Akwa lbom State Focal Person for Social Investment Programmes, Dr Godwin Akpan has debunked the recent reports by some local tabloids of fraud in the Federal Government school feeding programmes operating in the state.
The Focal Person clarified the issue on Friday during a press briefing with a cross-section of media practitioners in Akwa Ibom State.
In a statement he said, “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 programmes.
“We wish to dismiss this unprofessional write-up by self seeking journalists as perfunctory kiss of pen on paper.”
The Focal Person noted that Akwa Ibom State joined the School Feeding Programme in October, 2017 with 1,305 cooks and 336,363 pupils, running a 10-day feeding cycle amounting to ₦119,826,700.00.
Adding that till date, Akwa Ibom State has received 15 tranche payments amounting to ₦4, 815,194,300.00, covering a feeding cycle of 240 days.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Akpan, explained the programme being suspended in the state and the FG discontinuing the payment after November 15, 2019 , covering the 10 days feeding cycle amounting to ₦227,517,600.00 with 161,575 pupils and 1,442 cooks.
Consequently, in late 2018, Dr Akpan emphasized on the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) depleting the numbers of pupils from primary 1-3 from 336, 363 to 161, 575 and cooks from 2,681 to 1,442 while carrying out headcounts of pupils primary schools in Akwa Ibom State.
Fielding questions on the 2,681 cooks instead of the initial 2017 recruited number, 1,305, the Focal Person explained that more cooks are recruited subsequently to meet up demands of the school feeding Programmes in the state.
Regarding the NBS erroneous report, Dr Godwin Akpan said the State Governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel intervened by causing NBS to revisit the revalidation exercise and this led to the current enrolment of pupils from 161,575 to 623,558 in October 2020.
Despite the intervention of the revalidation exercise by Mr Udom Emmanuel, the Focal Person pointed out that May 3, 2021, “the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development released the payment based on the NBS report to some states and Akwa Ibom State was one of the benefiting States. A total of N226,205,000.00 was paid to Akwa Ibom State cooks to feed 161,575 pupils and 1808 cooks were captured.”
Mr Akpan said the NBS report has posed a lot of challenges which include capturing of 1,165 public primary schools, reducing the numbers of pupils and cooks , problem arousing from cooks’ bank accounts which involves expired ATM, dormant accounts, dead vendors among others.
According to Akpan, on June 2, 2021, the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development in their letter acknowledged the revalidation , therefore directing the State SIP office to populate the increased data with the number of required cooks. He said the process has been completed and data sent to Abuja for subsequent payment.
Following the payment cycle, the Focal Person stated that the current payment cycle of 20 days ended on Monday 31st ,May , 2021 and feeding will only commence when the Federal Government credits the accounts of cooks.
On monitoring and evaluation, the Desk Officer, Ministry of Education, Dr Ndifreke Eshiet said the Ministry, SUBEB and SIP have gone on monitoring across the local government areas in the state on several occasion, stating that she has photographs and documents to this effect. She also urged the Federal Government to provide the basic facilities needed for more effective monitoring.
Speaking on behalf of the State Coordinators ,Deaconess Enobong Ekere debunked the report of State coordinators distorting money from food vendors to collaborate with the Focal Person to gift him N50,000. She said the members however frowned at such allegations by the local tabloids, noting that the FG pays money directly to vendors’ accounts and the coordinators have no access to these transactions.
While appreciating Governor Udom Emmanuel for his support towards the progress of the school feeding programme, Dr Akpan called on public spirited individuals to assist in the program by providing utensils and water to public school pupils.
The Focal person also appealed to media practitioners to channel any genuine complaints to the Focal Person or the Federal Ministry Disaster Management and Social of Humanitarian Affairs, Development to avoid any sort of blackmail that will tarnish the image of the state as well as hinder the progress of the School feeding project in the state.