Posted by News Express | 7 February 2022 | 303 times
The Federal Government’s school feeding programme is collapsing with food vendors no more turning up in schools, The PUNCH has learnt.
Findings by our correspondents in Benue, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Ogun, Enugu, Bauchi and Kano states showed that vendors because of non-payment of their funds had stopped providing food in the schools.
In some states, teachers and pupils told The PUNCH that when the programme was in operation, it was epileptic with few of the schoolchildren getting food when the vendors turned up.
Our correspondent, who visited some schools in Makurdi, the Benue State capital city, gathered that since the beginning of second term in January, the programme had not resumed.
We were fed only three days in 2021 – Benue pupil
A primary four pupil of the LGEA Primary School at Idemekpe, Makurdi, Terry Orduen said that throughout 2021, the schoolchildren were fed for three days. “Since the inception of this second term we have yet to see the cooks in our school. In 2021, we were fed for three days,” he added.
Corroborating the pupil, a teacher at the LGEA Primary School at Wuruku, who spoke on condition of anonmity, asked if the programme still existed.
“Is the programme still on? For the past few months, I have not seen the cooks in this school. I cannot remember if our children were fed last term, “the teacher said.
But some of the food vendors said that they had yet to be paid for second term.
One of them who identified himself as Agbo attributed their inability to feed the pupils to the Federal Government’s default in the payment of their funds.
She stated, “We have been following up on why we have not been paid and why the contractors supplying us the items failed to do so.
“They have made us undergo revalidation and we have completed the process, and what we are waiting is the release of funds so that we can start feeding the children.”
The state Focal Person, Dr Damsa Terries, however debunked the claim by food vendors that they being owed.
He added, “Cooks do not use their money to cook. The Federal Government gives them money first so it is not possible for cooks to say they are being owed.
“You don’t cook when money has not been given. It is when you get alert in your account that you know number of pupil’s you are going to feed.”
In Enugu State, the programme stopped in November 2021, findings by one of our correspondents revealed.
The correspondent, who visited some schools in the state capital, learnt that the children were fed only three months in the whole of 2021.
Some of the schools visited within the state capital include Emene Practicing Schools 1, 2, 3 & 4 in the Enugu East local Government Area. Other schools visited are Construction Primary School, Asata in the Enugu North Local Government Area and Idaw River Primary Schools 1, 2, 3 & 4 in the Enugu South Local Government Area.
A head teacher in one of the schools, Mrs Christiana Ogene, told our correspondent that since November 2021, middle of first team she had not seen the contractors. “When I called one of the food vendors, she told me that she had not been paid and unless she was paid, she could not cook.”
One of the contractors, Mrs Ndidi Ikenta told The PUNCH that she was only paid for three months in 2021.
She stated, “They (Government) usually pay us every month to cook for the children but in 2021 they only paid me for three months. The last time they paid me was in November 2021 and when, the money finished I stopped.
“They pay me N100,400.00 to feed the children from one month and the money was not even enough considering the high rate of inflation in the country.”
A staff member of the state Universal Basic Education Board, who spoke to The PUNCH on condition of anonymity, said although the programme was still ongoing, it was not being implemented effectively.
He said that while some schools were getting the meal, which is supposed to be given to the pupils once daily, others schools hardly got the meal in time and the food did go round most of the time.
“For example the cooks hardly bring enough food. The food is always inadequate to serve the number of pupils in the school.
“The food is always inadequate and when you ask the cooks they will not give you satisfactory answer as to where the problem is,” he said.
He said lack of proper supervision and monitoring was among the problems bedevilling implementation of the programme and called on both the state and the Federal Government to come up with effective mechanism with a view to checking the excesses of contractors and cooks.
Effort to speak to some teachers by our reporter who visited, Dandutse and Giginyu primary schools in Kano metropolis proved abortive as they declined to comment on the programme for fear of being victimised for speaking to journalists.
The school feeding programme in Cross River State has also suffered a setback due to lack of funds.
A vendor, who confided in The PUNCH, said the programme was “very epileptic. They are not releasing funds. Even when they release the funds, they divide it into two. For instance, throughout this term, they have not made funds available. Last term it was only once.
“The population of a school determines what is paid to vendors. Some receive N100,000, some N80,000, some N120,000.”
He alleged that the money was usually slashed by half, adding that he received N60,000 instead of N120,000.”The programme is almost dying. At times they give us a crate of eggs and a chicken for a whole term,” he said.
Another vendor in Obudu said he collected N40,000. He said he collected the amount twice last year.
Reacting, the Coordinator of the programme in Cross River, Gabe Okulaja, said funds had not been released this term.”Abuja has not released funds to anybody,” he said.
He said the programme was also affected last term because “civil servants were on strike for a long period.”
In Akwa Ibom State, The PUNCH learnt that the programme had stopped in some primary school despite the revalidation carried out by the office Home Grown School Feeding programme in the state.
Sources at the Lutheran Primary School Urua Ikpa Junction and the Presbyterian Primary school, Idiot visited by our correspondent confirmed that the Federal Government had stopped feeding the children.
A teacher at the Presbyterian Primary School, Idiok, Itam in the Itu Local Government Area, who spoke to our correspondent on condition of anonymity, said the since four years ago there had not been feeding of pupils in the school.
She said, “Since 2018 ,we have not heard of anything like school feeding in our school. They came and did revalidation and capturing of the pupils but since then we never seen or heard anything like that again.
The situation was not different from that of the Lutheran Primary School Urua, Ikpa Junction as a pupil, who Etim Inyang said that there had never been anything like school feeding for a very long time.
“They used to come here from time to time to feed us but for a long time there has been nothing like that again and we don’t know the reason” Inyang said.
However, one of the vendors who spoke on condition of anonymity complained of funding from the Federal Government.
“For a long time now we have been having the challenges of funding in the state. That is the major reasons why they programme is not going in some schools in the state.”
Visits to some schools in Abeokuta , the Ogun State capital revealed that home- feeding programme was no more operation.
Some of the schools visited included the Community Model Primary School, Oke Lantoro, UAMC, Eleja, ijemo and the Abeokuta South Local Government Primary School Ijemo.
Some vendors who spoke with our correspondent complained of being owed .
The vendors said they were owed some months before the exercise was suspended.
Attempts to get a reaction from the Commissioner for Special Duties , Femi Ogunbanwo whose ministry is in charge of the exercise in the state, did not succeed. declined comments .
Ogunbanwo neither answered calls to his mobile nor responded to the text message sent to his mobile line .
In Katsina, government officials said since schools resumed for the second term in January, the food contractors had not turned up.
On his part, the Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed, the distribution of empowerment materials to selected beneficiaries in the Dambam Local Government Area of the state under the Kaura Economic Empowerment Programme, r said that the Federal Government’s social investment programme including the school feeding programme was not working.
He said that it was a means through which government officials siphoned public resources.
But the Coordinator of the NSIP, Dr Umar Bindir, dismissed the governor’s allegations saying “the unsubstantiated statements credited to the Bauchi State governor are manifestly false, and have absolutely no bearing to the realities on ground.”
But in a media statement, the Special Adviser on Media to the Bauchi State governor, Mukhtar Gidado, said the state government was not aware of the selection process of the beneficiaries of the NSHIP.
He said that the figures supplied by Bindir simply did not add up and the discrepancy could not be wished away.
The Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development insisted that the Federal Government was still making monetary provisions for the school feeding programme.
An aide of the humanitarian minister in the public affairs department, Halima Oyelade, said payments for the programme had not stopped, stressing that the ministry might start sending statements whenever such payments were made.
She, however, told our correspondent on Sunday that she would consult the head of the school feeding programme to confirm if there was any issue with the payments to states.
“I know the government through our ministry has been providing for the feeding programme and this has not stopped, but I can’t give a detailed response on it now,” Oyelade said.
She added, “However, I will talk to the cluster head for the school feeding programme because they will have all the figures and everything.
“We’ve been making payments for the school feeding programme, to the extent that we wanted to start issuing statements every time that we release money to the states.”
On why the ministry was considering issuing statements, Oyelade said, “It is so that all these concerns where you hear people say they’ve not been paid or given money will be addressed. This is being worked on.
“But let me talk to the cluster head about your question, because maybe there is an issue with a particular state or something else, for they will be in a good position to shed more light.” (The PUNCH)
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