Abimbola Adesanmi, the National Coordinator of the Federal Government’s Home Grown School Feeding programme, HGSF, says there is no room for political influence in the programme currently running in 26 states of the federation.
Mr Adesanmi disclosed this on Wednesday in Abuja during an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria, where she spoke on the progress of the programme.
She said so far, the programme had succeeded in feeding 9.3 million Nigerian pupils in 47,000 public schools without political advantages.
She attributed the feat to the high standards adhered to by stakeholders under the supervision of the Office of the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
She said several stages of vetting and screenings of personnel involved in the programme were based on merit, capacity and know-how.
“At its inception, the programme defined the framework for state governments to follow. For instance, one of the frameworks for the cooking is that women must be selected from the community close to where the schools are located.
“We did not mention an academic qualification, but we just wanted women who live within the communities and who could cook.
“From there, the states were now requested to define their set of criteria based on the forms they were given containing information like where they live, their referees etc.
She said that officials put in charge of the programme had ensured that all frameworks were followed to the letters while sanctions were given to erring state governments.
“We have heard stories of how governments are trying to politicise the issue, how state governments have influenced the cooks. But you will find out that all these states are not ruled by one political party.
“So, when you say one particular state is at fault, you also have to look at what obtains in other states where the political party is different.
“We have been able to insulate such political influences by defining a structure where the programme is housed in the governor’s office with a programme manager who is apolitical, not a civil servant.
“Someone who is from the private sector, an academic or from the bank, or wherever who can give a perspective on how the programme must succeed in the state.
“Good enough, we have seen the state governments being able to select without any political influences even though they are pressured.
“For the states which have gone the way of political, for the first three months they had issues and they themselves said oh! We have a mistake and we have come back.
“In Enugu for instance, we were there at the very beginning when the traditional leader in a particular community came to us with a list of cooks and said the community didn’t know their husbands and families so they won’t cook for their kids.
“Also, in Anambra, it was a school that told us that they have a sister in their school and they should be cooking for their children.
“Somehow, the community ownership which we seek to achieve is being achieved in a subtle way. Communities write to us to say they don’t know certain cooks and we have been able to change such women.
“So in terms of political influences, they are very minimal because there are guiding principles for the programme and if any state fails in any of these frameworks, it is suspended and removed from the programme. We have done that in some states.
“Yes, Nigeria is very fast and we have many issues but they do not affect this programme as it has been claimed and we are today seeing positive results for those who have gone in the way the programme was designed,’’ she said.
The national coordinator said Niger, Ebonyi, Akwa Ibom and Kano were some of the states where the programme was suspended temporarily due to infractions, and listed Rivers, Kogi, Nasarawa and FCT as states ready for its take-off.
She also revealed that FG recently undertook to provide plates in all the benefiting schools across the country, in order to raise the high standard of hygiene.
NAN reports that the Federal Government as of August has spent N49.7 billion on the programme aimed at increasing school enrolment, address hunger, create jobs and scale up agriculture production within the local economy.