From Steve Oko, Umuahia
The Abia State Government, Tuesday began the distribution of food items, cash and other items as palliative to the vulnerable groups in the state following the ongoing lockdown in the state aimed at containing the spread of the dreaded coronavirus pandemic.
Deputy Governor, Ude Oko Chukwu who flagged off the exercise at the Government House Umuahia, said the state was concerned about the fate of the less privileged, widows and orphans in the state, hence its decision to give out the items to mitigate their sufferings while the lockdown lasted.
He explained that government’s intention in imposing the lockdown was to avoid the spread of the pandemic which he said had wrecked havoc in many countries.
The Deputy Governor who noted that the lockdown which was declared last week might continue until further notice, appealed to residents to bear with government and comply with the necessary protocols.
He commended churches and Muslims in the state for complying with the order banning meetings/services in places of worship.
Uko Chukwu thanked God that no case of coronavirus was yet recorded in the state.
The Deputy Governor announced the donation of 1200 bags of rice, 1100 rubbers of yam, 41 bags of beans, thousands of hand sanitizers and face masks to four churches and the Muslim community in the state.
The benefiting churches include : The Catholic Church, Methodist Church, The Apostolic Church, and The Assemblies of God Church.
While the Catholic and the Methodist Churches got 300 bags of rice, 10 bags of beans and N6 million among other items respectively, The Apostolic Church and The Assemblies of God Church got 250 bags of rice, eight bags of beans and N5 million each among other items.
The Muslim community got 100 bags of rice, five bags of beans 100 tubbers of yam, N1 million among others.
The Deputy Governor who said other Christian denominations in the state would benefit from the gesture in the coming days appealed to the benefiting churches to ensure the items got to the vulnerable groups in their fold.
Responding on behalf of the beneficiaries, the Abia State Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Rev. Emmanuel Agomuo, commended government for the gesture.
He, however, appealed to the leadership of the churches not to abuse the Items but ensure they got to the poor and downtrodden among their members.
“These items are not meant for church elders but the poor and the indigent “, he warned.
Adding his voice, the South East Zone A representative of the Assemblies of God Nigeria comprising nine Districts of the church , the Rev. Ogba Onyeije, commended the state government for the gesture which he assured would get to the target audience.
Speaking also, the Arch Bishop, Methodist Church of Umuahia Dioecese, Most Rev. Chibuzor Opoko thanked government for its efforts in the fight against coronavirus, especially for aiding Aba tailors to mass produce nose mask.
He however, appealed to government for more palliative, saying that “hunger can kill more than coronavirus “.
In his appreciation on behalf of the Muslim community, the Chief Imam of Abia State Alhaji Aliyu Ukaiwo, said the quality and quantity of palliatives by the state government had surpassed what other states had done.
Later in an interview, the Commissioner for Information, Chief John Okiyi Kalu, said the state was poised to ensure no Abian suffered hunger while the lockdown lasted.
He said the state had already procured 8000 bags of rice besides another 850 bags of rice donated by Professor Greg Ibe, and other food items by other kind -hearted Abians for distribution to the vulnerable groups .
The Commissioner said other indigent Abians would be reached through Traditional rulers and Town Union Presidents, adding that adequate provisions had also been made for homes for the destitute in the state.
He warned that no political office holder, salary earner or well -to -do persons should be allowed to benefit from the largess, insisting it is only for the down trodden and unemployed as well as those who find it difficult to feed as a result of the lockdown .
The Commissioner said government was prepared to spend between N300 million and N500 million on palliatives to ensure Abians did not starve during the lockdown which he hinted might be reviewed after a meeting of the interministerial committee on coronavirus on Wednesday.
He appealed for more donations from public -spirited individuals and organisations.
Okiyi frowned at the attitude of some donors who donate drugs directly to the people without routing it through government for quality assurance and necessary tests, warning that such persons or organizations will be held accountable should anything untoward result from the use of such drugs.
The Commissioner also expressed dissatisfaction over the level of compliance by residents on the restriction on movement and appealed for full cooperation in the interest of all.