Controversy over legislators’ Christmas rice gift

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The controversy over alleged distribution of palliatives to federal lawmakers intensified yesterday after the Senate and some members of the House of Representatives denied receiving any such allocation.

Reports had suggested that the Federal Government allocated palliative items worth N200 million and N100 million to senators and Reps respectively.

The Senate vehemently denied that each of its members had taken delivery of the palliatives for onward distribution to their constituents while the House of Representatives said some of its members had received theirs.

The Presidency said only food items were approved for allocation to the federal lawmakers by President Bola Tinubu.

They were to be shared by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security.

But an official of the ministry told The Nation that it (ministry) was unaware of distribution of any food items.

The Chairman Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Adeyemi Adaramodu, denied media reports that Senators received rice worth N200million from President Tinubu for distribution to their constituents during the festivities.

However, a Senate source said the rice was on its way to members.

Premium Times quoted Adaramodu as saying “as for me, I have not seen anything.

“If they had handed it over to us, you would see trailers loaded with food items across all constituencies in Ekiti State, Ondo and Oyo and other states. Our people will even be happy to get the items from the federal government.

“As for me, Yemi Adaramodu, I have not received any food items from the federal government. The food I distributed to my people across my constituency was funded personally by me and that has been my tradition every year even while I was the Chief of Staff, before I got elected to the House of Representatives.

“I have read all these things on the internet too, many people are just saying a lot of things but for me, Yemi Adaramodu, I have not received any food items from the Federal Government, maybe when they give us, I will tell you.”

However, a source close to the Senate leadership confirmed that the allocation of rice to members for onward distribution to their constituents is ongoing.

“I know that there is a provision to give Senators rice for their constituents. For instance my Senator has not received his and I believe there are many senators that have not received the rice. But am aware that something like that is going on”, the source said.

Some members have taken delivery of their allocation, says Reps spokesman.

Spokesman for the House of Representatives, Hon. Akin Rotimi (Jnr) told The Nation that some of his colleagues were 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 an earlier statement on the issue, Rotimi said the House was “monitoring a trending topic on social media, relating to the distribution of palliatives by Honourable Members, and in line with our Legislative Agenda which promises responsive, timely, and accurate information, the People’s House considers it necessary to respond to Nigerians to clarify issues.

“The pro-people position of the Rt. Hon. Abbas Tajudeen PhD – led House of Representatives, on the need for the Federal Government to expedite palliative measures to support vulnerable Nigerians is well documented.

“This is on account of the hardship Nigerians are experiencing following the removal of fuel subsidy last year.

“Our leadership successfully lobbied for additional palliatives for our constituents across the country, which is being handled by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, in line with extant Public Procurement Laws.

“The procurement process is at different stages depending on the constituency, but to be clear, no legislator has, nor will be given any money for palliatives.

“While, as politicians, Honourable Members may be visible during the process of distribution, and rightfully take the credit for bringing succour to the people, the procurement and distribution of the palliatives is being handled by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security.

“As it is customary during this season, Honourable Members, in their respective constituencies, celebrate with their constituents in various ways, in individual capacities.

“These gestures should not be misconstrued as palliatives, and Honourable Members will continue to engage at the grassroots to clarify these issues in order not to cause disaffection for colleagues in other constituencies.

“We remain committed to ensuring diligent oversight in the implementation of the 2024 Appropriation Act – Budget of Renewed Hope – which holds the promise of bringing sustainable positive impact on the lives of Nigerians, so that they can legitimately fend for themselves in dignity, and also ensure no vulnerable person is left behind.

“The 10th Assembly of the Federal House of Representatives is the People’s House, and we will continue to engage and work to earn the trust of Nigerians as your elected representatives.”

Okojie: Reports of rice allocation mendacious

Representative Henry Okojie ( Esan North East/Esan South East) dismissed reports of the rice allocation as “highly distasteful and offensive.”

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

He added: “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 said, however, stated 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.

“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.

Presidency: Tinubu approved only food items

Responding to enquiries on the controversy, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Tope Ajayi, said President Tinubu did not approve cash for the purpose, but food items, through the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security.

His words:”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 and 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, they are more than anyone can hijack, they will eventually go round.

“So the message is that it is true that President Tinubu approved distribution of trailers load of food materials to National Assembly members, but it was not done in cash, it was 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.”

We have no idea on distribution of palliative distribution, says Agric Ministry official

Contacted yesterday, a top official in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security told The Nation by phone that he was not aware of any palliative distribution to Nigerians through the ministry.

“We have no idea about the distribution of palliative, if the Ministry is distributing palliative, by now it should be everywhere,” the official said.

The Nation