Frank Ikpefan, Abuja
The sleepy town of Alor (a .k.a Alor London) in Idemili South Local Government, Anambra State came last month. The elderly, young and even children were not left out of the celebration. It was during the distribution of palliatives by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige.
About 1000 households benefitted from the gesture in the hometown of the minister. The palliatives were given out through the minister’s foundation. It is aimed towards cushioning the economic effects of Covid -19 pandemic which has affected many households.
The beneficiaries were drawn from all the villages in Alor, namely, Okebunoye, Umuoshi, Agbor, Umunambo, Urueze, Isieke, Umuokwu, Uruezeana, among others. The town union government, Alor Peoples Assembly (APA) and village heads (Isi Ogbe) witnessed the gesture by the minister.
The minister rained cash gifts, noodles, bags of rice and other items on his people. Each of the 1,000 households, got a sum of N5000 cash, totalling N5 million. The food items were estimated at N5 million. In all, 1000 cartons of noodles, 1000 cartons of bottled water and 250 bags of rice were shared to the 1000 households.
Also, N5 million was dolled out to the church, bringing the total value of the palliatives to N15 million. The minister said the gesture was his own way of rendering assistance to the people as the country continues to battle the pandemic.
Sen. Ngige said: “With shutdown or lockdown, there are bound to be side effects. Part of the side effects is the loss of livelihoods, loss of income, economic stagnation and some economies will go into recession.
“This will manifest in loss of employment. And in other climes, they have what they put in place to cushion the effects. Some of them are giving grants and tax holidays, whether you are working or you are not working. If you are not working, your own is more.
“So, in Nigeria. Our government is trying to do what others are doing, although we have our peculiarities. Part of what we are doing here is what we call conditional cash transfer for the vulnerables and those who have now lost their jobs, especially those in the informal sector, who earn their living daily.
“Our government has decided to enlarge the list of conditional cash transfer to bring more people. Some private individuals have made their own contribution running into billions. Government is sharing their own money and its own food to these people. It is still not enough. Individuals and organisations that can assist were beckoned on to assist. So, what my foundation is doing is part of the assistance.”
The minister, in a statement by his Media Aide, Emmanuel Nzomiwu admonished his people to adhere to the protocols developed by the federal government to avoid contracting the virus.
Ngige warned those with underlying illnesses like obesity, lung diseases, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, asthma and pneumonia, to stay indoors and come out only when necessary as they were more prone to death from the disease than others.
He said: “I travelled for nine hours by road to be here. I am happy you came so that you will see me and I will see you and you will know that I am still alive and I will know that you are alive, because people said COVID-19 is for big men.
“Anybody can contract it. We have to prevent it. You must wear your facemask when coming out. Inside the house, you should not wear mask unless you have somebody coughing and sneezing or showing other symptoms. You must wash your hands with soap and running water and use hand sanitizers.”
He announced that there was no political undertone behind the palliatives from his foundation, saying provision was made for everyone irrespective of whether they were his political opponents of friends.
He added that whether APC or PDP, APGA, Accord, APA, PPP, once you are vulnerable, you get.
“Those who are my political enemies today, could be my friends tomorrow.
“We started with my town. We will pan out to my local government, spread later to Anambra Central senatorial district and from there, the entire Anambra State,” Ngige said.
He added that the foundation, which began during his time in the Senate seven years ago, had been doing philanthropy, offering scholarships and endowments in the university and paying hospital bills for the less privileged.
Secretary of the Foundation, Mr. Onyebuchi Okafor, recalled that the foundation instituted university endowments and offered scholarships to 3,000 indigent persons from Anambra Central Senatorial district in secondary and tertiary institutions.
According to Okafor, 60 persons per ward in the senatorial district, benefitted from the scholarship.
“The scholarship scheme is still on but now entire Anambra State and South East. We have beneficiaries from Imo, Enugu, Abia, Ebonyi and children of non Anambra indigenes,” he said.
Okafor added that the foundation has sponsored hundreds of persons in various skill acquisition programmes as part of its empowerment programme.
According to him, the foundation has equally paid hospital bills for many less privileged persons in Anambra State, and Central senatorial district in particular.
Okafor presented the cash to beneficiaries at each village while the Coordinator of Senator Chris Ngige Foundation, Chief Emmanuel Nwosu distributed food items to the Ichies and IdiAlo title holders who had complained to the Minister that the lockdown touched the high and low.
Vice President of Alor Peoples Assembly (APA), Chief Daniel Nwakwo prayed that God should lift Ngige further up so that the people of Alor would continue to get their share.
Nwankwo recalled that Alor was previously a remote unknown village but now people from all parts of the country travel through the town because of its enviable network of roads, constructed by the minister.
Two of the beneficiaries, Josphine Onwuachu and Franca Ezeoye, prayed that God should shower more blessings on Ngige for coming to their aid in this time of need.
Other beneficiaries, Bernard Ugoezu and Abuchi Ifeka, hailed the minister, for coming to their aid.