Nigeria’s Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has said the Federal Government’s social intervention programme was not a welfare scheme that gives handouts to the poor but the largest single dedicated provision for social investment in the country.
He said this in his address at the launch of the Strategy Framework/Source Book and Inauguration of National Coordinating Team for the National Home Grown School Feeding Programme in Abuja.
He said of the N6.06 trillion in the 2016 budget N500 billion was dedicated to the social intervention programme. He said for the free school feeding programme to work there must be synergy, cooperation and sense of purpose by the federal, states and local governments.
He said that the huge allocation to the safety net programmes was a victory from the point of view that the inalienable right to life enshrined in the constitution would be meaningless if a large number of citizens were poor. He added same problem loomed if the government did not invest significantly in getting people out of poverty, and addressing the health and education issues of children and other vulnerable groups.
“The social intervention programme is not a welfare scheme which merely gives handouts to the poor. “Rather, the programmes have to pass through stringent tests of their direct economic benefits to the target groups and the economy as a whole especially in terms of job creation.’’ Osinbajo noted that the school feeding programme, being one of the five social investment programmes of the Buhari administration, was to provide the feeding and nutritional needs of 20 million primary school pupils.
The vice president said the strategy document “sets out simply how the federal, state and local governments are to work together to deliver the primary objectives of the programme’’.
According to him, the objective is the feeding of the children in the primary schools with healthy nutritious meals prepared from local agricultural produce, cooked and served by food vendors and cooked in the immediate communities.
“The ultimate objectives are bringing real change to the lives of 20 million children. “It is for creating the multiplier effect on local economies in communities where these schools are located by boosting agriculture, entrepreneurship and employment.’’
Osinbajo emphasised that the programme would improve school enrolment and curb the current dropout rates from primary schools estimated at 30 per cent and thereby also reduce child labour. He said it would improve child nutrition and health, and increase local agricultural production and provide structural demand for agricultural produce and thus create local economies that have a ready-made market for their produce and guaranteed profit.
He added that the programme would also create jobs that would lift families above the poverty line into a brighter future. “The strategy plan will only work if there is cooperation between the federal, state and local governments. “These plans must have specific community implications.’’
Osinbajo noted that the federal government had taken the responsibility to provide the part funding and also secured sound technical support of the Partnership for Child Development (PCD) of the Imperial College London.
The vice president noted that the book being launched underscored the fact that “our school feeding programme actually launches us into a national school feeding ecosystem with all the benefits of synergy and collaboration that blends’’. He said that the federal government also constituted an inter-ministerial technical team which had the PCD participation.
“Today, we lay an important building block in securing our future as we lay out the implementation plan to ensure that every children from the most disadvantaged homes are freed from the destructive effects of malnutrition and distraction as they learn.’’
Osinbajo observed that implementation might not be easy due to issues of smooth flow of funding, sourcing of food and the organisation of payment for participants in the value chain. He urged the stakeholders not to be discouraged under any circumstances “from surmounting the problem and doing our duty to the millions of Nigerian children especially the large majority of disadvantaged homes’’.
The governors of Osun, Mr Rauf Aregbesola; Kaduna, Ahmed El-Rufai, and Oyo, Abiola Ajimobi, described the programme as one of the best in the Buhari administration and prayed for it to succeed.