Much Ado About Sharing of Tinubu’s Christmas Rice By N’Assembly Members

Much Ado About Sharing of Tinubu’s Christmas Rice By N’Assembly Members

Despite enough proof indicating that each federal lawmaker had since last October got approval to distribute grains worth between N100m and N200m as palliatives to their constituents, many members of the National Assembly are still living in denial as majority of their people celebrated Christmas and the New Year in hunger. Sunday Aborisade reports.

The National Assembly in July last year, approved a request by President Bola Tinubu to appropriate N500 billion for palliatives to cushion the effects of the removal of the petrol subsidy on Nigerians.

The Federal Parliament on July 13, 2023, passed a bill seeking to amend the 2022 Supplementary budget of N819 billion, out of which N500 billion would be used as palliatives to cushion the effect of subsidy removal.

The 2022 supplementary Appropriation Bill was earlier passed by the Ninth Assembly and assented to by former President Muhammadu Buhari for the purpose of addressing flooding that affected parts of the country in 2022.

The Money Bill was however amended by the 10th Assembly so that the Presidency could access N500 billion in view of the exigency of the subsidy removal palliatives.

Investigations by THISDAY revealed that members of the National Assembly before the Bill was passed, expressed serious concerns over the transparency and effectiveness that would be deployed in the distribution of the items to vulnerable Nigerians.

They were said to have allegedly struck a deal with the executive arm of government that they had to be involved in the distribution since they represented their various constituencies.

It was gathered that a gentleman agreement was reached that would enable each member of the House of Representatives to distribute grains worth N100m while their colleagues in the Senate would distribute N200m grains and other food items each.

Further checks revealed that the parliamentarians got presidential approval in October, 2023 when each of the 469 members of the National Assembly were said to have been directed to procure the grains through the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security.

Lawmakers who confirmed the development to our Correspondent explained that many of them agreed to delay the sharing of the grains till December so that their constituents would not disturb them again for Christmas Rice during the Yuletide.

The Special Assistant to President Bola Tinubu on Social Media, Olusegun Dada, officially confirmed the development last Thursday.

Dada, on his official X handle, said his principal approved  the distribution of palliative items worth N200 million to senators and palliative items worth N100 million to House of Representatives members.

According to him, “After initial logistics delay, I can now confirm that Senators and members of the House of Representatives have started taking stock of the Federal Government’s palliative items for their constituents as part of efforts to ease life for all Nigerians.

“Each HoR member received items worth N100m while Senatorial constituencies got palliative items worth N200m”.

Flowing from this information, Leader of the Senate, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, according to a statement by his media office during the yuletide, celebrated the season with his constituents in Ekiti Central Senatorial District when he distributed 3,000 bags of rice to them.

Similarly, the lawmaker representing Ayedire/Iwo/Olaoluwa Federal constituency, Hon. Mudashiru Lukman (L&K) on  December 29, 2023, distributed 1,500 bags of rice as palliative to his constituents.

Speaking during the distribution exercise which took place at Iwo City Hall, the lawmaker said the rice would be distributed to the 35 electoral wards in the three local governments, adding that some non-political groups would also benefit from the foodstuff.

Both lawmakers were silent on the source of the food items.

However, the Senator representing Abia North, Orji Uzor Kalu on Saturday distributed 5,000 bags of rice to his Igbere constituents in Bende Local Government Area of Abia State.

He said the gesture which he initiated in 1986, was his philanthropic endeavour being funded by him.

Among the communities who benefited from Kalu’s largesse were; Agbo, Eziama, Amakpo, Amaorji, Okafia, Ohumola, Amaiyi,Ibina-ukwu, Ama-ukwu, Ama-ofufe, Amankalu, Ibinanta, Umuisi,, all in Igbere, Bende LGA of Abia State

Meanwhile, in a viral video during the festive season, Hon. Dekeri Anamero, who represents the Etsako federal constituency of Edo state in the National Assembly, said he got six trailer load of rice for distribution to his constituents from the Federal Government.

Anamero, who is also a governorship aspirant on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2024 Edo Governorship Election, said the N100 million worth of rice was supplied through the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security.

Anamero said, “President Bola Tinubu ordered the Ministry of Agriculture to allocate N100 million worth of rice and other grains to each of the 360 House of Representatives members to share to their constituents in December.

“For the 109 senators, the allocation was N200m worth of rice palliatives for each of them to share. Please my people, did your honourable members or senators share Tinubu’s rice in your constituency this Christmas? Don’t mind if they branded it with their pictures,” he said.

The lawmaker said he got 2,400 25kg bags of rice for distribution.

The revelation by Anamero did not go down well with many of his colleagues who did not share any paliative to their people who celebrated the Yuletide in hunger.

Many of them either granted press interviews or issued press statements to debunk the claims by Anamero but it was too late.

For instance, Hon. Dennis Idahosa who represents Ovia federal constituency, denied that rice allocation was made available to lawmakers and even called for a probe.

He specifically said it was not true that four-trailer loads of rice gifted to federal lawmakers had been supplied and shared to the various constituencies.

Already, idahosa’s denial was already generating uproar and tension in Edo State as residents demanded investigation into the whereabouts of the rice allocated to them through their lawmakers.

Obviously uncomfortable by the development, Idahosa, in a statement he personally signed, described the allegations by his colleague as spurious, misleading and capable of inciting constituents against lawmakers.

In his statement titled “Notice of disclaimer,” Idahosa said no bag of rice had been supplied from the federal government for distributions to the people of his constituency – Ovia Federal Constituency.

He said, “Federal Government in its wisdom made provisions for a N100 million towards providing palliatives and development, the award letter for this purpose was released on the 15th of December, 2023, with the analysis of N50 million for provision of Rice and the other N50m for solar street lights.

“The procurement process which includes the BOQ to ascertain the number of bags of rice and solar street lights poles has not been issued to the contractor who won the bid for supply to the Federal Constituency, as at today this has not been concluded by the awarding ministry.

“I will also in the spirit of transparency and forthright service, call on the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), Civil Society Organizations, Concerned Citizens of Edo and the Inspector General of Police to investigate the purported supplies of 2,400 bags of rice to me for distributions to my constituents”.

However, Anamero, in his reaction insisted that his initial disclosure was driven by accountability to his constituents and not in any way to malign anybody.

He said, “I know that some of my colleagues have been calling that your video is putting us in trouble. Let me say very clearly that it is not my intention to put anybody in trouble or set the constituency against any member nor is it for me to profit out of it.

“I will at this time appeal to members of different constituencies that if they have not reached out to them, that they will reach out to them. Most of the contractors are still doing their documentation and I am sure that as soon as they are done, they are going to reach out to the constituents.

“The palliative to cushion the effects of the fuel subsidy was given to members and I am sure they have all shared. I have also seen videos where members were sharing some of these rice,” he maintained.

Similarly, another member of the House of Representatives representing Esan North East/Esan South East,  Henry Okojie, through his office, had described reports of the rice allocation and distribution as “highly distasteful and offensive.”

Okojie said the report attributed to Rep Anemero (Etsako) was “mendacious, spurious, and acutely incorrect.”

The lawmaker said,  “For the records, the Esan North East/Esan South East Federal Constituency of Edo State neither received a bag of rice nor a trailer load of bags of rice from the Federal Government of Nigeria.

“While we affirm that we cannot speak for Hon. Dekeri Anemero who claimed he received four trailer loads of rice (as captured in the purported video clip), we can, however, confidently attest and unequivocally state that Hon. Prince Okojie did not receive bags of rice on behalf of his Constituents for the Yuletide.”

Okojie, however, explained that as part of the measures aimed at cushioning the effect of the removal of subsidies on Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) popularly known as petrol, the Federal Government in its wisdom proposed the sum of a N100 million towards the provision of palliatives and other measures for each Federal Constituency.

He said, “The award letter for this purpose was released on the 15th of December, 2023, with the analysis of fifty Million Naira for the provision of Rice and the other Fifty Million Naira for the procurement of solar street lights.

 “The procurement processes which include the BOQ to ascertain the number of bags of rice and solar street light poles have not been issued to the contractor who won the bid for supply to the Federal Constituency.

“The processes for the release of funds as of today have not been concluded by the awarding Federal Government Ministry.

On his part, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Yemi Adaramodu, said he had yet to receive any palliative items from the Federal Government.

He, however, explained that he distributed food items and money to his constituents to enable them to celebrate Christmas and the New Year from his pocket not from government allocation.

Also speaking, spokesman for the House of Representatives, Hon. Akin Rotimi (Jnr) confirmed that the Federal Government allocated rice for distribution to his colleagues.

He, however, said  some lawmakers had yet to take delivery of their allocation because the palliatives were still being procured.

He said, “The procurement is ongoing by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, and at different stages depending on the constituency.

“Some constituencies have had theirs delivered and publicly distributed, while some are still being processed.”

In the meantime, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has called on members of the National Assembly (NASS) to ensure proper distribution of the thousands of bags of rice and other foodstuff recently given to them for sharing by President Tinubu.

MURIC made the call at the weekend in Abuja in a statement by its Executive Director, Prof. Ishaq Akintola.

The statement read in part, “Each of Nigeria’s 109 senators allegedly received N200 million worth of foodstuff while their 360 counterparts in the House of Representatives were given N100 million worth each.

“Although an honourable member of the House from Edo state was seen in a video gone viral displaying a warehouse filled with thousands of bags of rice, some senators and Reps are still denying that they collected palliatives from the president.

“We see this as an attempt to mull or trivialise the federal government’s efforts at ameliorating the sufferings of the people. Some of our lawmakers are causing confusion.

“How can only one lawmaker openly show his constituents thousands of bags of rice while the rest keep mum? How can the reps admit collecting massive palliatives while senators deny receiving anything? Is the Senate filled with saboteurs and confusionists,” he added.

Presidency:Tinubu approved only food items

Meanwhile, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Tope Ajayi, has shed more light on the issue saying President Tinubu did not approve cash for the purpose, but food items, through the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security.

Ajayi said, “I think we need to put the correct information out there; the President did not give members of the National Assembly cash for this purpose.

“What he did was through the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, to give members rice and other food items to distribute to the people in their constituencies and senatorial districts.

“The rice and other food items were given as a sort of relief for ordinary Nigerians to enjoy the yuletide with and a sort of Constituency Project for Honourable members and senators, who are considered to be closest to the people in all parts of the country.

“Already, it is believed they have channels of reaching their various people because they on their own regularly do empowerment programmes.

“Using their distribution channels, I think, is about one of the easiest ways to reach almost everybody, if not every citizen.

“There are those insinuations out there suggesting things like some National Assembly members are hoarding the food materials, I think this is grossly misleading because they can only distribute when they have received it.

“I believe the reason some of them have come out to announce what the President did is to avert these sorts of misrepresentations.

“I believe those constituencies that have not gotten will soon get because it will be unfair to spread unfounded rumours about the Honourable members and senators, to the effect that they are hijacking these relief materials.

“The items are more than what anyone can hijack, they will eventually go round.

“So the message is that it is true that President Tinubu approved distribution of trailer loads of food materials to National Assembly members.

“However, it was not done in cash, they were food items sourced through the Ministry of Agriculture and it is meant to be a sort of Constituency Projects for them.

“It must also be said that distribution of the food is being done based on when they take delivery.”

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