Ebi N Pawa, “Eko Cares” And Responsive Governance – By Tayo Ogunbiyi

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*Photo: Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu*

In the heat of the hardship occasioned by the Federal Government’s removal of fuel subsidies as well as the global economic downturn, cries of ebi n pawa (we are hungry) resonated across a few cities in the southwest zone.

Justifiably, governments, across the zone and indeed the country, have since come up with various means to address the issue of the rising cost of living.

In Lagos State, for instance, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has unveiled “EKO CARES”, through which 500,000 households are expected to benefit initially.

Some of the foodstuffs to be distributed to vulnerable people through the initiative include 10kg rice, 5kg garri, 5kg beans, and tomatoes, among others.

To drive the initiative, the governor has set up a non-partisan 11-man Special Dispensation Advisory Committee on Social Interventions (SPEDAC), comprising rights activists, religious leaders, a youth representative, and politicians, including opposition chieftains.

It is chaired by Mr. Governor, with the Deputy Governor, Dr. Kadri Obafemi Hamzat, as alternate chairman.

“Eko Cares” touches on some critical aspects that will have a direct bearing on Lagosians’ lives by taking off their shoulders certain burdens
“Ounje Eko”, an integral part of the “EKO CARES” initiative, has been up and running for the sixth consecutive week. Lagosians have continued to commend Governor Sanwo-Olu and his team for the innovative “Ounje Eko” program, describing it as a product of sound thinking and an embodiment of responsive governance. Some are even demanding it becomes a permanent program of the government.

The food markets, which operate solely on Sundays from 11 am to 4 pm across 57 locations in the State, began piloting on Sunday, March 17th with residents trooping out in large numbers to the markets.

There are 27 locations of the market in Ikeja; 6 in Lagos Island; 9 in Ikorodu; 5 in Epe; and 10 in Badagry divisions where transactions are held simultaneously.

The Sunday Market provides relieved residents the prospect of buying food items at a discounted rate, with the government paying 25%, while the buyers pay 75%.
Basic foods such as rice, beans, garri, egg, bread, pepper, and tomatoes among others are being sold at the markets by designated vendors.

Several measures were implemented to ensure a stress-free, fair, and worthwhile market experience for Lagosians. Independent payment solution providers and food vendors have been identified and carefully selected to operate the process and guard against those who might want to buy in large quantities to resell at a much higher rate.

To prevent reselling, and double-buying and ensure that all buyers were served, children who came with their parents were not allowed to purchase food items while preference was given to the aged, expectant women, and people living with disabilities.

Transactions are done via the Cowry and ATM cards, as cash payment is disallowed. Only goods worth 25 thousand naira are permitted per family; a quantity that is enough for a family of five.

Initially, customers at the various locations had few challenges with old payment systems due to the cashless policy mandated as part of the discount market initiative. Embracing contemporary payment solutions has, however, improved the payment experience of buyers across the locations.

With modern payment options, customers who need to pay for goods can do so seamlessly by simply logging into their Mobile Banking APPs, navigating to an NQR menu, and scanning the QR codes provided at the payment points to conclude the transaction.

This helps in eliminating the need for physical cash or relying solely on the limited number of POS terminals. It is particularly encouraging that the initiative serves as a clear instance of how groundbreaking payment solutions are streamlining transactions and boosting customer experiences.

A LASRRA ID card is also required for transactions, while provision has been made at the locations for the registration of residents without a LASRRA ID card.

This, the government noted, is to ensure that a larger number of residents could benefit from the program. For transparency, prices of the food items have also been listed and made available through various media outlets.

For instance, according to a release by the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Gbenga Omotoso, “A 5kg bag of rice is sold for N5,325, while 1kg bag goes for N1,065; 5kg bag of Beans is sold for N6,225 while 1kg bag is sold for N1,245”.

Men and officers of the Nigeria Police, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Lagos Neighborhood Safety Corps (LNSC), and Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) are strategically stationed at the food markets to ensure a flawless process.

Meanwhile, as residents continue to troop out to patronize the usual markets, Governor Sanwo-Olu has commended the smooth conduct at the Sunday markets. Sanwo-Olu said he was elated by the reports of calmness and orderliness at the markets, despite the huge turnout of residents.

He said, “It is all about assuring Lagosians that our administration will continue to stand by them. We will continue to find and deploy creative ways of easing their burden.”

Thus far, the feedback received from the program has been relatively inspiring as residents expressed profound praises for the government.

As part of the government’s comprehensive social-economic intervention, the State’s public servants now enjoy the luxury of flexible working hours as announced by the governor during his last media chat.

Civil servants from GL 1-14  work from the office a maximum of three times a week, while workers on levels 15-17 work four times weekly. The measure has greatly helped in reducing pressure on the roads, while also reducing economic tension.

Additional transport support is being worked out for public school teachers to ensure their prompt attendance in classes.

The comprehensive intervention also includes a reduction in transport fares through a 25% rebate on public transportation in the State. The reduction applies to BRT, train, and ferry.

Discussions are also ongoing with various transport unions to reduce their fares.
Similarly,  the government is also mulling catering for the costs of free child deliveries across its 31 General Hospitals, either through normal birth or cesarean section.

The government is also working towards providing a rebate on some drugs, including those hypertensive and diabetic drugs, while the State’s Health Districts have also commenced medical missions.

Responsive governance is about meeting the yearning and aspirations of the people. It is about providing immediate solutions to rising challenges. It is about positively impacting people’s lives. That, indeed, is the whole essence of governance.

The Sanwo-Olu Administration, no doubt, understands this. That is why the people are at the core of its every move.

Thus, as it repairs and enlarges roads, builds hospitals, clears the drains, invests in intermodal transport, empowers more residents, and creates more opportunities for economic enhancement, the foremost drive of the administration has always been to improve the lives of the people.

With “EKO CARES”, the Sanwo-Olu administration has certainly taken its people-centric philosophy to a new height.

Ogunbiyi is Director, Features, Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja

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