You are all welcome to this Press Conference which is the official flag off of a 36-month Project on PROMOTING ACCOUNTABILITY IN THE HOME GROWN SCHOOL FEEDING PROGRAMME IN OGUN STATE being implemented by Women’s Consortium of Nigeria (WOCON) with support from MACARTHUR FOUNDATION. We commenced the project effectively on December 1, 2017.
This Press Conference is focusing on the Ogun State Home Grown School feeding program, one of the current administration’s noble projects to increase school enrolment, boost local agriculture and improve the nourishment of pupils who are the primary beneficiaries of the project.
To this end, our Organisation WOCON, with support from the MacArthur Foundation are collaborating to organize this Press Conference to enlighten the good citizens of Ogun State on activities surrounding our accountability program on the Home Grown School Feeding Project (HGSFP) in Ogun State and to create awareness and publicity for this Project.
INTRODUCTION OF THE PROJECT
The Home-Grown School Feeding Program (HGSFP) is one of government’s funded social investment programs which focuses on providing a free nutritional meal for public primary school pupils (Primary 1-3) across the country with the aim of improving school enrolment, improving child health and nutrition, increasing and encouraging local agricultural production, creating jobs and empowering women while also improving family and state economy. Ogun State is proudly one of the foremost States to engage in this Program.
This Project will involve monitoring and tracking of the activities of the National School Feeding Program in the entire beneficiary Primary Schools in Ogun State while roles of the identified Stakeholders such as Government Agencies, School-based Management Committee members, Aggregators, Caterers, Heads of Schools, etc. will clearly be identified for the sole purpose of tracking roles of each of the stakeholders in ensuring that the program objectives are met.
For the benefit of those who may not be familiar with our work, may I start by introducing our Organization, Women’s Consortium of Nigeria (WOCON).
WOCON is a not-for-profit, non-religious, non-partisan and non-Governmental Organization committed to the enforcement of women and children’s rights and the attainment of equality, development and peace. WOCON holds a United Nations Special Consultative Status and is registered as an Incorporated Trustee under the Companies and Allied Matters Act of Nigeria on 25th August 1995.
Apart from our numerous campaigns in the area of the protection of the rights of women and children, girl child education and focus on gender-based violence especially campaigns against human trafficking; WOCON has since its inception conducted several activities for the sustenance of good governance and democratic rule in Nigeria. WOCON has engaged in Research studies, Advocacy, Sensitization and Direct Action programmes focusing on Democracy, promoting good governance as well as several anti-corruption campaigns and outreaches and have facilitated capacity building for good governance for sustainable development for Public Office Holders.
WOCON has an anti-corruption mandate and has committed resources into organizing governance Trainings, Workshops and Dialogues, Town Hall meetings on civic education and good governance in Ogun State and other States in the South West to support the democracy program.
The Home Grown School Feeding Program in Ogun State is one of WOCON’s many anti-corruption projects.
School feeding programs have been introduced in many developed and developing countries of the world to address the issue of poverty and stimulate school enrolment and performance. In developing countries including Nigeria, almost 60 million children go to school hungry every day with about 40 percent of them from Africa. Studies have significantly linked the School Feeding Program to increased school enrolment and performance.
Of particular note is that this program in Ogun State has also been noted to promote local agriculture as it utilises locally-sourced food. This shows that Government understands and accepts its roles as a critical underlying factor which promotes nutrition, develops health, education and the lives of the children as well as the indigenes.
WOCON’s MANDATE: Our mandate is to monitor and evaluate the Project in 40 Schools across 4 Local Government areas of Ogun State namely: (i) Abeokuta North, (ii) Ikenne, (iii) ImekoAfon and (iv) Odeda Local Government areas. There are other cohort members that are working on other local govermnts in Ogun State and in other schools.
This monitoring will take place from the tracking stage to the disbursement of funds while we are also to ensure that monies assigned for this project are properly disbursed and used for the purposes for which they are meant which principally, is to strengthen local accountability practices in the School Feeding Programme, thereby reducing corruption and ensuring that the children beneficiaries of the Program are adequately fed with quality food during the program.
To give the best to Ogun State, WOCON has identified fellow partners who are experts in this field and who have joined their efforts to ours to strengthen our accountability efforts in a bid to ensure that from start to finish along the supply chain, transparency and accountability remains the focus.
Top on our mandate is to ensure
(i) That the number of students earmarked for the School Feeding Program are wholly and properly fed with a quality meal a day
(ii) That the budget meant for the School feeding program is judiciously utilized for the project. (iii) That the HGSFP budget is properly accounted for and to curb wastages in the system.
(iv) That corrupt practices are tracked reported and reduced from the processes involved in the course of executing the School Feeding Program.
Most important to our supporting Partner is for the Project to reveal how Government’s disbursement of funds work in order to determine the indices that will provide the degree of trust required in the adopted procedures of the project implementation, also to critically evaluate this Feeding Programme without any bias or prejudice to the Executive Agencies, to ensure budget performance by ensuring the monies earmarked are used for the purpose for which they are meant, to ensure government keeps to its promise of providing one meal per day per child to the pupil beneficiaries to encourage attendance in school, boost academic performance, strengthen the communities by using food procured from local smallholder farmers, thereby providing a market in which farmers can sell their produce. Above all, to clearly identify lapses and bottlenecks at all levels with all Stakeholders as well as the consequences of such practices on the Program in order to expose and tackle them.
Macarthur Foundation’s program strategy of promoting accountability and reducing corruption in the educational sector resonates with this project which is expected to add value to existing accountability efforts especially that of the Ministry of Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs which is in charge of Ogun Meals and increase transparency in education finances.
Distinguished members of the press, we are going to fully engage you in this project; there will be jingles on radio, there will be regular discussions on radio, television and the social media, including phone -in programs with stakeholders and other interest groups. We will also train members of the communities involved on how to effectively play active roles in monitoring, and how best to maintain and sustain this accountability project beyond the project life. We also need to keep the people adequately informed about the progress and the expected achievements in this laudable project.
At this juncture, we wish to express our gratitude to Ogun Meals ably supervised by the Commissioner, Barr. Adeleke Adewolu, the Programme Manager, Mrs. Tinuola Shopeju and other dynamic and formidable members of this Team particularly Mrs. Osholukoya, for their devotedness, hard work and quality work which has kept this project up to date. Their support and openness since the inception of this work has been remarkable and we encourage this dynamic Team to keep up the great work and be prepared to make amendments when necessary.
A most relevant question in this Press Conference that we believe the audience will love to ask today is, how has this project fared in the light of expectations from the Federal Government, the international community and the beneficiary communities within Ogun State. No doubt there are challenges encountered on the monitoring field and there are hiccups and bottlenecks here and there due to logistics and bureaucracy in government in the day to day disbursement of both funds and food. However, we are pleased to affirm that Ogun Meals Team has been on top of this Project and has been most receptive and both objective in providing listening ears to all the members of our Cohort Group and have promptly risen to the task in correcting all observations reported on the field as we go along.
As we wrap up this Press Release this morning, we want to promise the Ministry and the good people of Ogun State that we in WOCON will do all in our power to ensure that the objective and principal goal and the aim of the Federal Government on this Program is fully achieved which is to ensure that the children beneficiaries identified for the School Feeding Program are adequately fed. And this we have resolved to do to the best of our ability.
We will not fail our Funding Partner, we will not fail the Federal Government and we will not fail Ogun Meals in ensuring that all anomalies detected are corrected; when and where discovered, all offenders will be brought to book. We will resolve to do all in our power to join forces with this administration to eradicate corruption from our nation.
Once again, we thank the Honourable Commissioner for Special Duties and Inter-governmental Affairs, the Programme Manager OGHGSFP and all members of the Team too numerous to mention, our dear Partners and Cohort Group members, Action Health Incorporated and Centre for Women’s Health and Information, our Consultants and members of the communities represented here from Abeokuta North, Imeko Afon, Ikenne and Odeda Local Governments, and distinguished member of the Press, for your presence here today. We count on your unflinching support to ensure the best for our children who are the future of Ogun State
Please permit me say OMO OGUN, ISE YA.
LONG LIVE OGUN STATELONG LIVE THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA.