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The failure of Buhari’s Humanitarian Minister will have tragic consequences

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The failure of Buhari’s Humanitarian Minister will have tragic consequences

Nigeria’s Humanitarian Minister, Sadiya Umar Farouq, says she has a poor understanding of the costly homegrown school feeding program under her charge. Her admittance has renewed concerns about the program’s impact – especially as more states have expressed dissatisfaction with implementation.

What’s happening: In March, President Muhammadu Buhari, in a national broadcast, announced that he had instructed the Farouq-led Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development to continue his administration’s school feeding programme even though schools across the country were closed to prevent a spread of the COVID-19 disease.

  • The ministry was to find ways to deliver food to households with school children on its register as part of the FG’s interventions to cushion the economic effects of the restrictions imposed to slow the spread of the viral disease.
  • Barely a month after, following widespread complaints on the accuracy of the ministry’s register and distribution logistics, Farouq was summoned by the leadership of the National Assembly to give account of the ministry’s actions.
  • It was during this encounter that the Minister confessed her struggle with understanding the school feeding program and its implementation.

What she said: “Homegrown school programme, I must confess, is also another programme that I am still battling to really understand because there are too many intrigues and too many issues there.”

Why it matters: Farouq has had ample time as minister to understand a flagship program of the administration. Her utterances represent a shocking admittance of incompetence.

  • The school feeding programme reportedly cost the country over N13bn and it’s only one of the FG interventions the Minister is expected to supervise as the economic consequences of COVID-19 bites harder. It is certainly not the kind of money to be left under the supervision of someone who does not understand it, in the middle of an economic and health emergency.
  • The shoddy implementation of the programme across different states has raised doubts about government’s intention. The major opposition party, PDP, described it as a ‘big scam’ earlier this month.
  • Civil society group, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project [SERAP] has also sent a Freedom of Information request to the Federal Government for an urgent public account of the details of “suppliers and contractors, the procurement rules, including bidding processes, the total budget, and all designated voucher distribution and collection sites for the implementation of the school feeding programme at home.”

Bottom line: Sadiya Umar Farouq is failing at a time when failure is simply not an option.

  • Nigeria does not have excess cash to waste, which is the most likely outcome when an unprepared minister leads implementation.
  • Considering that her ministry oversees agencies dealing directly with the country’s most vulnerable citizens, such incompetence at the helm could cost lives and do irreparable damage.

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