SURE-P Chairman Committee, Dr. Christopher Kolade
By Senator Iroegbu
The Federal Government has expended a cumulative sum of N105 billion for the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P) over the period of seven months it was set up as an intervention organ charged with the responsibility to oversee and ensure effective and timely implementation of projects to be funded with savings accruing from the subsidy removal from the petroleum downstream sector.
However, the nationwide public mass transit buses, which government bandied as one of the measures adopted to mitigate the high cost of transport fares has not been purchased contrary to the wide held belief that some of the new buses commissioned in various states and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) are part of the subsidy reinvestment regime
The Chairman of SURE-P Committee, Dr. Christopher Kolade disclosed this Thursday in Abuja while answering questions from journalists on the activities of the body to actualize the projects promised by the Federal Government as the benefits of fuel subsidy removal policy.
Kolade explained that the Federal Government, as can be verified by the monthly media publications of the Ministry of Finance, releases the sum of N15 billion monthly as funds to be utilized for various projects within the scope of the SURE-P.
He further stated that the total sum of N180 billion is expected to be approved for the programme before the end of the year but explained that not all the funds being granted for the scheme have been released.
“If you are careful to look at the media publications by the Federal Ministry of Finance, you can see that N15 billion is being approved monthly by the Federal Government and if you do the calculation it amounts to N105 billion in seven months excluding August but in the spending the payments will not be approved until projects have been verified," he said.
He also revealed that progress are being made at various ongoing works being handled by the six sub-committees of SURE-P including Maternal and Child Health, Community Service, Women and Youth Employment, Infrastructural Development, Public Works and Vocational Training.
The committee chairman, however, noted that while they are poised to ensure that the promises of Federal Government are achieved for the benefit of the public, which he said is visible in the number of projects they have been able to commence but payment will not be made until they are satisfied with the work being done.
He said: “The projects have to reach a certain extent and be verified and certified by the team from our various sub-committees before we can commit the funds.
“I think there is no doubt in our ability to commit funds, and I know we can commit N180 billion before the end of the year.
“We are gradually making progress and that’s the message we have for Nigerians. In the four key component areas of our interventions a measurable progress is being achieved. The areas include: Social Safety Net, Infrastructure Development, Water and Agriculture Projects and Petroleum/NNPC project. Due to the present budget structure, we are delivering in the Social Safety net and Infrastructure Components areas in 2012," he added.
It would be recalled that following the protests that trailed the fuel subsidy removal in the New Year, the Federal Government introduced SURE-P and inaugurated its Committee headed by Kolade on February 13, 2012 with a mandate to spend the funds on impactful areas such as transport, health and roads to help mitigate sufferings that might be incurred by the citizens.
Meanwhile, the heads of various sub-committees including Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, Comrade Peter Eselle, and Mr. Audu Maikori amongst others gave a break-down of their budgets and various works-in-progress.
They explained that the programme, which is effectively operational in six out of the 14 pilot states have gulped N3.9 billion for you empowerment, while Mass Transit Scheme have the sum N8.9 billion allotted to it resting at the Bank Of Infrastructure while N5 billion is being expended for various rail projects in the country.
Speaking on the rail project, the Head of the Sub-Committee, Mr. Chike Okogwu explained that the sum of N2.3 billion for the Abuja-Kaduna rail line modernization project, which is being handled by the CECC, while the N2.2 billion Port Harcourt-Markudi rehabilitation project is being carried out by ESSA West Africa Limited; and works at the N383 million worth Jebba-Kano project is being done by Costain West Africa Limited.
Okogwu also explained that contrary to some various media reports and government posturing, no bus has been bought and released under the SURE-P committee.
“I can assure you that our buses are not yet running as the money is still domiciled at the Bank of Infrastructure”, he said.
Explaining further, the Secretary of the Committee, who is also the Special Adviser to the President on Technical Matters, Nze Akachukwu Nwankwo said that the buses purported to have been from the SURE-P are various intervention projects adopted by state governments probably in line with the subsidy scheme.
Nwankwo said that the plan for the mass transit buses are very much on as money has been released to the Bank of Infrastructure, which will in-turn disburse it to competent hands to purchase the buses for the purpose it was meant for.
He said: “SURE-P has released N8.9 billion into the infrastructural bank who now releases it to buy buses. There is no movement of money for a bus (driver) in the street but there is a release of fund to bank, which now releases the funds to competent hands and operators.