By Henry Umoru & Joseph Erunke
ABUJA- THE National Assembly Wednesday took a swipe at President Goodluck Jonathan’s Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P), describing it as a drain pipe on the Nigerian economy, just as it called on the government to scrap it if there were no improvements.
The Lawmakers who expressed their total dismay and lack of confidence on the activities of the Christopher Kolade led Programme, however stressed that the agency was nothing, but a duplication of activities already carried out by existing Ministries, Department and Agencies, MDAs in the country.
The Legislators while also criticising the SURE-P, stressed that SURE-P, saying that it has not helped the youths in the area of employment as the claim of provision jobs for 360,000 youths cannot be justified.
The National Assembly members spoke yesterday at the Joint sitting of both the Senate and the House of Representatives Committees on Petroleum, Down Stream, when the SURE-P Chairman, Christopher Kolade appeared to defend the 2013 budget of the agency.
In its 2013 budget proposal presented to the committee, SURE-P said it expected an inflow of N180 billion to add with its N93.52 billion unspent balance from 2012 budget to carry out its projects in the 2013 fiscal year, adding that N135 billion was realized by the agency up till the end of October, 2012 raking N15 billion monthly, adding that the money has been channelled into construction of abandoned road projects, maternal mortality care.
Dr. Kolade who disclosed that the Programme requires N273.52 billion in its 2013 budget, said that one of the major problems the SURE-P was facing has to do with the fact that it never came up with brand new programmes on its own, adding that the beneficiaries of the mass transit buses are the National Road Transport Operators and some organizations in transport business.
The SURE-P, it will be recalled was established in January, 2012 by President Jonathan after the subsidy from Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) was partially removed
Not satisfied with the performance of the SURE-P, Chairman of the joint Committee, Senator Magnus Abe, PDP, Rivers South-East said, “From the details presented before us here, it is believed that the performance of your 2012 budget was put at only 31 percent. You have to sit up in 2013, else, Nigerians will start losing interest in you. Our fears is not with your credibility, but the fact that these main roads are the same also awarded by the Federal Ministry of Works during this period.
“One of the problems of the SURE-P intervention attempts is that there projects duplication that we don’t seem to know how payments are paid to these contractors working on these projects.’’
The committee said however that unless the organization provides its full details of 2012 dealings, it would not debate the 2013 budget and therefore directed the chairman, Dr Christopher Kolade to furnish it with the details before it considers the next sitting date to debate on the budget.
According to Senator Abe, “there is no need to discuss anything on the 2013 budget when there are issues unresolved here in the 2012 budget. From the mood of members of this committee, nobody is ready to discuss anything on issue regarding 2013 budget”.
Also in his contribution, a member of the Committee, Senator Danjuma Goje, PDP, Gombe Central who lamented that the projects being executed by the SURE-P had already been carried out by existing Ministries in the country, stressed that with the advent of the SURE-P, it was an indication that the Federal government has lost confidence in existing Ministries.
Goje said, ‘’going by the projects listed, it is an indirect loss of confidence of ministries; you are just going around distributing money. Government is indirectly saying the ministries do not have the ability to handle projects. Something is wrong somewhere in this set up. N1 billion is allocated on just SURE-P board. SURE-P is another Nigeria way of spending money on overheads.
Corroborating Senator Goje, Member representing Akoko-Edo Federal Constituency, Peter Akpantasi said, “SURE-P is all about identifying existing projects that are having funding deficit, and they set up their own committee that interfaces with ministry officials who are in charge of those projects with a view of agreeing on such projects they will bring their intervention programmes to support.
‘’Then, they will inspect the jobs that the ministries have awarded, look at the certificates of completion and at the end of the day they approve money for their payment.
“In all of these you will see that they are not in any way financing any new projects, they are not initiating any new projects, they only put money into existing projects.
“Our belief is that the road projects, you talk about the most prominent like the east-west road, it is the responsibility of government, it has been there over the years and funds have been appropriated for that. ‘’Why is it that it is the same thing that the ministries have been doing that “SURE-P is putting their money into. Now, what is then the job of the ministries? If the ministries were that efficient, why are we having this backlog of these uncompleted projects?