FCT Minister, Senator Bala Muhammed
By Onyebuchi Ezigbo
Opposition parties at the weekend took on the Federal Government over the 2013 budget of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) as well as the implementation of the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P).
The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) alleged that the Federal Government’s SURE-P was being abused, an act it said amounted to a gross violation of the country’s constitution and constituted an impeachable offence.
On the other hand, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) faulted the N253 billion budgetary proposal by the FCT Minister, Senator Bala Muhammed, which has been approved by President Goodluck Jonathan, adding that it contained questionable sectoral allocations.
Among the bizarre votes which CPC alleged were embedded in the budget are the N4 billion for the construction of the First Lady’s mission building;N5 billion for the rehabilitation of commercial sex workers; N7 billion for the construction of two city gates and N150 million for the renovation of the Vice-President’s guest houses in Asokoro.
In a statement yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said the Federal Government, controlled by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was now using part of the funds accruing to the programme to empower its cronies ahead of the 2015 general election instead of using it for the benefit of all Nigerians.
It warned SURE-P’s head, Dr Christopher Kolade, a respectable citizen, who is known for his transparency and integrity, not to allow the skewed and partisan implementation of the programme tarnish his hard-earned reputation.
‘’Ordinarily, SURE-P seems laudable as it is aimed at the empowerment of the citizens through job creation and infrastructure development, but in reality, PDP apparatchiks have hijacked it for the purpose of empowering only the party’s members. They have created State Implementation Committees (SICs) to handle the disbursement of SURE-P cash to party members as a strategy to arm them with a war chest ahead of the 2015 elections.
‘’To make matters worse, the PDP is denigrating the traditional institution by using traditional rulers in some states as the conduit to distribute SURE-P funds, ostensibly to empower Nigerians but in reality to put money in the pockets of PDP supporters,’’ ACN alleged.
ACN said only bodies created by law could disburse funds accruing to the federation account and warned that since the SICs are not recognised by the law, it was an illegal body and its operations a violation of the nation’s constitution.
‘’Money being spent on fuel subsidies was in the past taken out of the federation account, hence its is money that would have been
divided among the three tiers of government in accordance with the revenue allocation formula.
‘’But by virtue of the SURE-P arrangement, the funds are now available for the Federal Government to share freely by approving contracts, programmes and activities in accordance with its whims and caprices. The PDP-controlled Federal Government has now seen the accruing huge funds as money which may well be spent with special favour for its cronies and party affiliates.
‘’This is very dangerous for the polity as the funds are now been used to empower PDP and its points men to commence early preparations
for the 2015 elections. It risks undulating the playing field ahead of the 2015 general election, thus giving the ruling party an edge over the others,’’ it alleged.
ACN also warned that the abuse of SURE-P would create an avenue for corruption, since accountability and transparency were being sacrificed on the altar of political expediency.
In its reaction, CPC in a statement by the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Rotimi Fashakin, described as appalling the budgetary allocation of N4 billion for the office of the First Lady which it said is not recognised by the constitution.
He said a cursory view of the budgetary items showed the PDP-led Federal Government as not being prudent in the management of resources.
“At a time when many Nigerians have been rendered homeless by the anti-people stance of the PDP-led FCT administration, it is ludicrous to imagine that, rather than embarking on projects in alleviating the afflictions, this clueless regime has again shown its undisguised self-centeredness. Indeed, it beggars belief that a supposed democratic government can revel in such thoughtless insensitivity!
“It is unmistakably clear that whilst the nation’s rulers demand selflessness and sacrifice from Nigerians, they do not show example in walking the talk in preachment on patriotism!
“As a party, we are convinced beyond doubt that this PDP-led administration is incapable of judicious appropriation of scarce resources. It is for this reason that we call on the National Assembly to investigate this dubious budgetary approval and ensure reversal of this reported infra-dig, “ he said.