By Henry Umoru & Joseph Erunke
ABUJA — THE National Assembly, yesterday, called on President Goodluck Jonathan to immediately change the present status of the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme, SURE-P, to a Commission.
According to the Joint Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Petroleum (Downstream), it has become imperative to effect the change of the programme to a commission against the backdrop that the SURE-P’s assignment was just intervention on existing projects, adding that people engaged by the agency may be sent back to the streets when it concludes its job.
Speaking when Chairman of SURE-P, Dr Christopher Kolade, appeared before the committee to defend the agency’s budget, Chairman of the Joint Committee, Senator Magnus Abe, PDP, Rivers South-East however, queried the Chairman of SURE-P for spending N27 billion, N4 billion and N2.2 billion on Youth Empowerment Programme, Mass Transit Scheme and Secretariat services in its 2012 appropriation with little job done.
The National Assembly also picked holes with the N75 million spent on local tours and travels in four months to inspect its ongoing projects across the country by the SURE-P.
According to Abe, a situation where such amount was spent on tours was not unacceptable to Nigerians and the National Assembly, adding that the agency deviated from its original mandate.
Kolade, who appeared before the National Assembly Joint Committee for the second time to defend SURE-P’s 2013 budget, however requested for time to bring evidence of spending before Friday, just as his explanations could, however, not convince the lawmakers on the rationalization for the expenditure in 2012 budget.
Reacting to an answer that about 10,000 jobs were created by a member of the SURE-P committee, Senator Abe said, “I don’t think this your explanation will go anywhere, you collected N27 billion and you say you are going to create 50,000 jobs. I think you need to have a document that actually explains how the lives of those 50,000 will be transformed and how you are going to attain from point A to B.”
According to him, a situation in the past where of N10,000 was given out to unemployed youths across the country was not the best, adding, “We have done that before in this country, like the issue of poverty alleviation using N10 billion was brought to pay people.
“If we want to help unemployment in Nigeria we must design a programme that actually put something into the lives of the people that is sustainable and lasting, to now share N10,000 to people there is no guarantee as to which people will get it.
‘’Let me also say that there is still a few questions hanging and to remind you of your commitment that you will provide these details by tomorrow, given your history with this joint committee hearing and the last time you made commitment you made it on time we therefore decided to take your words for it and therefore with respect to your age and status in the country so we will hope we will get those details tomorrow.
Also contributing, Chairman, House Committee on Petroleum, Downstream, Hon. Peterside Dakuku, said, “I don’t there is anything that you will say now that will convince anybody. “Please just get the documents across to us, if eventually the documentation convince us that we will be able to sustain that proposal if it does not we will move the funds elsewhere where it will have and add value.
“I’m sure that this is one hearing that Nigerians are very and will be interested in, and to a very reasonable extent I wish to commend the candour and the transparency of the members’ as much as possible open up the processes of SURE-P to proper legislative scrutiny.”