Corruption Threatens Home Grown School Feeding Programme In CRS

Unless authorities concerned urgently do something, the Federal Government sponsored Home Grown School Feeding Programme in Cross River State, may go under as massive corruption is threatening the successful implementation of the programme in the state, investigations can reveal.

The programme which commenced in the state late last year as part of a 500 billion Naira funded Social Investment Programme announced by the Buhari administration to tackle poverty and improve the health and education of children and other vulnerable groups, is presently being exploited by persons believed to be working in the Cross River State office. While N70 (seventy naira) per child is the approved feeding rate, those in the Calabar office, citing “orders from above”, make remittances that now peg the rate at N55 (fifty five naira) per child.

Our investigations further revealed that, the food vendors selected for the programme, were made to sign forms which authorized some highly placed persons in the Calabar office, located at Eyo Etta, opposite the Christ Embassy church, to receive N15 per pupil, accomodated by the programme, across the state, the amount running into millions of naira, before the vendors can access their now N55 (fifty five naira) payment per pupil balance from the banks. “They made the vendors sign a bank mandate, authorizing upfront deductions; vendors who initially refused to sign, were unable to access their funds”, one source confessed, lending credence to our discovery.

We discovered too that there’s a health hazard component to this corrupt desire to make money that must be sounded out. “See, let me inform that the frying of chicken parts meant for these children is done in Uyo, by our Oga’s agents. They fry the chicken and send to us. We collect and store the fried chicken in not too favourable conditions, from above where we distribute the chicken to our vendors. The chicken comes in mostly on Sunday evenings and since it is for two days feeding, we distribute for the first day, Mondays, and keep back the second batch for distribution the day following, Tuesday. Remember that as we store the chicken, we do not eve warm it before distribution and nobody thinks this is bad, our Ogas are just looking at what can enter their pockets. What they only leave the vendors with is money to buy fruits and give the children; it is saddening”, an inside source disclosed.

Even noodles are bought and supplied to the vendors with the corrupt excuse that directives to that effect come from above. At press time, a truck load of noodles was parked at the Calabar office, awaiting distribution to vendors, gradually becoming uncomfortable with the teething corrupt practices wrapped around the programme. “You will be amazed to hear that even the condiments that our vendors use to cook food like rice and noodles, are compulsorily sold to them from the office. So even if the vendor has a small provision store, he/she must come to us and buy the seasoning cube that she puts in the food, even if she sells the same thing in her shop. That is how bold the level of corruption is and nobody is saying anything”, our source again revealed.

A top official in the office, who spoke to, on conditions of anonymity, faulted the results of our investigation. He however was unable to advance contrary information, directing us instead to their Abuja office.

When fully realised the school feeding component of this programme aims to support States to collectively feed over 24 million school children which will make it the largest school feeding programme of its kind in Africa.

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