Our attention has been drawn to the views expressed by the Governor of Cross River State, Professor Ben Ayade, in which he decried what he considers the dearth of presidential and federal government interventions in Cross Rivers State.

Governor Ayade, particularly mentioned the National Home Grown School Feeding Programme NHGSFP, claiming that Cross River State is not getting the desired push from the centre to leverage on the commercial opportunities of the programme.

This assertion by a Governor, whose State is benefiting immensely from the Federal Government’s Social Safety Net Initiatives, is rather unfortunate, unfair and perhaps based on insufficient knowledge of the processes, implementation efforts and impact of the programme on the people of Cross River State and indeed Nigerians, in general.

The National Home Grown School Feeding Programme NHGSFP is a key component of the Social Investments Programmes SIPs launched in 2016 by President Muhammadu Buhari. The main objective of the programme is to provide one nutritious, balanced meal each school day to pupils in classes 1 to 3 in public primary schools across Nigeria. In addition to improving nutrition, the programme also increase enrolment rates by mopping up the huge numbers of out-of-school children in Nigeria. The NHGSFP also develops an agricultural value chain by creating jobs for the cooks and a sustainable income for small holder farmers, thereby engendering a ripple effect in the rural economy.

The school feeding programme successfully commenced implementation since November 2017 in Cross River State with 362,870 pupils being fed by 3,706 cooks in 1,430 public primary schools across the State. The enrolment of children in the State has increased significantly, while the cooks in the communities have been empowered by direct payments of monies into their accounts, for the purpose of feeding. Indeed, since inception, the programme has continued to boost the health of the children, who have become more diligent in class, as a consequence of the nutritious meals availed them in school.

The children’s menu comprises a carefully designed balanced and nutritious diet, consisting of locally available and affordable food components such as eggs, bread, chicken, fruits and ‘tom brown’, a meal made from groundnut, soybean, maize and millet. Indeed, when the programme commenced, the poultry required by the cooks in Cross Rivers State was being sourced from neighbouring States, but over time, the State itself began providing the poultry requirements, as the need for developing the sector quickly became evident. The menu components continue to be sourced and supplied from the local communities in line with the policy direction of the NHGSFP, which aims at supporting small local farmers by providing a sustainable income and ready market for them. In monetary terms, since the commencement of the school feeding programme in Cross River, over N2 billion Naira has fuelled the rural economy of the State, with the local farmers and cooks, as well as others that are part of the ever-increasing `value chain (such as the purchase of utensils, aprons, and other condiments) have been smiling to the banks, in the wake of a substantial increment in patronage arising from the school feeding initiative of the Buhari Administration. The overall impact of the programme, therefore, goes much further than in respect of only the enrolment and health needs of the public primary school children, to boosting the rural economy and supporting the communities in a wholesome, consistent and effective manner.

Undoubtedly, the ultimate beneficiary of the school feeding programme is Cross Rivers State, whose children’s improved learning outcomes is becoming assured, it’s cooks being empowered and agro industries thriving, all of which outcomes have emerged from a well-thought-out federal government social intervention programme, that is currently feeding over nine million pupils in over 32 States across Nigeria.

Indeed, it is a misconception to believe that the school feeding programme was structured to effect payments directly into the coffers of any State Government, as appears to be the perception held by Governor Ayade. Rather, the programme is designed to strategically benefit the farmers, women and children of the State, also assuring of an increase in financial and social inclusion, as well as the steady growth of the State’s rural economy.

It is also pertinent to mention that 12,198 young people in Cross Rivers State are currently enlisted in various components of the Federal Government’s N-POWER programme, with over 10,000 beneficiaries of the cash transfer programme across 18 LGAs of the State. Furthermore, over 25,000 traders and artisans have received MarketMoni and TraderMoni loans, from the Government Empowerment and Enterprise Programme, with plans for an increase in the loans to beneficiaries in the markets across the State.

We urge the Cross River State Governor to carefully study the design, structure and actual impact of the FGN social investment programmes in his State, as the multiplier effect of the programmes and the potential for creating wealth can best be imagined. The comprehensive strategies adopted, as being implemented in close collaboration with his State officials, have certainly succeeded in tackling unemployment, reducing poverty and boosting the Cross Rivers State’s economy.

Justice Bibiye
Communications Manager,
National Social Investment Office (NSIO)

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