SURE-P committee Chairman, Dr. Christopher Kolade
By Senator Iroegbu
The House of Representatives has called for the restructuring of the mandate of the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P), and in addition ensure its financial autonomy.
This call was made over the weekend when the House Committee on Petroleum Downstream Sector paid an oversight visit to the SURE-P Committee to keep abreast on what is going on with the fund and determine if they are delivering on the Federal Government promises.
The Committee expressed concern that the members of the public are loosing confidence on the ability of SURE-P to deliver on those intervention projects, which they said is already being handled by Ministries, adding that it amounts to paying for inefficiency and corruption.
The lawmakers noted that Nigerians are growing impatient to see the intervention projects come to fruition, but blamed it on lack of financial independence and autonomy from the implementing ministries of the Federal Government.
According to the Chairman of the House Committee, Dakuku Peterside, the SURE-P mandate is neither transparent nor independent enough to deliver on those promises that will impact on the lives of Nigerians through the partial removal of fuel subsidy.
It could be recalled that Federal Government set up SURE-P Committee to apply the funds saved from the partial removal of fuel subsidy, on those critical projects that will impact on the lives of Nigerians.
The Peterside-led House Committee has however cast doubt on the ability of the committee to effectively execute those critical projects based on the current arrangement
The Committee Chairman and his members wondered why the body has not been able to fully utilise the N120 billion, which it has drawn from its current budget of N180 billion, and domiciled at CBN account and managed by the Ministry of Finance and Budget Office.
He called for the SURE-P committee to be independent of Ministries Department and Agencies (MDAs) just like the defunct Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF).
Peterside however urged Nigerians to be patient with the Committee, while promising that the House will seek ways to ensure that their job are made effective to impact on peoples lives
He said: "Before they were inaugurated the government had identified areas of intervention and had made to mind where those finds would be deployed to for intervention but we sincerely believed that it could have been done diffidently.
"We however have to look that up again and take it up at our Committee level and of course make a proposal to the House".
"To assess SURE-P from my perspective of the short period they have been in existence, one might have a different impression and we have to look at it from the perceptive of their mandate."
"If we look at their mandate against their performance so far, you will come to the same conclusion that they have done well. But what we are saying is that there is something fundamentally wrong with that mandate and that mandate should change. The process should change," he stated.
"At our Committee level, we will look at the mandate and it's process critically to see whether the structure is giving us the desired result or not, whether it is the best for the people and whether it is meeting the aspirations of the generality of our people. There are questions that must be answered," he noted.
On the legality of the SURE-P that was raised by some of the lawmakers, Peterside pointed out that the President has the power to put in place mechanisms to actualize his missions and SURE-P is one of such.
"We realize that SURE-P is he of such vehicles established to actualize the objective of channelling the funds realized from the partial removal of fuel subsidy to the amelioration of the plight of Nigerians," he said.
Responding, the Chairman of the SURE-P committee, Dr. Christopher Kolade said that they have disbursed N37 billion since July to contractors handling various intervention projects.
Koalde however disclosed that they have also processed and on verge of disbursing further N20 billion before the end of this month to bring it to N57 billion total sum being paid.
He also informed that government had identified areas of intervention for the programme domiciled in the implementation offices of the MDAs.
The former Cadbury Chairman however disclosed that part of the reasons for the inability of the programme to fully utilize its funds had to do with the process of settling contractors handling the projects to ensure they are satisfactorily done before payment is made.
"We have to comprehensively verify job done by the contractors before we pay and that is part of the reason why we haven't been able to go faster than where we are now," he said.
"We want the fund to affect the lives of Nigerians positively in line with its mandate, so we do not want to pay for what we cannot confirm," he added.