...dismisses media report of ‘fraud’
…highlights challenges, solicits support
By Ime Silas
The Akwa Ibom State Social Investment Programme Office has debunked reports in a section of the media in the state, alleging fraud in the running of the federal government-funded School Feeding Programme, describing same as baseless, superfluous and unprofessional.
Focal Person for Akwa Ibom State, Dr. Godwin Akpan, who stated this during a media briefing said while his office would have loved to ignore the write up, the explanation became necessary for the interests of the pupils, caregivers, parents, farmers and traders, whose sakes the programme was envisaged and implemented.
While giving a detailed rundown of every fund sent to the State and the number of benefitting schools and cooks, Dr. Akpan noted that so far, a total of ₦4, 815,194,300.00, has been paid to Akwa Ibom state by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government to cover a feeding cycle of 240 days.
Akpan specifically debunked the allegation of his office or any Coordinator of the programme in the state deducting from any money sent, maintaining that all funds meant for the school feeding programme are paid directly into the Savings Accounts of the cooks without any third party having access to it.
While fielding questions from pressmen, the SIP Focal Person noted some challenges ranging from lack of cutleries, drinking water and others, urging public-spirited Akwa Ibomites to support the laudable efforts of the federal government by donating these items to the benefitting schools.
Dr. Akpan also advised parents to discontinue superstitious talks that may scare the children from eating the food. He hinted that the food served on the children are safe, good and nutritious, adding that school administrators, coordinators and cooks do always taste the food before same were being served on the children.
He noted that everyone, including the press were free to monitor the programme independently in their respective localities.
Read full detail of the Media Briefing below:
TEXT OF MEDIA CHATS WITH MEMBERS OF THE PRESS: RE-MASSIVE FRAUD ROCKS FG SCHOOL FEEDING PROGRAMME IN A’ IBOM
The attention of the State Social Investment Programme office has been drawn to the baseless and superfluous news report by some local tabloids in the state, alleging fraud in the FG school feeding programs.
While we would wish to dismiss this unprofessional write-up by self seeking begging and half baked journalists as perfunctory kiss of pen on paper, we will like to put the records straight for the interest of the well meaning Akwa Ibom pupils, their care givers, guardians, parents, farmers and traders on whose interests this programme was envisaged.
1. Akwa Ibom State joined the School Feeding Programmes in October, 2017 with initial cooks of 1,305 and pupils enrolment of 336,363 which ran for a 10 day feeding cycle amounting to ₦119,826,700.00.
2. Until the time of this press briefing, Akwa Ibom State has received 15 tranche payments amounting to ₦4, 815,194,300.00, covering a feeding cycle of 240 days.
3. The School Feeding Programme was last paid in Akwa Ibom State on 15/11/2019, with 161,575 pupils and 1,442 cooks for a feedingcycle of 10 days amounting to ₦227,517,600.00.
4. The School Feeding was suspended in the whole federation due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and this was not peculiar to Akwa Ibom State only.
5. In late 2018, the FG directed the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) to carry out a headcounts of pupils primary schools in Nigeria (Akwa Ibom State included), number of pupils in Primary 1-3, and number of cooks to enable her budget for the School Feeding Programme.
6. The NBS having completed its assignment in the state sharply depleted the numbers of public Primary Schools in Akwa Ibom State from 1,165 to 889, leaving out 276 public Primary Schools from the feeding net.
7. The effect of No. 6 above depleted the numbers of pupils from primary 1-3 from 336, 363 to 161, 575 and number of cooks from2,681 to 1442 as evidenced in the 14h tranche payment of 15/11/19.
8. As a state, the government rejected the NBS figure as a far cry from our pupils’ enrolment which kept increasing due to the HisExcellency, Gov. Udom Emmanuel vision for free and compulsory education and the effect of free meals for the pupils.
9. Arising from No. 8 above, His Excellency, the Governor of Akwa Ibom State stepped into the matter and caused NBS to revisit AkwaIbom State for a revalidation exercise and that exercise was completed in October 2020 and the current pupils enrolment for thestate moved from 161,575 to 623,558.
10. The Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development in their letter dated 2/6/2021 acknowledged the revalidation by NBS and directed the State SIP office to populate the increased data with the number of required cooks. A process that has been completed and data sent to Abuja for subsequent payment.
11. On May 3, 2021, the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development released thepayment based on the NBS report to some states and Akwa Ibom State was one of the benefiting States. A total of N226,205,000.00was paid to Akwa Ibom State cooks to feed 161,575 pupils and 1808 cooks were captured.
12. This particular payment (based on the headcounts by NBS) posed a lot of challenges:*Not all the 1,165 public primary schools were captured.*The true pupils enrolment was not captured.*Number of cooks drastically reduced.*Even when cooks accounts were credited, bank issues arose: expired ATM, dormant accounts, dead vendors etc. (these issues arecurrently addressed by the state SIP office).
13. From the foregoing, it is only safe to say that the author(s) of this report do not intend good for the children, women and Akwa IbomState in general. This report lacks substance, distracts, and cannot be substantiated. To regard government good intention of feeding our children as scam, fraud and political is an attempt to discredit the School Feeding Programme.
14. Our programmes school feeding, Npower, cash transfer, market moni, farmers moni, and traders moni are all closely monitored by the relevant security agencies who are our strategic partners. Beside, the FG has engaged 62 independent and third tier monitor to oversee these programmes in Akwa Ibom State.
15. For the records, let it be reiterated here that the money meant for cooks are paid directly into their saving accounts without any third party. And the Focal Person or the state SIP office or Akwa Ibom State Government has no hand in the running of these individual accounts.
16. It is therefore funny and laughable for anyone to think that a financial institution would get involved in any sharp practices asalleged. Our bank presently is FCMB, I urge all true and objective investigative Journalists to approach the bank for any information regarding the School Feeding Programmes.
17. The L.G.A Coordinators are selected from the cooks who voluntarily offer to carry out supervision within their L.G.A. It is an act of wickedness and callousness to accuse these persons of collecting money from the poor cooks; for their selfless services they should be praised and applauded instead of castigation.
18. Please note that the current payment cycle of 20 days ended on Monday 31st May 2021. Feeding will only commence when the FGcredit the accounts of cooks.
19. I wish to appeal to political jobbers, self seeking journalists, chronic defaulters in the School Feeding Programme and their gullible sponsors to give peace a chance for the smooth running of the programme. We advise people with genuine complaints to channelsuch issue to the office of the Focal Person or the Federal Ministry Disaster Management and Social of Humanitarian Affairs, Development for attention instead of resorting to cheap blackmail.
20. We wish to sincerely thank His Excellency for all the supports to ensure that Social Investment Programmes are delivered to thestate.
21. On our part we will continue to serve our people.
Dr. Godwin Akpan