The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Sadiya Farouq, has said that the school feeding programme will be implemented despite the closure of schools nationwide. Schools across Nigeria have been closed for about one week to check the spread of COVID-19.
She said talks with state governors to ensure the continuation of the programme as directed by President Muhammadu Buhari has commenced.
She said this while responding to questions at the joint national briefing of the Presidential Task Force in Abuja on Monday.
Mr Buhari had, on Sunday, directed the ministry to develop a strategy on how to sustain the school feeding programme.
“Furthermore, although schools are closed, I have instructed the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development to work with State Governments in developing a strategy on how to sustain the school feeding program during this period without compromising our social distancing policies,” Mr Buhari had said.
Some Nigerians had wondered how this could be implemented with the pupils currently at home after schools had been locked down.
The minister did not provide any clarification to that ambiguity. She, however, provided more information on related matters.
Ms Farouq said the ministry is considering modalities to see how it will extend the president’s directive beyond the states where the lockdown has affected.
“In paragraph 50 of Mr President’s speech, he directed that our ministry works with the relevant state governments in developing a strategy on how to sustain the school feeding programme.
“We will be doing this and I have already started contacting the governors on agreeing on the modalities to adopt.
“I have accordingly contacted the programme heads of the programme. This particular task may have to go beyond the affected states because as we are aware, all schools are closed down and children are at home.
“So, we are looking at modalities to see how we will extend this directive beyond the states where the lockdown has affected,” she said.
The school feeding programme was introduced in 2016 as part of the N500 billion funded Social Investment Programme of the Buhari administration. 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, aims to support 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.
According to a 2019 government document titled “Investing in Our People,” the programme was feeding over nine million pupils in 52,604 schools across 30 states and empowering 101,913 cooks with bank accounts.
Ms Farouq also said trucks conveying relief materials have been deployed and are expected to arrive at the affected states before the end of Monday.
This is following presidential directive to ease the sufferings of the vulnerable that might be affected by the lockdown following the outbreak of COVID-19.
“For residents of satellite and commuter towns and communities around Lagos and Abuja whose livelihoods will surely be affected by some of these restrictive measures, we shall deploy relief materials to ease their pains in the coming weeks,” Mr Buhari had said.
On how the relief materials would be distributed, Ms Farouq said “To achieve this, we must identify and reach the targets in such communities and residents using available data at our disposal.
“This we have started doing, NEMA has deployed all the trucks, they are on-site and before the end of today (Monday), these trucks carrying relief materials will be deployed to these affected states of Lagos, Ogun, and Abuja,” she said.
She said the three months moratorium for all Tradermoni, Marketmoni, and Farmermoni as directed by Mr Buhari, would be immediately implemented.
“We have already carried out the directive and we have contacted the officials handling the programme and we have directed that they implement this immediately.
“In paragraph 54 of Mr President’s speech, he directed that the conditional cash transfers be given in advance of two months. This, we have also called the programme heads and we have directed that we start immediate payment of the cash transfer to the poorest and vulnerable households in our country,” she said.