HURIWA TO HUMANITARIAN AFFAIRS MINISTER: GIVE US A DATE FOR PUBLIC DEBATE ON SCHOOL FEEDING PROGRAMME:
A Statement By The Pro-Democracy And Leading Civil Rights Advocacy Group-: HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) On The alleged Widespread Corruption, Which Has Characterised The Implementation Of The So-called SOCIAL INVESTMENT PROGRAMME And The School Feeding PROGRAMME And Restating Its Demands For The Minister Of Humanitarian Affairs To Take Up The Challenge For A PUBLIC DEBATE On The Administration Of School Feeding Programme Especially The Sessions That Happened Whilst Schools Were On Lockdown. HURIWA said it has read a lot of attacks against the group after it issued the first statement expressing doubts over the credibility of the process of the implementation of the School Feeding PROGRAMME but vowed that as a mass movement it is not deterred as it wants the minister to be a Democrat and appear in an independent forum to take questions from the masses:
Nigeria has for a decade been embroiled in a huge humanitarian emergency occasioned by the Boko Haram insurgency, the fallout of which called for the biggest crisis management operations since the civil war over fifty years ago. Thousands of people have been killed and properties worth millions of U.S. dollars have been destroyed.
In his inaugural speech for his second term in office in May, 2019, President Buhari stated that the principal thrust of his new Administration is to consolidate on the achievements of the previous four years, correct the lapses inevitable in all human endeavours and tackle the new challenges the country is faced with and chart a bold plan for transforming Nigeria. Little wonder, then, that the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development was established in August, 2019 by an Executive pronouncement by the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria; His Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR) at the inauguration of Ministers for the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
To some observers, creating the ministry was a master stroke which portrayed the government as a humanitarian one and signaled Buhari’s readiness to deliver empathy or, if you will, give the impression of running a ‘government with a human face.’ Beyond such interpretation, however, lies the significance of rising to the enormous task of having a proper and coordinated response to the humanitarian crises and providing relief and meaning to the life of victims.
Given the current global crisis as a result of the covid-19 pandemic, and the recent report that in Nigeria, five in 10 children under-five are malnourished (stunted, wasted or overweight); while three in 10 children aged six to 23 months live on poor diets; the SOCIAL INVESTMENT PROGRAMME of the Federal Government under the coordination of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management has left more to be desired of it. This fact was admitted when the minister reportedly met a joint meeting organised by the National Assembly in which both the Senate President Ahmed Lawan and the Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila expressed disappointment that the implementation of the SOCIAL INVESTMENT PROGRAMME has not met the targeted objectives and the minister accepted that she inherited some of the challenges bordering on questions of transparency and accountability.
The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria is worried that the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, charged with the mandate to develop humanitarian policies and provide effective coordination of National and International humanitarian interventions; ensure strategic disaster mitigation, preparedness and response; and manage the formulation and implementation of fair focused social inclusion and protection programs in Nigeria has become the single most notorious cesspool of corruption and lack of transparency and accountability in over 60 Years of the nation’s Independence.
Instead of positioning itself in the light of the prevailing humanitarian situation in the country through its vision, mission and core values to promote human dignity and integration of basic humane benevolence and compassion in the treatment of Nigerians, the Ministry has rather repositioned itself as a cash guzzling machine and a financial disaster.
Nothing best illustrates the fact that all is not well with the National Social Investment Programmes (NSIPSs) of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government than the recent condemnation of the Modified Home Grown School Feeding Programme, as well as last April’s row between managers of the programme and the leadership of the National Assembly over the initiative.
The Programme under the Ministry reportedly claimed to have blown away billions of public funds to feed school Children during the three Months of Covid-19 lockdown when clearly the school Children were all at homes in different parts of the Country.
More worrisome is that this appalling and muddy feeding programme happened despite a groundswell of well-informed opposition to the disastrous idea only because the executioners had allegedly designed the primitive ways of allegedly siphoning public funds under the guise of feeding ghost school children. To prove us wrong, the Ministry should provide facts and figures for all to see and judge.
We are aware of how the minister contradicted herself when she claimed that the food would be shared door-to door and in the same breath, averred that vouchers would be allocated at specific collection times to avoid overcrowding. Was she misquoted or what?
Such contradiction only betrayed an unwholesome tendency, as HURIWA wonders how there would be overcrowding on door-to-door distribution of food to children who are claimed to have been individually designated in various locations, even as the failed to provide details of how she intended to reach the 9.7 million school children, who were in their homes in different locations due to the closure of schools, even as officials continue to muddle up required documentations in a bid to cover their tracks
HURIWA is also aware that critical stakeholders in the education sector, including the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) and Concerned Parents and Educators (CPE), had also raised queries over this fraudulent scheme which went the way of the N500 billion Social Investment Programme of the Buhari administration which the First Lady; Aisha Buhari, had earlier exposed as a huge scam.
Again, the claim making waves in the social and online media credited to the Minister; Sadiya Umar Farouq as saying that the Ministry delivered palliatives to each and every Nigerian is despicable and one of the worst lies in recent times. Although the minister had tried to clarify that media quotes and distance herself from such a sweeping assertion, Nigerians are worried that the ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster management must be tasked to provide the templates for the expenditures it made in that direction and tell Nigerians where these so called beneficiaries are. OUR OVER TEN THOUSAND MEMBERS SPREAD ALL OVER THE COUMTRY HAVE TOLD US THAT THEY HAVEN’T EVER MET ANY OF THESE SO CALLED SCHOOL CHILDREN FED DURING THE FOUR MOMTHS OF LOCKDOWN OCCASIONED BY THE HEALTH EMERGENCY OF COVID-19.
*Our Position and Demands:*
The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has nothing against any transparent effort to provide succor to Nigerians, particularly our children, at this critical time, but we reject the on-going fraud in which school children, who were in their respective homes, bearing the brunt of the Covid-19 pandemic are being used as representations to divert public funds to a few corrupt individuals in the Buhari administration. Even Mr President recently expressed consternation that person’s he appointed into higher offices have disappointed him.
We have seen scientific indications that have emerged revealing that Nigeria might have higher increase in under-five mortality at this critical health emergency time of COVID-19 pandemic in the country, owing to what they termed as gross disruptions in health services and rise in preventable childhood killer diseases like malnutrition.
These scientists stated that already, high number of children are suffering the consequences of poor diets and a food system that is failing them, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund.
If this is the situation, where then is the justification of the claim that the current Federal Ministry of Humanitarian and Disaster management spends huge amount of money on the school feeding programme, currently put at N679m [$1,739,881.82] daily, because clearly from all available indices and practical proofs, many under-five children in the country are still malnourished, with COVID-19 pandemic compounding the problem.
Noticeably, the school feeding programme of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government, even when all schools where closed due to COVID-19 pandemic, is a huge scam and a scheme by some officials in the government to siphon a targeted N13.5 billion public funds, choreographed by the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development.
The use of innocent school children as cover to allegedly steal and hide away not less than N679 million daily to private purses is a colossal racketeering taken too far. It is sacrilegious, wicked and completely unpardonable. Who are these pupils fed? We demand that government publishes information on the beneficiaries because the funds belong not to government but to the PEOPLE OF NIGERIA. ARE THESE CONSTRUCTIVE FEEDBACKS DEMANDED TOO MUCH FOR THE MINISTRY OF HUMANITARIAN AFFAIRS SO MUCH SO THAT WE ARE BEING CALLED NAMES AND PLOTS ARE BEING HATCHED TO MALIGN US?
Equally, the Minister in charge of this disastrous Ministry of Government must be made to render proper accounts of how her Ministry reportedly claimed to have puffed away billions of public funds to feed SCHOOL Children during the three Months of Covid-19 lockdown when clearly the school Children were all at homes in different parts of the Country.
More so, the need for Nigerians to ask the Minister to provide clarification on the claim making waves in the social and online media credited to her as stating that her ministry delivered palliatives to each and every Nigerian with facts and figures showing how the exercise was carried out and the households that benefited is imperative.
Failure to clarify this bogus claim that is attributed to her, which to all intents and purposes is not just false, but totally and substantially dubious, deceptive, criminally and deeply annoying, we assure her that Nigerians will never forget.
It is totally absurd and completely unprovable that Nigeria spends N679m daily to feed school Children. This political and morally tainted bogus claim is one of the most insensitive lies to have been told by any politician because this is clearly false since experts have told us with abundant scientifically empirical evidence that 50% under-five children are malnourished in all parts of Nigeria and especially in majority of the North East of Nigeria.
Hence, we are by this Media Statement demanding that the Minister picks a date for the challenge we have thrown at her for a PUBLIC DEBATE with us to be covered by the media and watched by millions of Nigerians.
This is because Public Debate emerges as a significant tool in the process of making people more active participants in the democratic process by involving them in the decision-making process. This proposed public debate with the Minister will address the people’s opinions, interests, expectations and clarifications on the alleged cesspool of corruptions in the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development and then the ministry can state the official lines of what it has spent. We have nothing against the minister and contrary to what the attack dogs have stated in the various publications, we have nobody funding this PURE HUMAN RIGHTS ADVOCACY.
We need not remind the President; His Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR) and the National Assembly that good governance is enhanced when openness, transparency and accountability become the Mantra of Government.
Therefore, President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration and the National Assembly should realise that history will be unkind to them for failing to stop widespread corruptions that have characterised the implementation of the so called SOCIAL INVESTMENT PROGRAMME and the School Feeding PROGRAMME which is at the moment, the best known CESSPOOL OF CORRUPTION AND ABUSE OF OFFICE.
*COMRADE EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO:
Miss. Zainab Yusuf:
DIRECTOR, NATIONAL MEDIA AFFAIRS.
HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA).