FACT-CHECK: Did FG spend N850bn in feeding school children during lockdown?

FACT-CHECK: Did FG spend N850bn in feeding school children during lockdown?

By Philip Shimnom Clement

Claim: A businessman and chieftain of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Katch Ononuju has claimed that the federal government through the federal ministry of humanitarian affairs, disaster management and social development said it spent a total of N850 billion feeding school children during the lockdown restrictions.

Verdict: The claim made the PDP chieftain that the minister of humanitarian affairs, disaster management and social development, Sadiya Umar-Farouq spent N850 billion to feed school children is FALSE.

Ononuju whose profile on Facebook says he is the Director General at the Heritage Centre Foundation has a followership of 977 people on Facebook with and 1,319 on Twitter.

On 26th of July, 2020, an online News platform called Torixus news online reported that a PDP Chieftain Katch Ononuju claimed that the Minister of humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, Sadiya Farouq said she spent N850 billion during the coronavirus lockdown restrictions order issued by the federal government.

The news report which had the headline “Hushmummy said she spent N850 billion to feed school children during lockdown – Ononuju claims” had trended well on the social media space which brought the minister under fire for spending close to a trillion on school feeding in two months.

The report read in part “While talking about how the Nigerian President has been dealing, tackling corrupt practices in the country, the Businessman told Torixus on Friday that Sadiya who he regarded as “Hushmummy” claimed that she spent N850 billion to quench hungers in lives of school children in Nigeria and the president is doing nothing to bring her before panel for questioning.

READ ALSO: N500m spent on school feeding programme during lockdown – Minister

“The fight of this government against corruption has been based primarily on rhetoric.

“The real things on the floor just as I’m telling you, we’re talking about small NDDC, What about the new ‘Hushmummy’ as minister of humanitarian Affairs spending N850 billions. She said was used in feeding children who were supposed to be at home during Lockdown,”

“In your house how may poor people in your villages got N10 from that N850 billion? We don’t know.” He said.

In a similar vein, an online news platform called Page 36 news published a news story with the headline “Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Sadiya Umar-Farouq, Accused of Spending N850 Billion to Feed School Children During the Short Lockdown” on July 25th 2020 where Katch Ononuju also claimed that the minister stated she spent N850 billion on school feeding programme while being a guest on a Channels Television Programme.

“The Presidency does not seem to exist as a steering wheel for guiding the Statecraft.

“We cannot see Buhari, he is missing in action. That is why you see the Administrator of Humanitarian Affairs saying that she spent N850 billion during the time of the lockdown, feeding school children.

“That is why we are talking about the North-East Development programme, and we have people who spent over a hundred billion, and we do not have any talk about it.

“What we are saying is, there is a competition by members of the current administration, which is caused by the non-availability of President Buhari acting as President of Nigeria. 

“Buhari is not available as President of Nigeria. If he is there, why all these anomalies in display? You could have a house, and that house would not be a home. It only becomes your home, if people live inside.

“So, if President Buhari that we see on pictures is not available to act as well, to act as President of Nigeria, then there is a deceit going on. You are showing us pictures of a man, how come he is not acting as President”, part of the news report read.

About school feeding programme

The Homegrown School Feeding (HGSF) programme was introduced in 2016 as one of the N500 billion National Social Investment Programmes initiated since President Muhammadu Buhari assumed power. It was projected to provide 1.14 million jobs across the country, including community women who would be engaged as cooks.

The programme, with the support of state governments, is targeted at supporting states to collectively feed over 24 million school children, which will make it the largest school feeding programme of its kind in Africa. The goals include tackling poverty and improving the health and education of children and other vulnerable groups.

The school needing programme was before now domiciled and executed in the Office of the Vice President in Collaboration with the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Social Investments Programmes (SIPs).

READ ALSO: N500m spent on school feeding programme during lockdown – Minister

However, with the creation of the Ministry of Humanitarian affairs, disaster management and social development, the programme has now been moved to the ministry and has since being executed by Sadiya Umar Farouq who is the minister in charge.

According to a 2019 government document titled “Investing in Our People,” the programme is feeding over nine million pupils in 52,604 schools across 30 states and empowered 101,913 cooks with bank accounts.

Other social investment programmes of the federal government includes the N-Power, Trader money, among others.

Verification

Checks by Daily Times shows that the official twitter handle of the humanitarian affairs minister did not state anywhere in her tweets that a total sum of N850 was expended to feed school children during the lockdown period.

Similarly the twitter handle of the ministry of Humanitarian affairs, disaster management and social development which has a followership of 90.9k did not tweet or publish any press release saying the ministry spent N850 billion feeding pupils in two months during the Coronavirus lockdown.

Similarly, the website of the ministry did not publish any release or press statement outlining that it spent the said amount on feeding school children.

Consequently, the Minister in question, Sadiya Umar Farouq cleared the air on Monday, 3rd August 2020 during the Presidential Task Force of Covid-19 where she stated that the amount the ministry spent was N523 million to feed school children.

The report which was published by this newspaper and other major national dailies like VanguardDaily Trust among others reported the account of the minister on how the minster spent the said amount.

Part of the minister’s submissions read “It is critical at this juncture to provide details that will help puncture the tissue of lies being peddled in the public space.

 “The provision of ‘Take Home Rations’, under the modified Home Grown School Feeding programme, was not a sole initiative of the MHADMSD.

 “The ministry, in obeying the Presidential directive, went into consultations with state governments through the state Governor’s Forum, following which it was resolved that ‘take-home rations’, remained the most viable option for feeding children during the lockdown.

“The stakeholders also resolved that we would start with the FCT, Lagos and Ogun states, as pilot cases,’’ the minister said.

She stated that the minister said that the figure generated from statistics provided by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the Central bank of Nigeria (CBN) “According to statistics from the NBS and CBN, a typical household in Nigeria has 5.6 to six members in its household, with three to four dependent.

 “So, each household is assumed to have three children.

“Based on the original design of the Home Grown School Feeding programme, long before it was domiciled in the ministry, every child on the programme receives a meal a day. “The meal costs N70 per child.

“When you take 20 school days per month, it means a child eats food worth N1,400 per month. “Three children would then eat food worth N4,200 per month and that was how we arrived at the cost of the ‘take-home ration’. “The agreement was that the federal government will provide the funding while the states will implement.

 “To ensure transparency in the process, we partnered with the World Food Programme (WFP) as technical partners.’’

“In the FCT, 29,609 households were impacted, 37,589 households in Lagos and 60,391 in Ogun, making a total of 124,589 households impacted between May 14, and July 6,” she further explained.

Accordingly, National Coordinator of the School Feeding Programme Dr. Mrs. Sinkaye Temitope and National Safety Net Coordinating Officer, Mr. Iowa Apera in her submission to a House of Reps Committee recently on the disbursement of funds for school feeding stated that since 2016 when the programme was introduced, it has far consumed N186 billion in totality. 

She further told the committee that the budget breakdown showed that N63.2 billion, N32.2 billion, and N124.4 billion were spent by the office in 2018, 2019, and 2020 respectively, Vanguard reported.

Also, Punch on June 16 2020 also released a similar report stating how a total of N186 billion was expended on school feeding programme since its inception in 2016.

Conclusion

Based on findings by Daily Times, the Claim by the PDP chieftain, Katch Ononuju on both print and broadcast news outlets that the Minister of Humanitarian affairs, disaster management and social development said she spent N850 billion in feeding school children is INCORRECT. The total amount (N186 billion) spent on the programme since inception in 2016 is nowhere close to the N850 billion claimed to be expended in just 2 months.

This report was compiled by Philip Shimnom Clement

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