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School feeding scheme during lockdown is senseless, fraudulent, Nigerians knock FG

By Femi Ibirogba, Head, Agro-Economy and Ibe Wada
03 April 2020   |   3:47 am
Following the announcement of President Muhammadu Buhari that “although schools are closed, I have instructed the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development


• Let’s give govt benefit of the doubt, says Mimiko

Following the announcement of President Muhammadu Buhari that “although schools are closed, I have instructed the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development to work with state governments in developing a strategy on how to sustain the school feeding programme …,” Nigerians from all walks of life have described the move as fraudulent, senseless and impracticable.

Professor Bamidele Omitoyin, a former Dean of the Faculty of Renewable Natural Resources, University of Ibadan, said: “There is no sense in continuing the school feeding programme when the participating schools are closed. Even if they want to give internally displaced people and orphanages, it is not proper. It is not hygienic this time.”

A commercial poultry farmer in Ibadan, Oyo State, Mr John Olateru, said: “It does not make sense because pupils are on (a compulsory) holiday. It is not clearly stated.”

Olateru argued that the country does not get it right in the implementation of the lockdown because the movement of foods between Oyo and Osun states is already being restricted, saying more people may die of hunger than COVID-19 if care is not taken. “We do not know what we are doing,” he said.

In the same vein, Dr Chijioke Uwasomba, a lecturer at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, said, “Nigerians are opposed to the lockdown he announced not because it is not a proper thing, but because of his peculiar dictatorial tendencies. Some Nigerians are reacting, saying that he should have got the approval of the National Assembly to do it.”

Uwasomba said secondly, people have lost confidence in the President Muhammed Buhari-led government, saying, “So, the question with the continuation of the school feeding programme, the money would run into millions. Are they going to feed those pupils from their homes?

“I am here with my children even though they have not benefitted from the school feeding programme. Would they be fed at home?”

He advised the Federal Government to, as a matter of priority, “focus more on how to battle with this pandemic and ensuring the safety of our medical doctors. They should follow up on what they are doing in Lagos State to get through with this.”

He, nevertheless, expressed satisfaction over the efforts in Ogun State too, saying, “I’m happy that the Ogun State government is showcasing the isolation centres it has built. So, efforts in that direction should be encouraged.”

Uchegbu Chijioke Nicholas, the chairman of the Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN), Imo State chapter and National Public Relations Officer of the Catfish and Allied Fish Farmers Association of Nigeria (CAFFAN), said there is no reality in continuing the scheme while pupils are off school.

“It has no atom of reality since the government has ordered students to go home to avoid infecting themselves with COVID-19 pandemic. How can it be? So, the best thing is to halt it as other activities in the nation have been halted.

“So, I believe that is the best thing and the government should as well instruct contractors in charge of school feeding programme to stop forthwith so that no extra cost would be incurred. We have to face reality. The students are not in the school session,” Nicholas said.

He also implored the government to handle with care the restriction of veterinary and para-veterinary materials like the feeds and livestock medicaments and vaccines, saying, “We cannot be solving a problem and be creating more problems. There would be another outbreak of livestock diseases in the future if farmers have no vaccine now. Help us to convey the message to the government that veterinary needs and medications and disinfectants are essential.”

Mr Nicholas said the shelf life of eggs is not more than 21 days, and so, “we egg producers, feed dealers and veterinary service providers are ranked among most essential service providers. So, the government and law enforcement agencies should know that this people are the only ones sustaining the economy.”

While reacting to the issue, an anonymous commentator said, “It is not a scheme but a scam. How do you feed school children where there’s no school, especially in locked down states? First thing first! Is there a monitor or check on what is being done? The corruption in this scheme stinks. This is what I see and know right here in Ogun State.”

Aweda said Nigeria needs an independent group on all these schemes, including tradermoni, pocketmoni and farmermoni.

Another Nigerian and public analyst, Mr Covenant Umoru, said, “The school feeding project which the government allegedly intends to continue is not feasible. How do they intend to achieve it when all schools are closed?

“Do they intend to prepare the food and distribute it house-to-house? Emphatically no! I am certain that the various school authorities do not know the residence of most of their learners.  I strongly think it is just a propaganda to calm frail nerves who are very inquisitive to know the modalities the government have put in place to bring succor to the under-privileged at such a time as this.

Also, Mr Emmanuel Unubi, a politician, said, “The fact that the institutions in which those measures are meant for are closed down is enough reason to pass a message to Nigerians. Truth be told, I think that message is doctored; else, why would the president be making a package for the students when the schools are closed?”

Meanwhile, Prof. Femi Mimiko, a former vice chancellor of the Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, preached understanding and patience, saying, “I don’t think we should be quick to judge. What I heard the president said was that the relevant ministries would work out the modalities.”

He assumed that if the modalities are worked out well but impracticable, the stakeholders would probably not work with it.

“I think there’s good intension, which implies they would continue to feed those kids and what the president said was that they should work out the modalities for implementation. I think we should give them the benefit of the doubt,” Mimiko said.