By Benjamin Omoike
They cook the books, not the food for kids, to the tune of N68 million.
While the intended beneficiaries of the Federal Government’s school feeding scheme are served food fit for dogs, or received nothing, two officials who were charged with ensuring that the scheme work, simply seized the opportunity to help themselves.
Now they face the law.
The Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, ICPC, has arrested two persons over allegations of fraud in the social investment programme in Kogi State.
The suspects, Adoga Ibrahim and Khadijat Karibo, are being held for unlawful deductions from the accounts of cooks in the national school feeding programme in the state running into sixty eight million, ninety seven thousand, fifty three naira (N68, 097, 053), the ICPC said in a statement on Sunday.
The commission said, “The recently-launched collaboration between the National Social Investment Office (NSIO) and ICPC to root out corruption in the Social Investment Programmes (SIPs) has begun to yield fruits as two persons involved with the programme in Kogi State are currently under arrest by ICPC for alleged N68,097,053 fraud.
“The suspects include Hon. Adoga Ibrahim and Khadijat Karibo. While Ibrahim was appointed the State Focal Person in 2016 for the National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme (NHGSFP) for Kogi State and left office in May 2019, Karibo is still serving as the state’s Programme Manager.
“A petition alleging that the erstwhile State Focal Person and the Programme Manager had connived and diverted large sums of money meant for payments to cooks in the national school feeding programme in Kogi State was received by ICPC.
“The petition alleged that the duo had perpetrated “unlawful and unethical deductions” from the accounts of cooks by the use of letters purportedly signed by them conveying their consent that “a blanket and unspecified amount be moved to 10 different business accounts from the cooks’ accounts for sundry aggregated commodity supplies”.
“The petition further alleged that the massive fraudulent actions were pulled off by the officials acting in concert with some banks in the state.
“Preliminary findings from ICPC investigations indicate that for the programme to aggregate food items, the request must come from a state governor clearly stating the names and details of suppliers to the National Coordinator of the NHGSFP for approval.
“This approval was lacking in the case under investigation as Hon. Adoga only submitted a request in September 2018 but could not present evidence of an approval, hence money was paid directly by the programme to the cooks’ accounts.
“However, further findings indicate that the Focal Person and the State Programme Manager, in violation of the rights of the cooks, directed banks to place a lien on their accounts which were complied with, and thereafter had a total sum of N40, 388,558.00 transferred from the accounts of 627 cooks to the accounts of 10 companies out of the money meant for January 2019 feeding programme for 20 days.
“Similarly, another N27, 708,495.00 was transferred from the accounts of 850 cooks to 9 companies’ accounts out of April 2019 feeding programme for 10 days by the suspects.”
ICPC said there were other acts of corruption being perpetrated in the programme in Kogi State including store keepers releasing lesser quantities of food than what the cooks signed in the issuance voucher among others.
The commission said the National Social Investment Office had approached it for collaboration in getting rid of corrupt practices in the implementation of the Federal Government’s social investment programmes including the school feeding for pupils, cash transfers to very poor people, enterprise and empowerment programme, and the N-Power programme which led to its unveiling of a dedicated toll-free line (0800-CALL-ICPC: 0800-2255-4272) to report corrupt acts in the programmes.