From ADETUTU FOLASADE-KOYI, Abuja
The Federal Government has voted N12 billion to complete the Second Niger Bridge, which is captured in the 2013 budget of the Subsidy Re-Investment Programme (SURE-P). But the National Assembly Joint Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream) wanted the SURE-P scrapped. Senators and members of the House of Representatives argued that establishment of SURE-P was a vote-of-no-confidence in Federal Government’s ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).
The lawmakers contended during SURE-P’s budget defence of its N273.522 billion saying it was a duplication of existing work being done by various government agencies. They also queried the N2 billion budget allocated to SURE-P for consultancy and logistics. But SURE-P Chairman, Christopher Kolade, urged the lawmakers to direct their comments to the Presidency. A breakdown of the SURE-P budget submitted to the joint committee showed that the Federal Government intended to spend N12 billion to construct the Second Niger Bridge.
A total of N5 billion was budgeted for 2012 while another N7 billion would be spent in 2013. The SURE-P board budgeted N1 billion each for 2012 and 2013 fiscal years and N21.70 billion had been allocated for augmentation (section I-IV) of the East-West Road. Although the project was tagged: Ongoing; another N42.270 billion had been allocated for the road in 2013. In the new budget, SURE-P said it allocated N22.50 billion to the Benin-Ore-Shagamu Road, which was an ongoing project. In 2013, another N13 billion would be spent.
To complete the Port-Harcourt Maiduguri Road, SURE-p would spend N35 billion in 2013 while it noted that N36 billion had been spent for 2012. The contentious Abuja-Lokoja Road was allocated N25 billion in 2012 while the same N25 billion would be spent in 2013. Altogether, SURE-P said its budget was N180 billion for 2012 while it would spend N273.522 billon in 2013.
First to fire the salvo was a member of the committee, Senator Ibrahim Musa who asked for clarification on the essence of the SURE-P, just as he insisted that the core mandate of the agency was a mere duplication of some ongoing projects of the Federal Government. Peter Akpatason took it up from there. He deplored the duplication of duties with the establishment of SURE-P.
He said: “SURE-P is all about identifying existing projects that are having funding deficit and they set up their own committee that interfaces with ministry officials who are in charge of these projects with a view to agreeing on such projects they will bring their intervention programmes to support. In all of these, you will see that they are not in any way financing any new projects; they only put money into not existing projects.
Vice Chairman of the Senate Petroleum Resources Committee (Downstream), Danjuma Goje called for the outright scrapping of SURE-P, arguing that the committee could not co-exist with ministries because they were doing the same duties already captured in the national budget. Goje said: “SURE-P is an indirect loss of confidence in the federal ministries. Ministries are still awarding contracts and some agencies as well. I see confusion somewhere along the line.
“It doesn’t make any sense for somebody to award a job and for somebody else to come and see and make payments. Something is wrong somewhere in this set-up. “Otherwise, why would you award contract on the East-West Road based on old design, going through all the processes of the ministry, going before the Tenders Board and everything, only for another body to go round now and make payment. “It doesn’t add up. Something is wrong somewhere; one of the two bodies must give way, either SURE-P or the ministries but the two cannot go together because they are doing the same job. If you look at your budget, N1 billion for SURE-P board; this is just for you, and in 2013, you have another N1 billion.
I see SURE-P as another way, or the Nigerian way of spending money on overheads (yet) we are talking of spending over 70 percent of our revenue on recurrent expenditure. “My submission is that something must be done about this SURE-P; you either stay as a body and abolish the various ministries of Transport, Works, etc and give to SURE-P, or take away their responsibilities and give to SURE-P so that you can employ your own consultants, design the projects and the budget.
But you cannot co-exist. It’s abnormal.” In his response, Kolade said: “It’s not the decision of the SURE-P board, the decision lies with the Federal Government.” Joint Committee Chairman, Senator Magnus Abe allowed the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) time to submit details of the 15 kobo it collected on each litre of PMS sold in the country.