SENATORS yesterday urged President Muhammadu Buhari to investigate all expenditures made by former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration under the Subsidy Re-investment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P).
The lawmakers specifically urged the President to ensure that every kobo spent on SURE-P and other poverty alleviation programmes is accounted for.
The Senate, however, rejected a proposal that Buhari should immediately begin the payment of N5,000 monthly stipend to most vulnerable Nigerians — one of the campaign promises of the ruling All Progresives Congress (APC).
The SURE-P probe resolution followed an additional prayer by Senator Babajide Omoworare (APC Osun East) on a motion for “Urgent need to curb the soaring rate of unemployment in Nigeria.”
Senator Bassey Albert Akpan (Akwa Ibom North East) sponsored the motion.
After adoption of the main prayers of the motion, Senator Philip Aduda (FCT) raised additional prayer, asking the Senate to urge the Federal Government to fulfill one of its numerous campaign promises.
Aduda said the Senate should ask”the Federal Government to immediately commence the payment of the N5,000 monthly stipend it promised during the election campaign.”
Senate Minority Leader Godswill Akpabio promptly seconded the additional prayer.
Senator Omoworare raised the Senate Standing Order 53(6) to oppose the additional prayer.
This led to bickering between senators of the majority APC and opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Senate President Bukola Saraki intervened after about 22 minutes of argument to calm what could have degenerated into a rowdy session.
Saraki mandated Aduda to repeat his additional prayer.
Aduda did. When Saraki put the additional prayer to voice vote, he ruled that the ‘nays’ had it.
Saraki gave Omoworare the floor to raise his additional prayer.
Omoworare said: “I want to move that the immediate past government be made to account for every penny spent on SURE-P and other poverty alleviation programmes. I so move, Mr. President.”
Saraki put the question to voice vote. APC Senators responded with a thunderous “aye” while PDP Senators kept silent when Saraki said those opposed should say “nay.”
Akpan had observed in his lead debate that the latest figures of Nigeria’s soaring unemployment situation by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBC) has increased to 8.2 per cent in the second quarter of 2015 from 7.5 percent in the first quarter of 2015 and 6.4 per cent in the last quarter of 2014.
He added that “The latest statistics as released by the Bureau reveals that economically active population, or working age comprising Nigerians within the age range of 15 to 64, is now 103.5 million, increasing from 102.8 million in the last quarter of 2015, while the unemployed labour force now stands at 74 million Nigerian youths. This is truly a calamity,” he noted.
The lawmaker expressed concern that about N2 million has been expended on intervention funds by the Federal Government to boost the productivity of various sectors of the economy in the last five years without any commensurate impact on employment generation.
He noted: “With a projected population growth of 200 million by 2020, we project an unemployed population of about 100 million Nigerians or more. Where lies the economic future of this country?
“If the unemployed youths of this country are effectively engaged in gainful employment, terrorism, kidnapping, armed robbery and other socio-economic and cultural vices will be drastically reduced as the saying goes, ‘an idle mind is the devil’s workshop.”.
The Senate urged the Federal Government and sub-national governments to intensify efforts on employment generation activities.
The Senate also urged the Federal Government to take steps to boost entrepreneurial developments and employment capabilities as well as integrate entrepreneurial, savings and investment culture and education into the educational curriculum at appropriate levels.
The Senate President charged lawmakers not to play party politics with unemployment issues.
He said: “We should stay above party lines on this issue that is so important. We have seen growth in the last years but this has not translated to employment.
“Government alone cannot do it, the private sector has a role and the enabling environment must be created.”
The Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P) was created in 2012 following the nationwide protests that greeted the cut in petroleum subsidy by the Jonathan adnminstration.
The programme was driven by the resources that accrued to the Federal Government as savings from the partial removal of fuel subsidy. Billlions of dollars was voted for the body.
The objectives according to the government are:
To mitigate the immediate impact of the partial petroleum subsidy removal on the population by laying a foundation for the successful development of a national safety net programme that targets the poor and vulnerable on a continuous basis. This applies to both the direct and indirect effects of subsidy withdrawal.
To accelerate economic transformation through investments in critical infrastructural projects, so as to drive economic growth and achieve the Vision 20:2020.
To promote investment in the petroleum downstream sector.