The Senate Special Ad hoc Committee on the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (Sure-P), chaired by Senator Abdul Ningi, yesterday disclosed that the sum of N500 billion out of the N800 billion that the programme got since inception is unaccounted for.
However, the committee’s attempt to hold a hearing with the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, and Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mallam Sanusi Lamido, failed to hold as both didn’t appear nor did they send representatives.
The senators, nonetheless, vowed to get to the root of the issue and proceeded to address the press at 3.30 pm when they didn’t see anybody.
A member of the committee, Senator Kabir Marafa (APC/Zamfara Central), said when Sure-P was inaugurated, it was to receive N32 for each litre of petrol consumed in Nigeria.
“We requested clarification from the NNPC on the quantity of fuel that has been imported from the time the programme started and when it started, and NNPC replied our committee that it started in January 2012 to September 2013. That will give you about 21 months.
“They also gave us a breakdown of the quantity per month, and when you compute it, it comes to roughly 25 billion litres consumed in this 21 months. So when you multiply 25 billion litres by N32 we will get about N800 billion.
“But the Sure-P team told us when they got here that they have so far collected about N300 billion at N15 billion flat rate per month.
“Therefore the amount involved is N500 billion missing. That is what we wanted NNPC to tell us because they are the ones importing this fuel,” he said.
The inability of the heads of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and CBN to appear without any formal excuse irked the committee members as each took time to lambast both Alison-Madueke and Sanusi.
Senator Ningi said the non-appearance of the duo despite the letters of invitation sent since October 31 showed there was lack of transparency in the way the Sure-P fund is being handled.
He added that the hearing became possible due to the dissatisfaction Nigerians have with the programme and that the non-appearance of the minister and CBN governor showed that the programme was being undermined from the inside in an undemocratic way.
According to him, the snubbing of the committee smacked of crass impunity and disregard for constituted authority by agents of the presidency.
“What this tells me is that the Sure-P which is a cardinal programme of this government is being undermined from the inside. I have no doubt in my mind that the non-appearance further confirms the reservation of Nigerians of the secrecy in the implementation of the SURE programme.
“Part of the mandate of this committee is the unbundling and opening up of the programme so that Nigerians can know how the programme is being managed.
“But today, we are once again confronted by the anti-democratic forces; people who, unfortunately, fail to understand what the system provides for the legislative, judiciary and the executive to each do its work.
“A minister doesn’t make a ministry. When we send an invitation, if the minister can’t come, there is the permanent secretary or a director that can come. It is when the permanent secretary is unable to answer our questions that we will compel the minister to appear. That is what makes democracy different from military rule.
“We have sat here glued to our seats for one-and-a-half hours waiting for the arrival of officials of both the ministry and CBN. We have letters that we have sent to them but they have refused to turn up,” he said.
He then went on to say that the committee was gathering evidence on the implementation of Sure-P and if they are not satisfied with the programme they would end it.
“The National Assembly cannot continue giving legitimacy through appropriation of our common inheritance when the few individuals who run it cannot come to give an account on how the monies that accrue to the programme is being utilized,” he said.
However, when the committee members were about to leave the senate hearing room, a delegation from the CBN, comprising three deputy directors came in, but were told to go back and wait for another invitation from the committee.
Information from This Day was used in this report.