By Henry Umoru
Nigerian lawmakers rise up against proliferation of government agencies. SURE-P, a government initiative to ameliorate the effects of the controversial increase in fuel prices is the first object of fury.
The events of Wednesday, 28th November and Monday 3rd December, 2012 are not ones that principal officers of the Dr. Christopher Kolade led Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme, SURE-Party would like to remember for a long time.
On those two days when Dr. Kolade who is the chairman of the programme led his officers to appear before the joint Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Petroleum, Downstream to defend the 2013 budget of SURE-P.
On the first day the lawmakers immediately raised objections about the perceived illegality of the body and as a drain pipe on the country’s economy. They also alleged duplication of projects as the members called on the president to scrap the programme.
The focus of the fury of the lawmakers was that the agency was involved in duplication of activities already carried out by existing Ministries, Department and Agencies, MDAs.
The SURE-P, it would be recalled was established in January, 2012 by President Jonathan after the subsidy from Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) was partially removed.
The legislators also told the Chairman that the SURE-P has not helped the youths in the area of employment as the claim of provision of jobs for 360,000 youths cannot be justified.
The reservation by the legislators was triggered when they were told that in its 2013 budget proposal SURE-P expected an inflow of N180 billion to add to its N93.52 billion unspent balance from 2012 budget to carry out its projects in the 2013 fiscal year.
The agency which realized N135 billion up till the end of October, 2012 raked in N15 billion monthly.
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 was 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.
Not satisfied with the performance of the SURE-P, Chairman of the joint Committee, Senator Magnus Abe expressed dissatisfaction with what he claimed as the duplication of projects by the programme.
“Our fear 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,” Abe told Kolade.
Senator Danjuma Goje, PDP, Gombe Central and member representing Akoko-Edo Federal Constituency, Peter Akpantason reiterated the matter of the duplication of projects.
At the end of the first day appearance, the Committee members sent Dr. Kolade and his men to come back on Monday December 3, 2012 with documents on what was spent, how it was spent and on what.
Dr. Kolade did not disappoint the lawmakers as he truly appeared to continue from where he stopped the previous week.
The lawmakers were particularly uncomfortable with the N2.2 billion claimed to have been spent on secretariat services between July and October 2012.
The climax of the grievance was the recommendation that President Goodluck Jonathan must immediately change the present status of SURE-P to a Commission because its assignment was just intervention on existing projects and that people engaged by the agency may be sent back on the streets when it concludes its job.