The school meal programme is one of the cardinal campaign promises of the ruling All Progressives Congress. While the Federal Government provides sixty percent of funds for the scheme, state governments are expected to provide the remaining forty per cent as counterpart funding.
The programme, expected to be of benefit to about 5.5 million primary school pupils in the first year of its operation, is part of the N500bn social investment plans of the Federal Government.
The plan will run till 2020 and will form the cornerstone of the nationwide Home-Grown School Feeding programme which when fully realised will provide a meal a day to over 24 million primary schoolchildren.
The Special Adviser on Media and Communication to the Bauchi State Governor, Alh. Yakubu Ibn Mohammed, said the school feeding programme was not a priority for the government at this time with the rot in its education system, particularly in infrastructure.
In the same vein, the Plateau State Governor, Mr. Simon Lalong, said that he would not be able to implement the free school feeding programme as requested by the Federal Government due to paucity of funds.
Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, during a recent visit to President Buhari, said it had become difficult running the states in the face of the dwindling economy.
He said it was necessary to do something drastic whenever financial inflows do not tally with fixed costs as it is currently the case in many states of the federation.
The Cross River State Government, which got N967, 494,955.43 allocation for April, said funding a feeding scheme under the current economic situation in the country was not feasible.
In its reaction, the Ekiti State Government said it had no plans to heed to the Federal Government’s call on states to feed Primary 4-6 pupils as part of its school feeding programme.
The state Commissioner for Information, Youths and Sports Development, Mr. Lanre Ogunsuyi, said President Muhammadu Buhari should be held responsible for failing on its campaign promises and that states should not bear the burden of failed promises.
Similarly, the Ondo State Government, which condemned the school feeding programme for school children, said it was not part of its education programmes for the state.
The Bayelsa State Commissioner for Education, Mr. Markson Fefegha, said the responsibility of catering for primary school pupils rests with the local governments as the third tier of the government.
Bayelsa State, which got about N2.1bn allocation for April, owes civil servants four months’ salaries and pensioners seven months’ arrears.
However, the Oyo State Government said it would respect the President’s proposal and go along with feeding pupils in primary 4 to 6 in the state.
Aregbesola, while sharing his state’s experience during the inauguration by the VP, said the Osun State Government currently “feeds 252, 793 pupils daily.”
He said his government engaged the services of 3,007 vendors for that purpose.
El-Rufai also disclosed that “the Kaduna State Government feeds 1.5 million pupils daily.”
He also said the scheme had made school enrolment in primary schools to rise by 64 per cent.
Meanwhile, statistics from the new Road map for Nigerian Education Sector shows that there were 54,434 public primary schools in the country based on figures adapted from the 2006 National Personnel Audit of the sector.
Also according to the road map, there were 24,422,918 pupils in all the primary schools in Nigeria.
Though efforts to get the current number of primary school pupils in the country from the Federal Ministry of Education, Abuja, proved abortive, experts said the number must have increased.