Minister Defends FG’S School Feeding Programme Says It’s Not a Scam

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Johnson Olode , Lagos

The President Muhammadu Buhari administration has said that its plan to feed school children at home is not a scam.

Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouq, spoke on Thursday.

A total of 3,131,971 children are expected to benefit from the Federal Government since the commencement of its Home Grown School Feeding Programme (HGSFP) on Thursday, May 14.

Recall that the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development in has announced that the programme will begin in Abuja, Lagos and Ogun states.

Although school children are at home with schools shut as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, President Muhammadu Buhari in a March 29 pronouncement directed the ministry to liaise with state governments to develop strategies on the continuation of the school feeding programme.

Many Nigerians on and off social media have been condemning the policy, insisting that it was not transparent.

The African Democratic Congress (ADC) in its reaction called on President Muhammadu Buhari to be more sensitive to the plight of Nigerians and refrain from allocating very scarce resources to unproductive, resource draining projects, all in the name of welfare proejcts.

ADC in a statement, on Thursday , by its National Publicity Secretary, Yemi Kolapo, frowned at the reported spending of hundreds of millions of naira daily on the feeding of school children, even at a time that schools were shut down.

The party queried the rationale behind such spending at a time funds should be committed to containing the spread of COVID-19 and mitigating the economic impact of both the pandemic and the fall in international oil prices.

On Wednesday, the Nigerian Patriots (NP) called the feeding scheme a fraud and insisted that those benefitting must be punished.

Days earlier, a former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Bode George, has chided the Buhari government over the programme.

“Pumping money into school feeding programme while the schools are not open is a little absurd. It is a redundant, unworkable palliative. In a nation where there is no standard numbering of houses, how do you get the food to the beneficiaries? This is more than laughable. It is tragic”, George declared.

But Farouq has defended the government’s decision to spend N679million on the programme.

She spoke in Lagos at the flag-off of food items distribution under the National Home Grown School Feeding Programme (NHGSFP) at the St. Francis Primary School in Maryland.

Farouq was represented by the Director of National Commission for Refugees, Immigrants and IDPs, Margaret Ukaegbu.

The minister said feeding children at home is an internationally accepted practice to check food insecurity and malnutrition.

“The idea of take-home rations is not unique to Nigeria, neither is it a scam. It is a globally accepted means of continuing to have access to nutrition and nutritionally-rich foods, despite disruptions to the traditional channels of school feeding,” The Nation quoted her as saying.

Titilola Adeyemi-Doro, Special Assistant to the President on NHGSFP, said 37,589 households were selected out of 112,767 pupils benefiting from the school feeding programme in Lagos.

The official explained that the team “engaged the community to formulate the definition of being poor and not being able to provide for their wards”.

She said priority was given to “women, widow-headed households, households headed by persons with a disability, households whom the head has lost his or her job and have no or little income among other criteria”.

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