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Four years after, Lagos yet to join school feeding programme

By Gbenga Salau
01 September 2019   |   3:55 am
The a-meal a-day programme of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for pupils in primary schools across Nigeria is in its fourth year, but Lagos State is yet to feed its pupils.

The Federal Government has released N844 million and employed 11,775 cooks to start its one-meal per day programme to more than one million primary school pupils across seven states in the country.<br />

• Keeps Mute On Commencement Date
• As NHGSFP Claims Kick-off Is September

But, if the twitter-handle of the National Home-grown School Feeding programme (NHGSFP) is anything to go by, the programme might finally berth in Lagos in September.

The state government has, however, not explained to stakeholders how it hopes to implement the policy. Presenting the 2016 budget, the immediate past Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode announced that the a-meal a-day programme was one of the captured in that year’s budget.

Speaking specifically about it, Ambode said: “This programme promises not only to improve the daily nutrition of our children, it will also create an economy of its own, with opportunities for job creation, income generation, poverty alleviation, and so on.”

The project is a joint effort between the Federal Government (FG) and the states. In each state, the FG is expected to provide 60 percent of the funding, while the state government provides 40 percent of the cost. But when 2016 ended, no child across Lagos public primary schools enjoyed one free meal a-day from the government. This is despite N2bn allocation for it in that year’s budget.

When asked why the item was not implemented, the state government said it was working it out, claiming it did not want to implement the project shabbily.

The state government made another budgetary provision for the school feeding the following year. It even raised the allocation to N2.14bn in the 2017 budget from N2bn. And there was an indication that the project would kick off that year in Lagos, when in January 2017, a workshop to determine how best to implement the programme was held.

Ironically, when 2017 ended, the programme failed to start. Apparently giving up hope of implementation, the Ambode led government failed to make provision for the project in the 2018 budget. But, in May 2018, when the immediate past Deputy Governor, Dr Idiat Adebule was giving account of her stewardship as the supervisor of the Lagos Ministry of Education, she announced that the state government was still assessing Federal Government’s N70 feeding rate per pupil, which it described as unrealistic.

“The Federal Government feeding rate per student of N70 is not realistic. After a thorough assessment, we realised that we would need more than N70 to provide adequate meal per student. I’m happy to announce to you that we have engaged the office in charge at the federal level, as well as the State Ministries of Agriculture and Health.She announced the commencement of training of officers, who will screen food vendors to ensure adequate hygiene and prevent any form of infection.

Although former Governor Ambode prepared the 2019 budget, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu signed it into law. The budget is however not available on the state’s website for perusing, to know if there was a provision in it for the school feeding programme.

When The Guardian contacted the Ministry of Education, the Public Relations Officer said the project is still in the works, as the state government is working out the modalities. On what stage of planning the project is, he refused to respond to the message sent to him.

There was however a tweet on August 23 by the National Home-grown School Feeding programme that a-meal a-day project will start in Lagos in September. The tweet which has four photographs, said: “Presently in Lagos, the Lagos State Technical Committee is meeting with pre-selected cooks at the Six Education Districts levels for a sensitization meeting. This is in preparation for the commencement of the school feeding programme in Lagos State in September.”

There are about 500,000 pupils in Lagos public primary schools. The school feeding programme though targeted at pupils in Primary one to three, does not cater for all the pupils. The Guardian asked the NHGSFP through its twitter-handle the number of schools and pupils that would benefit, when the project kicks off in September, but no reply yet, as at press time.