FILE: The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.)

An advocacy group, Human and Environmental Development Agenda, has warned the Federal Government against mixing up the recovered $322m Abacha loot, being shared to poor Nigerians, with the COVID-19 funds donated by philanthropists.

The group said the government must let Nigerians know that the $322m Abacha loot, being shared as N5,000 Conditional Cash Transfer, is not the same as the palliative to cushion the economic effect of COVID-19 lockdown on the masses.

In a statement on Sunday by its Chairman, Olanrewaju Suraju, HEDA particularly accused the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, Sadiya Farouq, of attempting to confuse the Conditional Cash Transfer, which began in 2016, with government’s COVID-19 funds.

HEDA, which said it had been monitoring the N5,000 Conditional Cash Transfer, said only 900,000 households had benefitted, contrary to the claim that over two million households had been reached.

While saying it was following donations to the federal and state governments towards tackling COVID-19, the group said it would demand accountability and warned the government not to play politics with the plight of the Nigerian poor masses.

HEDA said, “The least we owe Nigerians is not to play politics with the misery of millions of people. The fact is that the Conditional Cash Transfer began in 2016. It should not be confused with any measure of any government to tackle the hunger and poverty occasioned by the lockdown. They are two different distinct programmes. One cannot substitute for the other.

“The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management is suspected to have deliberately acted in this manner to blur the line of accountability, disguising the Conditional Cash Transfer as payment under the COVID-19 intervention and relief package. The payment presently is only made to about 900,000 households and not over two millions as claimed by the minister.

“The citizens are also hereby informed that the N20,000 being paid is part of the recovered Abacha loot paid to the country since 2015 under the National Social Intervention Programme and not part of contributions from private citizens and organisations.”

Meanwhile, a coalition of civil society organisations also called on the Federal Government to put structures in place to ensure transparency and accountability in the spending of the COVID-19 funds.

The call was made in a joint statement by the CSOs, including ActionAid International, Nigeria, Action Health Incorporated, Centre for Women’s Health and Information.