Fred Ezeh, Abuja and Okey Sampson, Umuahia
Minister of Education, Alhaji Adamu Adamu, has ordered a full-scale investigation into allegation that N2.67 billion meal subsidies to 104 Unity Colleges found their ways into individuals’ accounts.
This followed report of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) on the fund released to the colleges during the COVID-19 lockdown for meal subsidies.
Adamu, in a statement by Mr. Ben Goong, director, Press and Public Relations of the ministry in Abuja, yesterday, said the investigation was to establish the veracity of the claims to ensure that there was no diversion of public funds or misappropriation of same.
The minister said the ministry would collaborate effectively with ICPC to unearth the facts and find a lasting solution to the payment system for meal subsidies that would ensure accountability and transparency.
Meanwhile, the principals have explained in a query what happened to the N2.67 billion alleged to have been diverted into private bank accounts.
They said payments on meal subsidies to their respective colleges on the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System, (GIFMIS) platform was designed to accommodate individual officers of those colleges who were officially recognised to receive such payments and disburse same to food vendors.
This followed difficulties encountered by farmers, local food vendors and market women who do not have Tax Identification Numbers (TIN), PENCOM and other requirements to access the payment platform.
The principals also explained that payments made during the lockdown had to do with debts owed food vendors even before COVID-19, some of which were still pending, adding that the debts arose from irregular and inadequate budgetary allocations and releases over the years.
However, Minister of State for Education, Chief Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba has threatened to shut down the Federal Government Girls College (FGGC) Umuahia over poor sanitary and maintenance culture by the management of the school.
Nwajiuba, who issued the threat when he visited the school, expressed disappointment over the level of infrastructural dilapidation and poor sanitary condition of facilities in the school.
The minister, who was visibly angry as the management conducted him round facilities in the school, scolded them over his observations.
“Are you running a prison here? Even prisons are better than this! Are parents allowing their children to be here? You people are in trouble. This school will fall into the category of schools we will close for two years,” the minister fumed.
Nwajiuba was also dissatisfied with the school’s management over the state of COVID-19 isolation centre which, he said, was not in compliance with the federal government’s guidelines.