Nigeria’s minister of finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has dismissed as a lie, the claim by the Chairman of the Senate Ad-hoc Committee on Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P), Senator Abdul Ningi, that her ministry is withholding funds meant for SURE-P, thereby stalling projects. She said that contrary to claims that N500 billion was missing from the programme, no such amount of money was missing.
The Senate Ad-hoc Committee had earlier said that the Nigerian National Petroleum Cooperation (NNPC) was unable to account for N500 billion accruing to the programme.
She made it clear that the Ministry of Finance does not withhold funds belonging to SURE-P.
“We wish to categorically state that the Ministry of Finance does not withhold funds belonging to SURE-P. As soon as the SURE-P committee certifies any project for payment, money is released promptly through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).”
In a statement by the minister’s media adviser, Constance C. Ikokwu, the minister said that facts of the matter are as follows: N268.37 billion was appropriated for SURE-P in the 2014 Budget for various projects and programmes.
“A Committee under the Chairmanship of Gen. Martin Luther Agwai (rtd) set up by the President, reviews the implementation of various projects/programmes and makes recommendation for payment. Whatever is recommended is promptly paid directly into the accounts of contractors rather than through Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAS), within 5-7 working days.
“This process was put in place to fast-track payment to contractors operating different programmes under SURE-P. It is after the committee has visited and certified that the job is satisfactorily done that payment is made. The Ministry of Finance has absolutely nothing to do with the certification process and does not delay payments.
“The public should also know that as of August 2014, N113 billion has been expended on various SURE-P projects and programmes, with a balance of N80 billion available. It is therefore, not true that programmes are being hampered due to lack of funds. The track record shows that all claims that have been certified receive prompt payment.
“It is disappointing that Senator Ningi has continued to peddle wrong information in spite of repeatedly being presented with the facts. The Ministry of Finance hereby reiterates its preparedness to work with the Senator to achieve the stated objectives of SURE-P for the benefit of the public.
“We are sure that Nigerians want to see programmes/projects that follow due process and are executed in a transparent manner. The records are there to prove that indeed this is the case.
The Ministry of Finance strongly supports SURE-P for prudent utilisation of its funds as promised by government and we are against any profligate use of these resources.” [myad]