Leke Baiyewu, Abuja
The House of Representatives has criticised Federal Government’s decision to allow states determine beneficiaries of its National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme.
The lawmakers faulted the government for feeding over 9 million pupils without having their names.
The House Committee on Public Accounts, at an investigative hearing in Abuja on Wednesday, demanded the names of the schools, pupils and cooks under the programme.
The Special Adviser to the President on the School Feeding Programme, Dr Dotun Adebayo, the total sum committed to the programme between 2016 and 2018 was N186.1bn, which represented 37 per cent of the total amount appropriated to it during the period. He said N10.4bn had been released for the programme in 2020, which represents seven per cent of its budget, while the total stood at N196.6bn in five years.
Adebayo also said 9,410,393 pupils had been benefitting from the programme across 54,619 schools, with 102,097 cooks engaged to prepare the meals. He said the cooks were being paid N70 per child for 20 days.
According to him, the states engaged the cooks who were selected from the communities, while the Federal Government pays them directly adding that a cook caters to a maximum of 150 pupils.
The committee consequently requested for the full list of the cooks, schools and pupils benefitting from the programme.
The lawmakers were, however, shocked when Adebayo said the programme does not have the full list of the pupils. He said the states provided the list which was verified by the National Bureau of Statistics.
Adebayo said, “These numbers are verified by the NBS. It is part of the data that the states provide – the number of pupils per school. The Federal Government is not responsible to select the schools for any state. It is not our responsibility. We have that (verification) through the NBS; we did a revalidation through it.”
Consequently, the committee summoned the NBS over claim that the beneficiaries had been verified; and the CBN over the claim that it paid the cooks directly.
The Chairman of the committee, Oluwole Oke said, “Mr Dotun (Adebayo), you mean you feed 9 million children for 200 days in an academic year; you are able to ascertain the number of days yet you don’t know the details of these children?”
Adebayo answered, “We have the details of the schools, their enumeration numbers. But when you talk about the actual names, we have for some states where we did verification but because of fund we could not carry out the verification. So, the NBS has been the one that has…(verified the figures). The particulars of the children can be made available but that is through the states.”
Some members of the committee also kicked when they were told that all states and the Federal Capital Territory wre benefitting from the programme, except Kwara and Bayelsa.