By Harris-Okon Emmanuel
UYO—Vendors engaged by the Federal Government to feed pupils under the school feeding programme in Akwa Ibom State have written to the Presidency, alleging that they were being short-changed.
The women, on the platform of Akwa Ibom Food Vendor Coalition, AIFC, alleged that they were paid between N170,000 and N200,000 for the feeding of the pupils in October last year after the commencement of the scheme in the state, but to their surprise the money was slashed to between N29,000 and N30,000.
In a petition to the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, copied the zonal chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Akwa Ibom State, the women accused the management of a new generation bank in Uyo and Akwa Ibom State Social Investment Focal person, Mr. Ita Okon, of conniving to short-change them.
The coalition’s President, Madam Ekaete Ukeng, who is from Esit-Antai Local Government and Secretary, Mrs. Abasiama Isidore, from Ibesikpo-Asuta Local Government, who signed the petition, called on the Federal Government to intervene to save the programme from being threatened in the state.
Vendors are criminals—Okon
Reacting to the allegations, Social Investment person, Mr. Okon, said: “They are all criminals who do not know what they are saying or alleging, because neither me nor the state government has access to such funds as the money is paid directly into individual member’s account by Federal Government.”
However, the said manager of the bank could not be reached as his lines were switched off at press time.
According to the petition, “we write to bring to your attention the current criminally huge withdrawal from funds paid by the Federal Government into our various individual accounts at the bank in Uyo and its allied branches in Akwa Ibom State.
“The funds running into about N200,000 or more per vendor were recently lodged into the bank to facilitate our operations and services in the Home Grown School Feeding Programme at the various schools and communities across Akwa Ibom State for the month of March.
“We are surprised that in March, some of our members got alerts for N29,000 and N30,000, depending on the number of pupils allocated to them.”
It continued: “Most frustrating is the fact that a cabal has hijacked the purchase of food items for the vendors without our involvement, thereby forcing us to feed the pupils with substandard food.
“However, to the dismay of the traumatised food vendors in the state, the Akwa Ibom bank management in Uyo and some senior officials of the Social Investment Programme office went into an unholy/dubious connivance to illegally withdraw huge sums from our accounts without our knowledge.”
In a separate letter to the Department of State Service, DSS, the vendors called for investigation into the allegations of cash diversion in the state and urged government to save them from what they called “shameless imperialist elements” in the state.