By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, Monday, kicked against the Federal Government’s continuation of school feeding programme amid ravaging Coronavirus, COVID-10 pandemic.
Reacting to the move was the Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, Awual Ibrahim Rafsanjani, said the government should suspend the move and focus on palliatives that would alleviate suffering of Nigerians.
He said: “It is important that government prioritizes its Programme on palliatives that could alleviate the ongoing suffering of Nigerians and stay away from carrying out Programs that have no positive impact on Nigerians.
“Many Nigerians don’t understand why Government is not focusing on palliatives that are needed to reduce the suffering of Nigerians but rather they are focusing on programs that are not addressing the problem of Nigerians.
“This school feeding is not a priority at this lockdown period because the schools are closed and children are with their parents so what is the justification when we have millions of Nigerians who starving and have no means of feeding themselves as a result of the government’s lockdown and prevailing poverty in Nigeria.
According to Rafsanjani Nigerians are worried about management of COVID-19 palliative management have not met the expectation of Nigerians as there are allegations of diversion of palliatives and misplacement of priorities.
“Nigerians are worried that the whole management of COVID-19 and its palliatives have not met the expectation of Nigerians as there are allegations of diversion palliatives and misplacement of priorities.
The ongoing conditional cash transfer, school feeding program, and trader-money are not responding to the current situation many poor Nigerians are facing. Despite Mr. President’s directive to expand the register of the ongoing programme to capture the actual needy people who lost their means of livelihood as a result of lockdown but still nobody has been identified and included to the partake on the palliatives”, he queried.
However, he suggested there is to refocus programmes under the Ministry of Humanitarian, Disaster, and Social Development in order to be impactful on Nigerians.
“We will suggest to the Hon. Minister to refocus her programmes to make it meaningful and helpful to Nigerians with a view to addressing poverty in Nigeria. There is also a need to redesign the ongoing programmes because it is not addressing the concerns of Nigerians”, he added.
Also the Country Director, ActionAid Nigeria, Ene Obi, explained that the money meant for the school feeding programme is not a new funding but the same money meant for feeding of school children, but now to be converted to support the parents and children at home.
“Reaching out to these children who are under the School Feeding Programme of the National Social Investment Programme is a way of continuing to link with them even while they are at home. This is not new money but the same money meant for their feeding in school is now to be converted to support the parents and children at home.
“What this means is that when school resumes, cooks will start getting their money, and normalcy will return to the schools. The same situation exists in almost all the states of the Federation”, Obi said.
However, said there should be transparency in the process and clear information about the move by the government for Nigerians to understand what government is about doing.
“The Government should be transparent about it and share open information. Except maybe about not meeting criteria but I need to check to know the updated list. It is going to be done in one state, it should be done across the states in the country”, she said.
Meanwhile, she disclosed that “ActionAid Nigeria do hope to resume full monitoring of NSIP along with Third-Party Monitors when we are able to raise the money.”
In another reaction, pro-democracy group, Concerned Nigerians, CN, accused the government of planned move to loot public coffers under the guise of the school feeding programme, which the children are at home with their parents.
This was the assertion of the Convener, CN, Deji Adeyanju, who also said Nigerians are still awaiting the records of COVID-19 palliative beneficiaries including the National Assembly.
Adeyanju said: “It is an exercise in futility and it does not make any economic, humanitarian sense because the children are at home with their parents and they are being fed.
“The government is just desperate of looting even with this crisis which all Nigerians are economically and financially strained.
“The money that government claimed that it shared with how many millions of people as palliatives Nigerians have asked for records including the National Assembly there is no record. These people are just looters and Nigeria is already heading to the path of the worst recession in the history of our country.
“These people are just aggressively working against the interest of Nigerians when children are at home and the tangible reason is to loot and that is all.”
However, he advised the government to rather use the money to bail out already distressed businesses including banks that would soon sack thousands of Nigerians.
“This money they are planning to loot in the name of school feeding programme would have been used to give to banks or small and medium scale enterprises as bailouts including the informal sector of the economy.
“Whether they like it or not bail out banks and other businesses, hundreds of thousands of Nigerians will lose jobs. In America, over 20 million people have lost jobs”, he said.
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