COVID-19: Rights group challenges Minister, Sadiya Farouq to public debate on school feeding programme

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The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has challenged the Minister Of Humanitarian Affairs, Sadiya Umar Farouq to a public debate over alleged corruption in the implementation of the social investment programme.

The group gave the challenge following attacks after it issued the first statement expressing doubts over the credibility of the process of the implementation of the School Feeding Programme.

HURIWA said it has vowed that as a mass movement, it is not deterred, as it wants the minister to be a democrat and appear in an independent forum to take questions from the masses.

According to the group, “Nigeria has for a decade been embroiled in a huge humanitarian emergency occasioned by the Boko Haram insurgency, the fallout of which called for the biggest crisis management operations since the civil war over fifty years ago. Thousands of people have been killed and properties worth millions of U.S. dollars have been destroyed.

In his inaugural speech for his second term in office in May, 2019, President Buhari stated that the principal thrust of his new Administration is to consolidate on the achievements of the previous four years, correct the lapses inevitable in all human endeavours and tackle the new challenges the country is faced with and chart a bold plan for transforming Nigeria. Little wonder, then, that the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development was established in August 2019 by an Executive pronouncement by the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria; His Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR) at the inauguration of Ministers for the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

The group said if the Buhari-led government gave the impression of running a ‘government with a human face then it should rise to the enormous task of having a proper and coordinated response to the humanitarian crises and providing relief.

“Given the current global crisis as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the recent report that in Nigeria, five in 10 children under-five are malnourished (stunted, wasted or overweight); while three in 10 children aged six to 23 months live on poor diets; the SOCIAL INVESTMENT PROGRAMME of the Federal Government under the coordination of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management has left more to be desired of it. This fact was admitted when the minister reportedly met a joint meeting organized by the National Assembly in which both the Senate President Ahmed Lawan and the Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila expressed disappointment that the implementation of the SOCIAL INVESTMENT PROGRAMME has not met the targeted objectives and the minister accepted that she inherited some of the challenges bordering on questions of transparency and accountability. “

The group while expressing worry said the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, charged with the mandate to develop humanitarian policies and provide effective coordination of National and International humanitarian interventions; ensure strategic disaster mitigation, preparedness and response; and manage the formulation and implementation of fair focused social inclusion and protection programs in Nigeria has become the single most notorious cesspool of corruption and lack of transparency and accountability in over 60 years of the nation’s Independence.

“Instead of positioning itself in the light of the prevailing humanitarian situation in the country through its vision, mission and core values to promote human dignity and integration of basic humane benevolence and compassion in the treatment of Nigerians, the Ministry has rather repositioned itself as a cash guzzling machine and a financial disaster.

“More worrisome is that this appalling and muddy feeding programme happened despite a groundswell of well-informed opposition to the disastrous idea only because the executioners had allegedly designed the primitive ways of allegedly siphoning public funds under the guise of feeding ghost school children. To prove us wrong, the Ministry should provide facts and figures for all to see and judge.

It reiterated that the minister contradicted herself when she claimed that the food would be shared door-to door and averred that vouchers would be allocated at specific collection times to avoid overcrowding.

The group maintained that it has nothing against any transparent effort to provide succor to Nigerians, but rejected the ongoing fraud in which school children, who were in their respective homes are being used as representations to divert public funds to a few corrupt individuals.

It, therefore, urged the Minister to pick a date to clarify claims stating that her ministry delivered palliatives to each and every Nigerian with facts and figures showing how the exercise was carried out and the households that benefited.

“Failure to clarify this bogus claim that is attributed to her, which to all intents and purposes is not just false, but totally and substantially dubious, deceptive, criminally and deeply annoying, we assure her that Nigerians will never forget.”

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