Some food vendors engaged for the National Home Grown School Feeding Programme (NHGSFP), in Kaura and Zangon Kataf Local Government Areas of Kaduna State, have alleged that there were plans to sack them over political reasons.
The vendors, in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), on Thursday, claimed that officials of the All Progressive Congress (APC), in their locality, had threatened to get them sacked over allegations that they voted against the ruling party in the general elections.
One of them, Mrs. Rifkatu Yashim, a food vendor at Local Government Education Authority Primary School, Unguwan Rimi, School B, in Zangon Kataf, said that some other persons had been engaged to replace them.
“Some of our replacements have already opened bank accounts and are waiting to resume duties.
“The APC officials at Anguwan Rimi Ward called us for a meeting and told us that most of us would be sacked from the school feeding programme because we are not members of their political party.
“They told us that they want only APC women to participate in the programme; some women have been asked to open bank accounts and have been told to start wok when school resumes,” she said.
Mrs. Alice Levi, another vendor at the LGEA Primary School Anguwan Keta, Tum, in Kaura Local Government, also accused the APC officials of collecting N1,000 from some of them to retain their names on the list.
“They told us that they were asked to collect the said money from us otherwise our names will be removed from the list,” she said.
Mrs. Keziah Akut, a vendor at Bondon Model Primary School, Kaura equally told NAN that the local politicians had accused them of feeding from APC without doing anything for the party.
“In short, they told us that a new list of vendors has been drafted and that the ministry of education will approve the list as soon as the new administration is inaugurated.
“We are worried because 16 of us have already been dragged before the education commissioner in Kaduna to be sacked based on an allegation that we did not vote for the APC during the general elections.
“Although the commissioner has asked us to go back and continue our job, we are still worried because we do not want to lose our only source of livelihood,” she said.
Akut thanked the federal government for empowering women through the programme, adding that among them were widows whose children could not go to school due to lack of money.
“Others who managed to send their children to school dropped out along the line. But this job has provided the opportunity for such people to send their children to school.
“We are, therefore, appealing to the authorities not to disengage us and send us back to abject poverty.”
Another vendor, Mrs. Doris Simon, who supplies food to pupils of Universal Basic Education Primary School, Bakon Kofa, said that she never had a bank account until she was enlisted into the school feeding programme.
She said that the programme had helped her to be self-reliant and continue with her education.
“I wanted to further my education after I obtained a Grade II Teachers Certificate in 2003, but I could not do so due to financial constraints. But this programme has empowered me.
“It has enabled me to secure admission to study for a Nigeria Certificate in Education at the National Teachers Institute. I will graduate this year.
“I don’t know what will happen to my education if I am sacked. I am very worried and scared because I am among the vendors that were dragged to the education commissioner to be sacked.”
Mr Bature Bonat, Chairman, School-Based Management Committee, Kaura Local Government, told NAN that he had heard the rumour that some women would be replaced, but that there had not been any official comunication to that effect.
“There are procedures for such replacement, but political affiliation is certainly not one of them,” he said.
Mr Christopher Avong, the APC Chairman in Kaura, however, denied the allegations.
He said that he had no knowledge of any plan by the party executives to push for the replacement of the vendors with women loyal to the party.
Avong stressed that neither he nor the party at the state level had directed any official at the ward level to draft a new list of vendors.
Alhaji Ja’afaru Sani, the Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, equally dismissed the allegation, stressing that no vendor would be replaced, except those who were either not supplying the food or cooking below standard.
Sani acknowledged that some vendors were brought to his office, but said that he asked them to go and continue with their job after confirming from the local government Executive Secretaries that they were doing their job diligently.
“I assure you that there is no plan to replace any vendor, because the APC government is a government of all.
“The only ground for replacement is when a vendor is not doing her job diligently. Those that have absconded or are involved in a fraud will also be sacked. No one will be sacked for political reasons,” he added.
Mrs. Adesanmi Abimbola, the National Programme Manager of NHGSFP, had, in December 2018, said that government was committed to achieving 100 per cent success in its implementation.
Adesanmi had urged Nigerians to see the programme beyond just cooking food for the pupils, but as a value chain of nactivities capable of creating other jobs and alleviating poverty.