By Hammed Salawu, Minna
Niger State on Monday commenced the implementation of the Federal government’s National Home Grown School Feeding Programme, with a target of about eight hundred thousand primary school pupils expected to benefit from the initiative.
The first tranche of the programme is to run for the next two weeks, with a total number of two thousand, four hundred and eleven schools across the twenty-five local government areas of the state captured for the exercise.
The Director-General, Social Investment Programme of the Presidency in Niger State, Hon. Afiniki Dauda, who monitored the implementation of the programme alongside her team, said the programme is benchmarked on a budgetary provision of N70 per child for each meal.
“It is N70 budgetary provision per child. But, Niger State government has also made provision to argument the effort of the Federal government. We are happy that Nigerians State is among the seventeen states in Nigeria that have been selected to benefit from this programme.
Hon. Afiniki said the programme is a a fulfillment of the promise made by the APC government under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari and his vice Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.
According to her “You know President Muhaamadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo are two honest Nigerians. Whatever they say they will do, they do it. So, be rest assured that this programme has come to stay and it will be sustained as long as APC are still in power”.
She assured that the programme will help to reduce the rate of out-of-school children in the state, saying “We want our children to go to school and to also feed very well and become very healthy”.
Items including 44,000 litres of palm oil, over thirty thousand cartons of noodles, 5,924 bags each of rice and beans were received by the Directorate of Social Investment Programme the previous day and were distributed to the twenty-five local government areas of the state.
Receiving the items, the Project Manager, Empowerment and Social Protection, Hon. Attahiru Musa Abubakar said other items such as meat, fish and beverages are yet to be received and that it was because they were perishable.
He also explained that after much scrutiny, a total number of 5,924 food vendors are being engaged for the programme.
According to him, “Before were proceeded to start the programme, we floated an advertisement calling for application from interested persons. We got more than seven thousand applications. But, after much scrutiny and also due to bank verification palava, not all of them were selected. Rather only 5,924 made it.”
He also said “We have done all the calculations and we know what we will use in feeding the children. For instance, we give four mudu of rice, four mudu of beans, twelve cartons of noodles and four gallons of four litres of palm oil to each food vendor for the next ten days. You know we are using N70 budgetary provision for each child per meal. So, we can’t feed each child with an egg. We divide an egg into two. So, two crates will be used to feed one hundred and twenty pupils”.
In some schools visited in Minna, our correspondent observed that students filed out in front of their classes and we’re served noodles and a half egg.
A primary six pupil at Talba Housing Estate primary school, Yunusa A. Umar Egba said he was happy that the government would start feeding them in school. “We are happy that government gave us food. Now we will not be late for school anymore, because we will not have to wait to eat breakfast at home, since there will be food in school.
Another female student, Hajara Nuhu of Jaita-Bunu community primary school in Maitumbi area said the programme will impact on her education positively, because her parents will now be encouraged to send her to school.
Other schools visited included Umaru Audi Primary School Tunga, Waziri Primary school Bosso, Limawa Primary School Kpakungu, and IBB Primary School close to the palace of the Emir of Minna, among others.
However, there are growing concerns from the food vendors that they were yet to feel the impact of the programme on their economic life. They complained that they were neither given any dime or ingredients, apart from the food stuffs they were given, pointing out that even the food stuffs were not sufficient.
One of the food vendors, Halima Boss lamented how she used her personal money to prepare the meal and how she had to struggle to pay her transport fare to convey the food down to the school where she was to serve the pupils.
“Our challenge is that of financial. We were not being give any money. And nobody is given us any explanation. We were told to open account, which we did. They credited N80,000 into our account, but they later deducted N69,000 from it. Even the remaining money we can’t access it. We don’t know why. If they don’t give us any positive explanation by tomorrow, I don’t think we can cook by tomorrow”. She said
Another cook Maryam Abubakar lamented how she had to borrow pots and plates to prepare the meal she prepared because she was not given any kind of input apart from foodstuffs.
Meanwhile, the Director General Social Investment Programme, Hon. Afiniki Dauda who reacted to the complaints, said the directorate decided to handle everything about the food items to avoid abuse of the programme.
Said “This is APC government, it is not PDP. It is not business as usual. We are in complete control of the process to ensure that unscrupulous elements do not abuse the programme. We have given them all the ingredients the need, so why will they say they have not been given anything? You know human beings can be very insincere at times.”
Hon. Dauda explained how a vendor withdrew all the N80,000 that was initially sent into her account and squandered it even before the take-off of the scheme. She said that necessitated the directorate to mandate the First Bank PLC, which runs the accounts of all the food vendors, to withdraw N69,000 from their accounts and freeze the remaining amount.
She however assured the food vendors that they will get their allowances which is N15,000 for the two weeks that the first tranche will run.
“We are committed to ensuring that this programme succeeds in Niger State. I have no fear it will work. The State government under Governor Abubakar Sani Bello is fully in support of the programme because of his love for education. All the local government chairmen are also involved.
We have also established our desk offices in all the twenty-five local government areas of the state for anybody with concerns to consult. So, I am not afraid we will succeed.”