By Victoria Bassey
The State Social Investment Programme (SIP) Office, Akwa Ibom, has denied diverting funds allocated for the School Feeding Programme in the state.
Speaking with pressmen at the Women Development Centre, IBB Way, Uyo on June 5, 2021, State Focal Person, SIP, Godwin Akpan dismissed the allegations, saying they are baseless and superfluous.
According to him “The School Feeding Programme was last paid in Akwa Ibom State on Nov 15, 2019 with 161,575 pupils and 1,442 cooks for a feeding cycle of 10days amounting to N227,517,600.00 , the programme was later suspended in the whole federation due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Recall that vendors had accused the office of the State Social Investment in Akwa Ibom of diverting funds meant for the feeding programme, but reacting to the allegations of the diversion of funds, Akpan stated that the allegations were clearly false.
He said “Akwa Ibom state joined the School Feeding Programmes in October, 2017 with 1,305 cooks initially and pupils enrolment of 336,363 which ran for a 10 days feeding cycle amounting to 119,826,700.00naira and that until the time of the press briefing, Akwa Ibom State received 15tranche payments amounting to 4,815,194,300.00 naira covering a feeding cycle of 240 days”.
He told newsmen that “in late 2018, the Federal Government had directed the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) to carryout headcount of pupils in primary schools in Nigeria including Akwa Ibom State, pupils in primary 1-3 and number of cooks likewise to enable her budget for the School Feeding Programme, the NBS completed its assignment in the state depleting the numbers of public primary schools from 1,165 to 889 leaving out 276 primary schools from the feeding net.
“The state government however stepped in and requested for a revalidation exercise by the NBS and the current pupils enrolment moved from 161,575 to 623,558 after October 2020 when the exercise was completed.”
Mrs Rosemary Usen, Desk Officer of State Universal Education Board (SUBEB) also reiterated that no official would stoop low to divert funds meant for the pupils of Akwa Ibom State. Dr. (Mrs) Ndifreke Eshiet, Ministry of Education (Desk Officer) also stated that their teams have been up and doing, making sure that the Akwa Ibom children are well fed through the programme even when the resources available are not enough.
Akpan pleaded with the federal government to help with an increase in funds as they are going through challenges during the programme. He also pleaded with the public to do away with character defamation and give peace a chance for the smooth running of the programme. “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 channel such 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. We wish to sincerely thank His Excellency for all the supports to ensure that Social Investment Programmes are delivered to the state”.