There are growing concerns over the refusal of Sadiya Umar Farouk, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Development, to approve payment for the National Home Grown School Feeding Program for Lagos, Imo, Kogi and Benue states, SaharaReporters has learnt.
The NHGSFP is part of the National Social Investment Programme with the main objective of alleviating poverty through the distribution of funds to the poor and vulnerable in the country.
According to the Federal Government, 27 states excluding Lagos are currently under the school feeding programme.
The school feeding programme was meant to have begun in Lagos in September, according to the state government.
The commencement was later shifted to October as announced by the Public Relations Officer of Lagos State Ministry of Education, Mr Kayode Sutton, who said, “In fairness, we ought to have started it in September.
"We hope to kick off in the next one or two weeks. We are working on it.
"Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has given approval and modalities are in place."
With Lagos yet to begin, Chairman of Lagos State Universal Basic Education Board, Wahab Olawale Alawiye-King, said the implementation of the project is being hindered the Federal Government.
He added that the state has done its part but the FG is hindering the commencement.
Investigation by SaharaReporters revealed that the minister intentionally declined to approve payment for Lagos State and the three other states.
A memo for the payment of vendors and caterers in the 27 states have been sent to the office of the minister for approval but she approved 23 states while pending approval for Lagos, Imo, Kogi and Benue states.
“The school feeding programme would come to a halt in the four states if the minister refuses to sign the memo, which has been in her office for over three weeks,” said a staff of the ministry.
Another staff of the ministry said, “The minister only needed to sign as an approval to pay the vendors and caterers in the beneficiary states. She approved other states except the four states.
“There was no explanation till now why the states; two controlled by the opposition and other two by the ruling party.”
It was also gathered that the social intervention programme under the new supervisory role of the Minister of Humanitarian services is set for major setbacks and possible collapse as Farouq is unilaterally making decision concerning the programme.
Staff of the ministry, who spoke to SaharaReporters in confidence, also alleged that politics and favouritism creeping into the school feeding program.
According to staff in the ministry, officials in her office are befuddled at her disposition and particularly inexplicable interest in the implementation of the programme.
With reason for the non-approval yet to be known, it was hinted that the non-approval of Kogi State might be related to the arrest of the state Programme Manager of the school feeding, Khadijat Karibo, and a former state focal person for the programme in the state, Adoga Ibrahim, for alleged N68m fraud.
They were alleged to have diverted large sums of money meant for payments to cooks in the national school feeding programme in Kogi State.
SaharaReporters had previously reported that some Nigerian senators were trying to hijack the budget of the NSIP.
Sources revealed that the senators were lobbying for contracts under the ministry with opportunities to provide vendors in some of the programmes.