By Bernard Tolani Dada
Uyo — Food vendors providing catering services to primary schools in Akwa Ibom state under the federal government Home Grown School Feeding Programs has petitioned the federal government, over alleged diversion of funds meant to feed pupils in the state.
The petitioners asked the federal government to immediately wade into the issues in order to save the programme from being a failure in the state.
The group, in a petition addressed to the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, and copied to the zonal chairman of the Economic and Financial Commission (EFCC), Akwa Ibom state accused the management of the FCMB, and the Social Investment Programme focal person for the state of allegedly conniving to short change its members.
The coalition’s President, Madam Ekaete Effiong Ukeng from Esit-Antai local government and vice president, Mrs. Gloria Issac from Ukanafun local government and a host of others who endorsed the letter, said the huge withdrawals from individual accounts have left them with little or nothing to provide necessary ingredient to provide nutritious for for the children and keep the program afloat in the state.
“We write to bring to your attention the current criminal huge withdrawal of funds paid by the federal government into our various individual accounts at First City Monument Bank (FCMB),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 Program at various schools and communities across Akwa Ibom state for the month of March.
“However, to the dismay of the traumatized Food Vendors in the state, the Akwa Ibom FCMB management in Uyo and some senior officials of the Social Investment Programm office went into an unholy/ dubious connivance to illegally withdraw huge sums of money from our accounts without our concern”.
Writing under the egisof Akwa Ibom Food Vendors Coalition(AIFVC),the group in a separate letter to the Directorate of State Security service (DSS), requested for a full scale investigation into the allegations of cash diversion in the state.
The president alleged that the unlawful withdrawals and other forms of interference since October last years when program started in the state have seriously threatened the laudable programm of the federal government in the state.
She therefore called on government to redeem it from what she called “shameless imperialist elements’ within the state.
But reacting to the allegations, the Social Investment Programs Focal person for Akwa Ibom state, Mr. Ita Effiong Okon, described his accusers as “criminal elements” who wanted to make unwarranted profit from the program.
He said their allegations were borne out of ignorance because neither he nor the state governor nor any other person has access to such funds.
“They are all criminals, who do not know what they are saying or alleging because I myself or the state government do not have access to such funds because the money is paid directly into individual members account from the federal government.,” he said.
However, the branch Manager of FCMB, Mr. Ime Isang could not be reached as his lines were completely switched-off as at press time.