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SERAP, Humanitarian Minister Spar over Diversion of N2.67bn School Feeding Fund

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Following disclosure by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) that about N2.67 billion meant to feed Nigerian school children were diverted, the Socio-economic Rights and Accountability Projects(SERAP) has urged the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouq, to quickly disclose the names of the culprits or face legal actions.

The Chairman of ICPC, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, had in a federal government meeting on Monday, disclosed that it’s operatives had traced parts of the said funds into private accounts.

“We observed that transfer to sub-Treasury Single Account was to prevent disbursement from being monitored.

“Nevertheless, we discovered payments to some federal colleges for school feeding in the sum of N2.67 billion during lockdown when the children are not in school, and some of the money ended up in personal accounts.

“We have commenced investigations into these finding,’’ he said.

Consequently, SERAP told the Humanitarian Minister to do the needful by revealing those who received monies under her watch.

“BREAKING: Following disclosure by @ICPC_PE that N2.67bn meant for school feeding during the COVID-19 lockdown ended up in private bank accounts, we’re calling on @FMHDSD @Sadiya_farouq to immediately publish details of those suspected to be responsible, or face legal action.

“If the names are not immediately published, we’ll issue a freedom of information request to ensure that those involved are named and shamed.

“We’ll also pursue appropriate legal actions to hold suspected perpetrators to account, in the public interest,” SERAP tweeted on Monday.

SERAP stressed that diverting the funds represented grave injustice against the Nigerian child.

It also maintained that such development makes citizens to doubt the integrity of the federal government.

“Diverting funds meant to feed school children [who are already disproportionately affected by corruption], especially during COVID-19 is a blatant violation of the rights to education, health, and dignity, as well as the government’s own COVID-19 transparency frameworks.

“Corruption in school feeding increases distrust in the government. @NigeriaGov must ensure transparency and accountability measures are fundamental to all school feeding and other initiatives in the context of COVID-19, to ensure the children receive the support they need,” it stated.

However, Sadiya Umar Farouq, has distanced her ministry from the said diversion, adding that mischief makers were trying to tarnish her image.

“The Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development wishes to dissociate itself from a trending report in the media titled “N2.72b for School Feeding During Lockdown Diverted To Private Accounts”.

“The report emanated after a presentation by the Chairman of ICPC, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye at the 2nd National Summit on Diminishing Corruption and was presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, at the Council Chambers of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Monday.

“The report states thus…preliminary investigation had indicated that part of the N2.67billion was diverted to private accounts. It also revealed that over N2.5 billion was misappropriated by a senior civil servant (name withheld) in the ministry of agriculture and now deceased, for himself and cronies”.

“The statement by ICPC was twisted and misinterpreted by mischief makers and directed at the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs.

“The Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development hereby informs the public that the Federal Government Colleges school feeding in question is different from the Home Grown School Feeding which is one of its Social Investment Programmes,” the ministry stated.

Sadiya, through her spokesperson, Nneka Ikem Anibeze, further claimed “that the School Feeding under scrutiny is feeding of students in Federal Government Colleges across the country and is not under the Federal ministry of Humanitarian Affairs which only oversees Home Grown School Feeding for children in Primaries 1-3 in select public schools across the country.

“That the over N2.5 billion which was reportedly misappropriated by a senior civil servant (name withheld) took place in a different ministry and not the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development.

“That the ICPC recovered N16 billion worth of assets from the said ministry which was paid into an individual account for non-official purposes and not the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development,” she said.

Furthermore, the ministry challenged the ICPC to publish the names of the culprits.

“The Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs , Disaster Management and Social Development describes those casting aspersions on the Minister Sadiya Umar Farouq as malicious and unfair and calls on The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC to publish the names of persons, federal colleges and school heads whose names have been found to be associated with the missing funds and also freeze the accounts where the said funds were diverted.

“The Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs therefore calls on the general public to disregard the false reports being linked to the ministry as it is not in anyway involved in the Federal Government Colleges School Feeding,” it stated.

Earlier reports quoted Farouq saying that the ministry had fed pupils in 124,589 households during the lockdown.

Despite public outcry, the minister had also claimed on August 3, that funds for feeding school children during the covid-19 lockdown were judiciously spent.

“In recent days, there have been speculations around one of our key interventions during the COVID-19 lockdown, and that is the National Home Grown School Feeding Programme which was modified and implemented in three states following a March 29th presidential directive whereby we were directed to continue to provide meals to primary school pupils (pri 1-3) across the country.

“Kindly disregard the rumors of millions and billions peddled by rumor mongers.

“Take home ration for school feeding programme was done in consultation with the state government through the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF).

“As we speak, only three states have launched the programme and they remain Lagos, Ogun and FCT.

“In FCT – 29,609 households , Lagos – 37,589, 60, 391 households for Ogun, making a total of 124,589 households imparted between May 14, 2020 and July 6, 2020,” she had said during the Covid-19 Presidential Taskforce press briefing.

Also the Human Rights Writers Association (HURIWA), had on August 02, challenged Sadiya Umar Farouq, to a public debate on the matter but she did not honor it.

“HURIWA is by this media communication inviting the minister for a publicly covered debate this Wednesday with HURIWA so Nigerians can be told what amount this government spent feeding school children who were dispersed and on holidays during the lockdown.

“HURIWA wants to show Nigerians that the ministry of humanitarian affairs may have fed ghosts and claimed to have fed real Children”, HURIWA’s National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, had said.

Credits | The Whistler

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