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There is a seeming crack among federal government officials as to the wisdom of repeating the sum of N500 billion in the 2017 budget for feeding of school children in Nigeria, being part of a social intervention programme.
Sources say while some Presidency officials and some senior members of the ruling political party, APC, are of the view that inclusion of the money should be seen as fulfillment of the promise of President Muahammdu Buhari to Nigerians to alleviate suffering of the young ones, officials of the Ministry of Finance and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) see it as an avoidable add-up to an envisaged deficit budget for 2017.
Those against its being retained hinged their opinion on the fact that such would send wrong signals to budget monitors, who may conclude that Nigeria’s two years’ budgets, head-to-head, cannot be efficiently implemented.
They said till date, nothing indicates that the current budget, which is suffering poor rate of funding due to recession, will have the school feeding funds available soon.
An expert reportedly told the committee collating data for the 2017 budget before its translation to the National Assembly, that, while it is reasonable to borrow money to implement capital projects, it is not easy doing same for social programmes.
But it was learnt that those in support of the addition were more vocal, apparently drawing strength from the unspoken words of the President.
In proposing the welfare inclusion in the budget, Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, on Monday at a media briefing in Abuja, insisted that there is nothing wrong in having N1 billion in two years for social welfare programme.
She said one of the practical ways of fighting cases of malnutrition among children in Nigeria, which is still a major challenge to the country’s national development, is to have them feed well, adding that government had started a policy that will help in reducing the proportion of people suffering from hunger and malnutrition by 50 per cent by 2025.
The Federal Government had told Nigerians earlier in the year, that it would only undertake the feeding of primary 1- 3 pupils in 18 states of the federation, three from each of the six geo political zone, adding that the states will have to contribute a counterpart funding for the programme to include pupils in primaries 4 – 6.
This was against the earlier belief stemming from is campaign promises that it would provide a meal a day to primary school pupils across the whole country.
By Emma Eke….
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