By Amarachi Uzoukwu (Umuahia)

Abia State Government has officially confirmed the receipt of 3,000 bags of rice, along with N2 billion in palliatives from the federal government as part of measures to mitigate the effects of fuel subsidy removal.

The Chief of Staff to the Governor, Chinedu Ekeke confirmed this development, on Wednesday while speaking to Journalists in his office at Government House Umuahia.

This is in contrast to the initial N5 Billion naira, 40,540 bags of Maize, 81,000 bags of Rice and 121,432 bags of fertilizers expected from the Federal Government.

Ekeke, highlighted that the state had anticipated rice, maize, and fertilizers but only received the 3,000 bags of rice,adding that state government received 2 billion naira in cash, though it had initially expected 5 billion naira, with the remaining 3 billion naira still awaited.

He said; “The Abia state government has recieved 3,000 bags of Rice which came in 5 trucks. We were told that there would be fertilizers and also maize but we have not seen any of those. What we have recieved is actually the bags of Rice, 3000 of them.

“We were promised N5 billion but what we received as at last week Thursday was N2 billion. We are still expecting the balance. As at today, we have not received the remaining N3 billion”.

According to him, a committee comprised of representatives from the Nigerisn Labour Congress NLC, Trade Union Congress TUC, Christian Association of Nigeria CAN, and Pensioners will oversee the distribution to the poor and vulnerable members of the society and ensure that it reaches them.

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“We want these items to get to the people who honestly need them. Part of the rule for us as a government is that there is no government appointee that will be getting a grain of that rice so our job is to distribute to the society ‘s most vulnerable in all our communities”,Ekeke said.

Chairman of the State Sharing Committee for Federal Government Palliatives,Rev’d Father Christian Anokwuru while speaking to Journalists clarified that the decision to distribute the pallatives to the poor and vulnerable members of the society stemmed from the inadequate quantity allocated to the state.

“The mail we received showed that Abia will be given 40,540 bags of maize, 81,000 50kg bags of rice and 121,432 50kg bags of fertilizer.These were expected, but the only thing we got is 3,000 bags of rice.

“We decided to share the rice at the ward level throughout the 184 wards in Abia and each ward in the 184 wards would be given 14 bags”, Anokwuru said.

Anokwuru,who is also the Special Adviser to the Governor on Policies and Interventions, emphasized that the committee’s primary task is to ensure a transparent and smooth distribution process adding that efforts have been made to ensure that credible and responsible persons handle the sharing in each ward.

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He expressed optimism that the federal government would send another batch of palliatives to the state and added that the sharing modalities would be reviewed to accommodate more beneficiaries.

In his contribution, the representative of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Okoro Ogbonnaya expressed disappointment with the federal government’s decision to allocate 3,000 bags of rice to Abia state, contrary to what had been reported in the media and described it as appalling as it has complicated the distribution of relief supplies.

However, Comrade Ogbonnaya commended the Governor Alex Otti led administration for its proactive approach in distributing the 3,000 bags of rice to the poor and vulnerable members of society as well as its decision to invest the N2 billion naira in acquiring long buses, aimed at alleviating the high transportation costs within the state and expressed belief that these efforts would greatly benefit the citizens of Abia.

The representative of Nigerian Union of Pensioners, Mr Uma Kalu, described the distribution of the palliative as transparent.
He said; “Everything is going on fine as all the supervisors are here and we were told that another consignment is coming and let’s believe that Federal Government will make good their promise”.

During a visit by the National Ambassador reporter to Okpara Auditorium, where the rice bags were being stored, it was observed that the distribution of relief supplies had already begun across the state’s 184 wards.

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