents have received some palliatives, others have not. Those who have received the materials described as “inadequate and insufficient”.
At the blind people’s home known as ‘Gidan Markarfi in Limawa Area of Chanchaga, hunger is biting hard at the residents. Their leader, Rabiu Abdullahi, said what was brought was not enough.
Rabiu, who appealed to the government for more palliatives, said due to lack of food, his people had taken to eating mangoes daily to quench their hunger.
“These days, we are not having any other food other than mango, we thank God that it is mango season. Mango is now our food but we are tired of waiting for mangoes. We need real food.”
Abdullahi said the grain palliatives brought by the state government did not go round his people.
“The government brought to me, eight mudus (the ideal measurement used in the north which contains about 10 milk cups) of rice, eight mudus of maize, eight mudus of millet and 12 pieces of spaghetti.
“I am the leader of the blind and we have over 150 men as members in Minna, not counting the women and some of these men have two or three wives and none has less than two children. So if you calculate it, you will see that we are more than 300.
“What can 8 mudus of rice, maize, and millet with 12 spaghetti do to these families? It is not enough in any way. In my family alone, I have 13 children, so even a portion of this palliative could not even take us for more than a meal.
“Unfortunately, my people did not believe this is all that they brought, they accused me of taking everything and bringing out something that is not realistic for us to share. But some of my members were there when they brought the food that day. ”
On how the palliatives were shared, the Leader of the Blind explained that “some people got two milk cups of each of the grains; some had to leave it for others to have. My people in Chachanga and Maitumbi didn’t get anything.”
Abdullahi continued: “We are feeling it more. If the rich people are crying about the impact of the lockdown, is it we beggars that will not cry? We are those that if they do not give to us, we won’t eat. For now, no one is giving us anything.
“These days, we eat only mangoes and we are tired of eating mangoes. We need real food. We hear on the radio, a lot of donation of food that the government has gotten and they say it is for the vulnerable and less privileged, then who are we? Are we not vulnerable? Are we not the less privileged? Then why can’t they give us enough that will go round and last us even if it is for a week?”
He expressed disappointment in the government over its insensitivity to the plights of his members.
“How did the state government in its wildest imagination want us to share 21 Mudus of grains among such a large number of households? If the government’s thinking agrees with the thinking of members of the public, it wouldn’t act this way. We are very disenchanted with the government officials including the state governor over their insensitivities to the plights of the poor people in the society.”
Jumai Bello, one of the blind members, who has six children, said she heard about the distribution of grains but did not get any as they said it was not enough to go round.
She said their daily meal included eating mangoes in the morning and afternoon while at night, they managed cornmeal with dry okro soup.
Another blind member, Amina Unar, said she was lucky to get a share of the food brought by the government, saying it was not even enough for a meal.
“They gave me one cup of rice, one cup of millet and one cup of maize but it was not enough. For my house, it was not enough. We had to buy more to compliment before it could be enough for us.”
For Ahmadu Bako, the community leader of Dusten Kura Gwari, what his community of over 2000 people got was one bag of maize, one bag of millet and one bag of rice, saying it was disappointing when the people saw the palliative.
On how it was shared, Bako said: “To make it go a bit round, at least to half of the community, we had to give everyone half a mudus (five tin-milk cups) of either of the grains. If you get rice, you won’t get maize or millet, if you get millet, you won’t get rice or maize; that was how we shared it.
“But a lot of people did not get. Many of them are still waiting to see if the government will bring another one. To be transparent, when they brought it, I left it outside and called people to show them this is what they brought. If not, people would have thought I kept them for myself.”
Bako appealed to the government to bring more palliative to the people.
While these people are still complaining of receiving little, some other communities have not received any kind of palliatives from the state government.
Mubuta community in Chachanga Local Government Area is one such; the people said they have only been hearing about palliatives.
Speaking on behalf of his members, the Village Head of Mubuta Community, who identified himself simply as Danladi, said they have not received anything and when he approached the Councillor representing the community, he said he was working towards ensuring they get the palliatives.
“No palliative has been given to us; no one has come to us to explain what we should expect and what this disease is all about. We are only just hearing it on the radio but have seen no-one. We appeal to the government To Help us so that we can benefit from these palliatives.”
The leader said it has not been easy for the people in the community since the lockdown was imposed. He added that they had been attacked by buglers consistently for the past three weeks.
“On my part, I have three shops and they broke into my shops and stole all the provisions which were more than N500, 000. We have reported to the police but they did not reply to us.”