Nigerians expecting any remarkable impact from Federal Government’s SURE programmed may once again be Waiting for Godot as the projects have truly been drastically trimmed down.Contrary to the impression given by FG that its new fangled Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme SURE-P will touch on critical variables like education and agriculture including irrigation projects new revelations have shown that there is no provision by the FG to boost education, railways,power projects and ICT among others through SURE any more.This was gleaned from the revised FGN budget for the project. Newsdiaryonline has obtained a copy of the 2012 FGN Budget –Addendum which has put FGN investible funds from Subsidy removal (assuming crude oil price of $90 pb ) at N180 billion.
This figure is far less than the N478.49bn which should have accrued to the federal government from the original subsidy withdrawal regime which Nigerians gallantly resisted.Glaring details of the original plan were revealed inadvertently at meeting of the PDP in Abuja during which the official document on SURE was circulated. President Jonathan upon sighting the document being circulated ordered its withdrawal because the regime’s expectations had been dashed by the anti fuel subsidy withdrawal protests which forced FG to still provide yet again for some fuel subsidy .The Punch reported that in the SURE document which Jonathan said should be withdrawn at a PDP function, “out of the total, N478.49bn would accrue to the Federal Government, while state governments and local governments would get N411.03bn and N203.23bn respectively.
According to the newspaper’s report“The document adds that N9.86bn would go to the Federal Capital Territory while N31.37bn would be transferred to the Derivation and Ecology, Development of Natural Resources and Stabilisation Fund.
“Among the items the Federal Government promised to spend money on were the construction of the East–West Road; construction of some roads and bridges in the six geo-political zones of the country; and the completion of rail routes.
“The government also listed some of the irrigation projects it planned to embark on, promising that the revitalisation of the irrigation projects would increase the local production of rice by over 400,000 tonnes per year.
“The withdrawn document further adds that government will contribute to the power sector reforms by improving generation capacity through hydro and coal power plants the Punch reported.
“The current subsidy regime in which fixed price is maintained irrespective of market realities has resulted in huge unsustainable subsidy burden,” the document says.
A copy of the revised SURE-P budget seen by Newsdiaryonline howeverindicates that all the major issues which the regime said subsidy removal would facilitate have been yanked off the list. (See the document). Even more ,there are suspicions in some circles that some of the projects now listed as those to be funded by SURE may have been part of the original FG budget for 2012.
Informed sources told Newsdiaryonline that there is even a full-fledged battle for the control of SURE –P and its funds.At least four groups have been identified in the power tussle.One of the groups is one named as core presidency topshops led by Nze Sullivan Akachukwu an adviser to the president on technical matters.Akachukwu who has been with the president right from his days as vice president has been described by an informed source as the ‘New Andy Uba of the villa’ wielding “very powerful influence in the presidency”.Uba was a powerful aide to former President Olusegun Obasanjo.As SA domestic affairs to Obasanjo . Uba’s influence was enormous.
Now Insiders say Akachukwu is walking Uba’s shoes.Ukachukwu is believed to be throwing his weight around.Said an informed source:“What is his business with SURE.They just usurp other peoples’ jobs.They exploit their closeness to Jonathan”.Listed in this core presidency group too is the Chief of Staff to the president Mr Mike Oghiadhomhe whose return to office after the re-election of Jonathan was seen as a measure of his far- reaching contacts within the system.
Secondly, sources say Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has the minister of finance and coordinating minister for the economy “has been struggling to have a handle on the programme as well”.Ordinarily, she should be in charge all things being equal as economists say, but in Nigeria all things are apparently always unequal. “I understand even the finance minister is not finding things funny”, an insider said within the week:a strange claim given the influence she is perceived to wield in the Jonathan presidency.
Of course the Christopher Kolade panel too is battling to assert itself in the scheme of things.Up till now, the committe has not come out to tell Nigerians what they really intend to do.One observer said there is a precedent in this regard.At least the Petroleum Trust Fund PTF which General Muhammadu Buhari led came out with an action plan. “It appears the committee is still unsure of its mandate and how to go about it yet.That is the impression we get from interactions with these people”,a source said.In fact, there is a lingering question:Who is in charge of SURE?
Yet there is what is called the Pate Group coming out of the Federal Executive Council members – seeking to have a say in the SURE affair. Muhammad Ali Pate ,the Minister of State, Health had been mandated by the council to work on safety net as the removal of subsidy issue became a stormy national issue.But it appears more powers have encroached upon the issue of subsidy funds leaving the FEC members looking in amazement about what is truly going on.
Not all the ministers are having their way as their pet projects have either been whittled down or some outrightly left out much to their embarassment .Many observed for instance that Okonjo Iweala told the international media how the issue of maternal health was dear to her.She must cout herself lucky that the project got N15.9 billion allocated to it in the revised budget,but it is certainly a far cry from the elaborate way she said the subsidy fund will take care of women.
Aside from the power tussle, “there is the worry about how the SURE budget will be funded.Some observers fear that the FG may end up borrowing to finance under the guise of SURE and this could add to our indebtedness..It is this fear that is making some suggest that the minister of finance be made to declare on a monthly basis how much money is in SURE account;how much money is in every project otherwise borrowed money may be used to fund SURE.We need to know how much has been released to each project and how much has been expended at every project site in order to track performance .It is also important to track which of these projects are already in the budget” a civil society activist said .
Equally, villa insider said “why people fear that that SURE money will fund subsidy and we may end up with higher prices to pay is because it appears government does not know how much petrol comes into Nigeria.No agency of government knows how much comes in and SURE money may go back paying for subsidy, a situation that may leave SURE projects unimplemented or they may be implemented with borrowed money.We know as at today that two auditors have been engaged to look into how much petrol comes to Nigeria”
Perhaps the best way to cast out doubts about SURE is for Nigerians to see concrete actions by government .When such will happen remains to be seen.