A'Ibom SIP Office Challenges NBS On Pupils Enrolment Figure

The Akwa Ibom State Social Investment Programme (SIP) office has described as false and misleading a recent figure released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) purported to reflect the enrolment of pupils between Primary 1 - 3 in public primary schools across the state and therefore rejected same as incorrect and of no effect. Focal person of the programme, Dr Godwin Akpan disclosed this in an interaction with journalists in Uyo, the state capital recently, to update the public on the National Home Grown School Feeding Programme (NHGSFP) in the state, among other activities. He lamented that the development had impacted adversely against the pupils in particular, the resource persons (cooks) and the state at large and hoped that the problem would soon be resolved. Akpan regretted that NBS had relied on a spot head count in its assessment, reducing the number of cooks hitherto participating in the programme across Akwa Ibom by 53.5 per cent, from 2,682 to 1,436. This culminated in a fall in cash flow to the state from N468 million to N231 million and a concurrent drastic reduction in the number of pupils accommodated under the programme to a very low level. He appealed to all NHGSFP cooks to disabuse their minds on any sharp practices in the course of implementing the programme as some of them must have experienced certain inconsistencies in the funds due them, blaming same on the controversial NBS report which had triggered the changes. "We hereby call on the Federal Government to intervene urgently and revalidate the figure with a view to correcting the anomaly caused the state by the NBS report for best results as promised recently by the minister of humanitarian affair. Our office had engaged the Ministry of Education and the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) for an effective and dependable pupils enrolment figure, being the statutory bodies in charge of such function. That is our position and we have not shifted from that, the focal person stressed. On how much is released for the programme, he said that N70 is provided for each pupil from Primary 1-3 per day for 20 days in a month, pointing out that government does not demand any form of payments from prospective cooks to participate in the programme, hence women should guard against being defrauded by touts who pretend to be government monitors, extorting women in the process. Commenting on the programme coverage, the SIP helmsman hinted that the exercise was meant for the entire public primary institutions across the state, but noted that about 55 schools had unfortunately been left out from inception due to human error, pointing out that efforts were being intensified to right such wrongs by January next year. He identified other programmes supervised by SIP to include N-Power; Government Enterprise Empowerment Programme (GEEP) as well as the Conditional Cash Transfer and the Trader Money schemes. According to him, efforts were being evolved to accord SIP a legislative backing by the National Assembly to guarantee its sustainability such that successive administrations in the country would be obliged to continue with the programme. N-Power is an online programme in which young graduates are selected and deployed to various places of primary assignment and are paid monthly stipends of N30,000. He said there were two batches under the programme of which 2000 of them are due to exit by the end of this year. Under the GEEP scheme, soft loans of about N100,000 and above are given to young entrepreneurs to develop their businesses and stimulate the economy. The Conditional Cash Transfer scheme is meant for the very poor people in the society who would be granted monthly stipends of N5,000 each to maintain themselves, while the Trader Money is reserved for market women to help them expand their businesses.

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