James Sowole in Akure

Barely three weeks after Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo visited Alagbaka Estate Primary School, Akure to assess the federal government National Primary School Feeding Programme, the scheme has suffered a setback in Ondo State.

The setback, which has affected the implementation of the scheme in the selected primary schools, THISDAY learnt, was caused by the state government’s failure to pay food vendors.

However, the state Commissioner for Information, Mr. Yemi Olowolabi, said there was delay in the payment of the money of the cooks due to some problems in their bank details.

Olowolabi said there was discrepancies in the account of the food vendors, adding that most of the accounts failed to tally with their Bank Verification Numbers (BVN).

The commissioner said all the accounts would be harmonised by next week and the payment would be made to ensure the resumption of the programme.

The stoppage of the programme has generated reactions from parents and stakeholders in the state who lamented that the scheme worked only for three weeks in the state.

The stakeholders described the scheme popularly known as the National Home Grown School Feeding programme as another way of siphon money by politicians for their cronies.

Speaking under the auspices of Concerned Parents of Primary School Pupils, Mr Ademola Folarin alleged that the programme was facing financial challenge in the state which made all the cooks to stop working.

Folarin, who decried the implementation of the programme in the state, stressed the need for the operators to follow the guidelines as stipulated by the federal government.

He said that the pupils had not been fed for the past two weeks, lamenting that “the home grown school feeding programme had not been consistent since it was launched in the state”.

“We have been monitoring the implementation of this initiative for the past two weeks and we can confirm to you that this programme has been a failure in the state.

“Many of the cooks have stopped feeding the pupils claiming that they had not been receiving money to prepare the food. They claimed that they were only managing with little resources made available to them.

“The programme is a total failure in Ondo State and there is need to urgently review the programme while money should be made available for the programme to salvage the appalling situation,” he said.

The parent noted that apart from the federal government’s fund injected into the programme, the state government also earmarked about N4.2 billion in the 2018 budget as part of its counterpart fund to run the programme in the state.

“The state governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, during the launching the programme in the state expressed his administration’s readiness to recruit about 1,500 medically-fit and trained cooks to ensure the success of the scheme,” he said.

However, some headteachers who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed the low quality of the food being served and called on the state government to involve officials of the education ministry for proper monitoring and supervision of the cooks.

The headteacher said that the food vendors have been threatening to quit the programme unless the federal government intervened and addressed the noticeable lapses especially in the area of finance.