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The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar-Farouq, has denied that the Federal Government distributed rice not fit for human consumption to states in the Southwest geopolitical zone as palliatives for the COVID-19 pandemic.
Umar-Farouq, who made the denial during a press briefing by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 in Abuja on Monday, specifically said the distributed trucks of rice were certified by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).
The minister also denied claims that her ministry had diverted N-Power funds for COVID-19 response.
It would be recalled that the Oyo State Government had on Friday indicated that it might return the 1,800 bags of rice donated to the state by the Federal Government as COVID-19 palliative on the grounds that the rice had been infested with weevils.
Reacting to this on Monday, Umar-Farouq said, “On the issue of rice distribution, we distributed the rice to states.
“The trucks of rice were handed over to us by the Nigeria Customs Service and were assessed by NAFDAC, who issued a clearance before the goods were released for onward distribution to the states.
“So, as far as we are concerned, the rice was certified fit for human consumption. We had an issue in Oyo, which was officially reported this morning.
“But two or three days back, we’ve seen news flying that all the rice we took to the South-West and parts of this country are bad.
“And that Lagos has taken its own to the lagoon and that other states have rejected them. I want to say categorically that those are fake news. They are not true.”
The minister further stated that she spoke with the Governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, on Monday, who confirmed that the rice was edible enough.
She said: “I just spoke with the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum (Fayemi) and he assured me that the ones he received in Ekiti and other states are in good condition.
“Let us be very clear on this issue of rice. We all know that even in our houses if we keep foodstuff, especially grains of that nature in a damp place, they are bound to have a change in colour.
“But that does not mean that it is not fit for human consumption. So, please this is what I can say about the issue of rice and they (beneficiaries) are very happy that the Federal Government is supporting them.”
Responding to claims that funds for N-Power were diverted to address COVID-19 concerns, Umar-Farouq said this was impossible.
The minister said: “I know that we all know that it is practically impossible for anybody, whether a minister or chief executive, to divert funds that have been appropriated and are in a particular budget line to another budget line for the simple reason that we are operating the Treasury Single Account.
“It is just not possible. I don’t know how we can divert N-Power funds for the COVID-19 response and palliatives. That is another fake news.”
According to her, the Federal Government was working with states in the distribution of the palliatives.
“We have engaged CSOs and NGOs and the Red Cross in the monitoring and evaluation process,” Umar-Farouq stated.