The much-touted Federal Government’s national Home-Grown School Feeding Programme launched in Abuja on Thursday may suffer a setback as many state governments complain of lack of financial resources to embark on the project, investigation by Saturday PUNCH has revealed.
The school meal programme is one of the cardinal campaign promises of the ruling All Progressives Congress. While the Federal Government provides sixty percent of funds for the scheme, state governments are expected to provide the remaining forty per cent as counterpart funding.
The programme, expected to be of benefit to about 5.5 million primary school pupils in the first year of its operation, is part of the N500bn social investment plans of the Federal Government.
The plan will run till 2020 and will form the cornerstone of the nationwide Home-Grown School Feeding programme which when fully realised will provide a meal a day to over 24 million primary schoolchildren.
However, findings have shown that state governments are currently incapable of sharing in the financial responsibilities with the Federal Government due to paucity of funds.
Some state government officials, who spoke with Saturday PUNCH, said the feeding programme was not their priority. They explained that their governments have been struggling to pay salaries since the drastic drop in their allocations from the Federal Government following the global oil slump.
The Special Adviser on Media and Communication to the Bauchi State Governor, Alh. Yakubu Ibn Mohammed, said the school feeding programme was not a priority for the government at this time with the rot in its education system, particularly in infrastructure.
Yakubu said, “We in Bauchi State are a part of the All Progressives Congress and we share the dreams and aspirations of the Federal Government.
“The issue, as laudable as it is, is not the priority of this administration because, in the first place, the whole educational system in the state has been left to rot.
“The priority of this administration is to restore educational infrastructure in the state. When this is done, incentives to get pupils to school like the school feeding programme, will then be given due and necessary attention.”
Yakubu said it is only when there is good infrastructure in place for the sector to perform optimally that the government can think of giving incentives to school pupils.
“You can only give incentives to attract pupils when you have necessary infrastructure which were almost nonexistent when we took over,” he said.
In the same vein, the Plateau State Governor, Mr. Simon Lalong, said that he would not be able to implement the free school feeding programme as requested by the Federal Government due to paucity of funds.
The Director of Press Affairs, Mr. Samuel Nanle, told Saturday PUNCH that, “The governor has said the state is willing to support the scheme but given the present financial predicaments, it cannot. The state is however working on a modality to see how it can stimulate school enrolment and primary education in the state.”
He added, “The Special interventions in that sector will see to the recruitment of about 5,000 teachers, supply of free basic books, uniforms and then supplemental feeding subject to improvement of funds for the first two or three levels of the primary schools.”
For example, the state’s N1.1bn allocation from the federation account for April 2016 is below its monthly wage bill.
Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, during a recent visit to President Buhari, said it had become difficult running the states in the face of the dwindling economy.
He said it was necessary to do something drastic whenever financial inflows do not tally with fixed costs as it is currently the case in many states of the federation.