- Pays N166bn subsidy claims
By Ochiaka Ugwu and Etuka Sunday
The Chairman of Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P) Gen. Martin Luther Agwai (rtd) has said the fall in crude oil price may lead to the scrapping of the intervention agency by the federal government.
Agwai made the statement while responding to questions by newsmen at a Correspondents’ Dinner organised by SURE-P Communications Sub-Committee in Abuja. He said that the oil shortfall in the international market has depleted the budget of the agency fearing that it may not be able to work appropriately owing to paucity of funds.
The former Chief of Army Staff lamented the cut in the agency’s allocation in the 2015 proposed budget saying that Nigerians should not expect them to work the way they worked in 2014.
The Kaduna born general warned that the agency may cease to exist if the situation did not change for the better.
His words: “The big thing is the issue of shortfall. The oil price is low. When the coordinating minister for Economy and Minister of Finance presented the proposed budget to National Assembly, the SURE-P budget was N102 billion for next year. I think this year alone, roads and bridges got N104.2 billion”.
“You can see that what only roads and bridges got this year is more than the whole SURE-P budget for next year. It is a clear signal to all of us in this country that SURE-P next year will never perform like this year. If the trend should continue I don’t know whether there will be SURE-P after next year” he said.
Agwai who maintained that their watchword was to offer probity, transparency and accountability said the agency operates an open administration that enables people to know how they do their projects.
“SURE-P operates an open administration. Our spending is always made public. We got about N268.3 billion this year. I don’t want to bore anybody down. I would have told you programme by programme. For example, works, roads and bridges took us this year N104.2 billion. There is nothing to hide about our budget or how much we get”.
Agwai also stated that SURE-P does not initiate project but only get direction from the federal government on the programme to execute.
“On how we decide on our project, we don’t have such schedule. It is the responsibility of the President and his executive council. They decide on which programme we will embark on”.
He chided those who complained that their areas were still lacking federal presence upon the claims of spreading SURE-P projects by the committee, urging them to hold their state and local government responsible as they collect 54 percent of the SURE-P funds.
“People who complain that they don’t have federal government presence in their place should know that it is not only federal government that has SURE-P fund. Federal government gets 41 percent of the fund. All the 36 states including FCT and the local governments get 54 percent of SURE-P money every month. It is being published by some of your papers. The coordinating minister for the economy publishes it in newspapers. So, if the local government or state government have not done anything from their own SURE-P money and you keep on calling federal government. I think something is fundamentally wrong” he concluded.
Speaking earlier, the convener of communication SURE-P committee and the National President of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) Mr. Mohammed Garba urged journalists to always be objective in their reportage by sticking to the ethics of the profession.
Meanwhile, the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) yesterday disclosed that the federal government has paid the outstanding subsidy claims of N166 billion to oil marketers.
PPPRA, a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation also added that the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani-Alison Madueke has approved the release of First Quarter (Q1) 2015 allocation to marketers for the importation of petroleum products into the country.
A statement issued by the agency said the early release is in furtherance of the Minister’s resolve at ensuring continuous and robust products supply in the system, aimed at sustaining the serenity in the downstream industry.
The Executive Secretary of the PPPRA, Mr. Farouk Ahmed, while calling on motorists not to engage in panic buying, assured that, “there is ample supply of petroleum products in the country and discharges and truck-out had continued in spite of the holidays and the festive periods”. The PPPRA further explained that apart from facilitating an improved national Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) supply and stock build-up, the latest effort is also to enable marketers make adequate preparations towards products sourcing and importation early in the New Year.
The PPPRA attributed all the proactive initiatives put in place at ensuring products availability across the nation, to the support and direction of the Minister of Petroleum Resources. The Agency on their part, is committed to prompt processing of documents for all imported products duly brought into the country, says Mr. Ahmed.