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An Osun-based non-profit organisation, Community Development (CODE), has queried the refusal of the Osun State Government to declare how the funds the state received to tackle the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was expended.
In an interview with Newsmen in Osogbo Wednesday, the organisation, through its Osun State Lead, Anthony Adejuwon, said it had written five Freedom Of Information (FOI) letters to the Osun State Government through the Ministries of Information and Civic Orientation, Health, Finance, Youths, Sports and Special Duties and the Chairman of the COVID-19 Task Force in the state requesting for details of funds and relief materials received.
Adejuwon stated that despite the barrage of letters, the Osun State Government had refused to make public the amount donated and how it was expended.
While reaffirming the need for accountability and transparency by the state government, Adejuwon noted that it is now an open secret that the Osun State Government, like the other 33 states in the federation, had received the sum of N1billion each, while Lagos and Kano State received N10billion and N5billion as a donation from the Federal Government as one of the measures to support the state in fighting COVID-19.
He also added that private organisations and individuals also donated funds and relief materials to the Osun State Government in addition to that received from the Federal Government.
He stressed that CODE was concerned about the wide gap between the state government and accountability on COVID-19 funds adding that openness was an integral aspect in governance whose absence will open doors for suspicions and distrust.
In his words, ‘Lack of accountability will breed fake news and citizen will find it difficult to trust their government.’
‘We will continue to sensitise the public to participate actively in governance by asking questions. In addition, we will continue to demand transparency and accountability from the Osun State Government so as to strengthen the trust the citizens have in government.’
Answering questions on the vandalisation of the Osun State CACOVID warehouse in Ede where COVID-19 palliatives were stored at the height of the EndSARS protest in October 2020, the CODE helmsman revealed its cause was a lack of transparency on the part of the government.
He maintained that the incident could have been avoided if adequate information on how the COVID-19 funds and relief materials received by the Osun State Government were expended would have been made available to the people.
‘Lack of transparency led to the vandalisation of the warehouse where the COVID-19 palliatives were kept in 2020.’
‘If the citizens were in the know of the funds and relief materials received by the Osun State Government in real-time, they will not go and vandalise the warehouse.’
‘You could remember that citizens were just trying to come to terms with the economic impact of the lockdown when the warehouse got vandalised. Many citizens believed that the government was hiding the food materials so they did not think twice before they descended on the CACOVID warehouse especially when many families could not boast of one meal per day.’
‘If the government had taken accountability seriously by frequently informing the public about all the donations received, the vandalisation may not have happened.’
Reacting to the allegation from CODE, the Osun Commissioner for Information and Civic Orientation, Mrs. Funke Egbomode in a phone conversation with DAILY POST, stated that the government has been transparent in every way and nothing has been hidden adding that the issue of COVID-19, no government could afford not to be transparent because it was dealing with a pandemic never experienced before and everybody was doing something different in management of communication, purchasing of drugs, installation of medical equipment for isolation centres and ensuring adequate testing.
Egbemode revealed that the state government was now engaged in massively vaccinating the populace and still urging them to come out en masse to get the COVID-19 jabs and assuring them that the vaccines are available wherever they want to take it.
‘We have expended much on publicity and we have not stopped stocking up on drugs. Nobody and nothing has caught us unawares, not even the Ejigbo influx of last year.’
‘It is very unfair to accuse this government of not being transparent. It is either they are being unfair or being mischievous because all they have to do is to ask questions. I am always available to answer those questions.’
The Information Commissioner maintained that the state governor, Adegboyega Oyetola has run an open door policy and also ensures that he puts in charge of the Osun COVID-19 committee, the Deputy Governor, Benedict Alabi who is a fastidious and thorough individual.
She explained that meetings were never stopped as members were obligated to work round the clock even when everybody was on lockdown adding that there was nothing opaque in all the activities of the state government as regards COVID-19.
AFRICA DAILY NEWS, NEW YORK