Vendors threaten to withdraw from school feeding in Taraba over alleged extortion

The Federal Government’s school feeding programme is at risk in Taraba State, as food vendors are threatening to withdraw from the programme.

Citing extortion by government officials handling the scheme, the food sellers said the aim of the programme, which included the provision of quality foods to the pupils, was being defeated.

With the National Home Grown School Feeding Programme (NHGSFP), government aims to provide free school meals with food procured from local smallholder farmers.

The programme is part of President Muhammadu Buhari administration’s Social Investment Programme (SIP) to stamp out poverty and malnutrition.

The vendors complained that the officials, in collaboration with the bank officials, reduce their earnings.

“Though our monies are paid through our banks, the officials, in collaboration with the banks, have continued to make deductions,” one of them volunteered under anonymity.

Another vendor disclosed “If you refuse to cooperate with the officials, they sometimes go as far as replacing your name with someone else. This is becoming unbearable to some of us.”

Lamenting that they hardly make profit due to the deductions, they called on the relevant authorities to investigate their claim, to save the programme in Taraba.

The Guardian learnt that the situation was not the same in some other states.

The vendors confessed that the situation was pushing them to the wall, as they were being forced to reduce the quantity and quality of food served the pupils.

But the secretary of NHGSFP in Taraba, Idris Goje, denied the claims.

He said, “Most of those who complained were those who failed to carry out their assigned responsibilities.

“There is no way we can tamper with their money. All we did was to make sure that defaulters are suspended for a while and the monies meant for them returned to the Federal Government. “