Friday, 16 March 2018

Food vendors in Akwa Ibom protests ill treatment over FG school feeding programme

Hundreds of food vendors in Akwa Ibom have protested maltreatment over the federal government sponsored school feeding programme.  The food vendors who took to the streets in Uyo, the state capital recently, decried several unpleasant treatments meted out to them by some top government officials in the state.

Displaying placards with different inscriptions such as:  ”Focal Person stop victimizing the women”, “State Coordinator give food vendor their right”, “Former Deputy Governor, Mr. Chris Ekpenyong leave food vendors alone and concentrate on your hotel business”, “Deputy Speaker, Mrs. Felicia Bassey you are not representing Akwa Ibom women well”, “Suppliers come and cook, vendors will supply” etc., the food vendors begged the state Governor, Mr. Udom Gabriel Emmanuel as well as the federal government to come to their aid.

The spokesperson for the food vendors, Mrs. Esther Udoh alleged that some top government officials in the state were collaborating with the focal person to shortchange the food vendors in the state. 

According to Esther, “We the food vendors in the state are not happy with the injustice meted on us. Some government officials are collaborating with Coordinator and focal person to shortchange the food vendor’s money without making them to know what is happening. I am cooking for about 108 pupils in which my money is always N75, 600 but they now pay in N24, 000 into my account.”

The food vendors also expressed displeasure over the way the Commissioner for Education, the Manager of First City Monument Bank (FCMB) and Focal the person for the Federal Government’s social investment programme in the state are collaborating to siphon their money.

Esther Udoh called on the Federal Government to intervene in the situation and investigate the ongoing anomalies in the Home-Grown School Feeding money in Akwa Ibom.

“We want the Federal government to call them to order and ask them what is happening with the programme in the state.  We have not seen our money and we have stopped feeding the pupils since a month ago. We want the federal government to know that in about three months and two weeks in a term in Akwa Ibom, we cook for twenty days in a term”, Esther explained.

The spokesperson for the food vendors wondered if the federal government pay for only 20 days money for them to cook and reiterated that the federal government should investigate into the matter.

On her part, Mrs. Felicia Bassey, member representing Okobo State Constituency in the Akwa Ibom House of Assembly, said the problem with the Federal government school feeding programme in the state was overwhelming.  She added that she had addressed the food vendors severally but the vendors have been fighting launching several attacks on the  focal person and desk officer.

“I told the women that they are the ones that will suffer at the end of the day,” Bassey said.

Felicia Bassey who is also the Chairman of House Committee on Women and Social Welfare expressed displeasure that she had received enough  petitions against the food vendors.

“Most of the women will collect money and they will not cook. They will collect the money and go home and rest”, she said.

She alleged that most of the food vendors were residing in Uyo, the state capital, far away from the schools they are allocated. 

“I had to call the woman in Abuja and complain, why is Akwa Ibom own epileptic, that am suspecting you people are bringing politics into Akwa Ibom issue.  In Cross River State, they pay three times but in Akwa Ibom, they will pay once, so I have to use my office and call the women in Abuja and threatened them that we are going to take action against them for negligence in the state”, Felicia Bassey said.

Also speaking, Mr. Chris Ekpenyong, the former Deputy Governor of Akwa Ibom denied the allegations against him, adding that he has not shortchanged vendors since the commencement of the programme.  Ekpenyong said that he does not have any dealings with food vendor in the state.

“I don’t have dealings with food vendors but the federal government who asked me to be supplying them bread because I have a bakery.  The People called me and ask how much I sell my bread and I said it’s N50 in bulk but food vendors want me to sell for N30,” he said.

He further said that he has not shortchanged any food vendor in the state. “The women in Akwa Ibom, I think they ingrates. If the federal government gave them money, they are stealing the federal government money without the feeding the children.

He alleged that some of the food vendors were stealing and pocketing the federal government money and using the money to buy jeep and big cars around town.

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