Osun State Government and the All Progressives Congress in the state on Tuesday traded blames following an incident of suspected food poisoning which led to about 18 pupils being treated in a hospital.
The victims, said to be pupils of James Primary School B, Osogbo, Osun State, were reportedly treated in hospitals on Monday following complications they developed, linked to the mid-day meal served to them in their school, under the government free school feeding programme.
The incident had caused panic, especially among parents of the affected pupils, as videos of them on hospital beds were shared on the social media.
When our correspondent visited the school on Tuesday, officials met did not allow him to enter the premises, saying the pupils were having their first term examination.
Narrating how they became ill, one of the victims said they were served rice with egg, after which they started running stool.
Also in the video, mothers of the victims, said they observed foul smell of the egg their children were served when they returned home from school on Monday.
They said their children started stooling not long after returning from school, raising concerns about the food they were served by the vendor. They demanded an investigation into the development to prevent reoccurrence.
But while speaking in an interview on Tuesday, Osun State Commissioner for Education, Mr. Dipo Eluwole, said over 100 pupils were served the food and wondered why only about 11 of them living within the same compound were the only ones affected.
Eluwole, who said the affected pupils were met writing examination when officials from the ministry visited the school on Tuesday, further explained that after completing their examination, they were told of the plan by the government to have them examined at a public hospital, parents of the pupils refused the offer.
He said, “Over a hundred pupils ate the food. But about 11 out of them, who are living in the same compound were those that were said to be affected. On getting to the school on Tuesday, we met the affected pupils writing examination. After their exam, we told them that we were moving them to a hospital for further checks, but their parents refused the offer.
“We recorded that scene. When I was told what the parents of the affected pupils said, I mandated the officer in charge of the school to release the pupils to government officials and they were taken to UNIOSUN Teaching Hospital, Osogbo. After they were examined, the doctors told us that nothing was wrong with them.
“One of the pupils has malnutrition. After she was examined, we were told that the only food that particular pupil eat daily is the one government serves them in school. The girl is malnourished. We told the hospital to admit and treat her for malnutrition. We however warned the hospital to ensure that they keep an eye on her so that opposition party won’t kidnap her and blame it on the government.
“We interviewed some of the parents and they said one Boda Wasiu asked them to say all they said on camera yesterday (Monday). They said nothing affected their children. We don’t want the person who gave us that hint to be tagged. But we will want the said Wasiu to be apprehended and answer questions regarding what they claimed he did. We will not want to mention the source so that they will not attack her. That Wasiu is a card-carrying member of APC. They just want to tarnish the name of this administration.”
But while commenting on the incident, Osun APC chairman, Mr. Tajudeen Lawal, warned the governor, Ademola Adeleke, to stop toying with the lives of the school pupils with the substandard food being served the pupils by the vendors under the school feeding programme.
Lawal in a statement obtained in Osogbo, stated that the incident was a cumulative effect of the lackadaisical approach of the man at the helm of affairs in the state.
The state APC chairman said, “The humanity in me became uncomfortable when one of the mothers of the victims gave an account of the state of his child that immediately his son came back from school, he started smelling an offensive odour of rotten eggs. Is it true that only miserable N64 was budgeted for each pupil per meal? Is it true the government of Adeleke pays N10,000 per month to each O’Meal vendor?
“If these allegations are true, then Governor Adeleke must have a clear conversation with his Creator. How would the food vendors be dedicated when they are paid peanuts and are not supplied with the right food supplies, at a time he himself budgeted billions for his own food and refreshments?
“The children affected are the future leaders of this country. If Governor Adeleke had been fed with rotten eggs when he was a schoolboy as it happened to innocent schoolchildren, would he have secured the opportunity to become the controversial governor that he is today?
“All the stakeholders should rise up to condemn the laissez-faire approach to governance by Governor Adeleke which was partly manifested with the suspected poisoning of the 18 school pupils with his ill-thought-out and substandard free school feeding programme.”