Thursday, 25 August 2016

How we used SURE-P funds for 2015 elections — ex-Governor’s aide

FILE PHOTO: Former Finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala laying the budget before National Assembly Lawmakers
Nasiru Ingawa, a former special adviser on SURE-P to the former governor of Katsina State, Ibrahim Shema, said on Wednesday that part of the State SURE-P funds were used for campaign for the 2015 election.

Mr. Ingawa disclosed this in Katsina during cross-examination before the Katsina State Judicial Commission of Inquiry chaired by Justice Muhammad Surajo.

Mr. Nasir told the commission that a total of N5.7 billion was withdrawn in cash and he was among the signatories to the SURE-P accounts during the period.

He said, “Shema used to tell me: ‘Nasiru, bring the money I approved for you in a memo to my house in the night, we are going to use it for politics.’”

According to him, the former governor made it clear that “All purchases in the department will be made directly and in cash without going through the tenders’ board”.

He said the former governor would instruct him to take the cash directly to the permanent secretary, Government House.

Mr. Ingawa told the commission that he had always warned the ex-governor against bypassing the tenders board.

He also explained that some of the SURE-P programmes were partially implemented while others were not implemented at all.

He cited an example of the empowerment programme in which cash was to be given to 200 indigents in each of the 34 local government areas of the state as one of those partially implemented programmes.

He, however, noted that the actual amount given to each person was N20,000.

“For the programmes that were partially implemented, half of the money went to the programme, while the remaining amount went to the governor,’’ Nasiru said.

Former Governor Shema could not be reached to comment for this story on Thursday morning. Several telephone calls to his known telephone number failed to connect.

The judicial commission was set up by Gov. Aminu Masari to investigate alleged misappropriation of SURE-P funds during the tenure of Mr. Shema.

The Chairman of the commission adjourned continuation of cross-examination until Aug. 25.

Former President Goodluck Jonathan had on February 13, 2012, established the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme [SURE-P] to ensure proper management of the funds that accrued to the Federal Government from the partial withdrawal of subsidy.

But the programme, which accumulated and disbursed several billions, was soon dogged by corruption, political manipulation and controversy.

As at November 2013, N800 billion had accumulated to the funds with 41 per cent of the funds kept by the federal government and 59 per cent going to states, local governments and the ecological fund.

The pioneer chairman of the 20-man steering committee of the Fund resigned in November 2013, citing advanced age at the time.

But he later opened up on a television programme, saying he resigned because the programme’s operations were becoming tainted with corruption and politics, thereby losing its credibility.

He said some officials of the Jonathan administration practised “something that was lower than the transparency”, expected of an interventionist agency like SURE-P.

He said he met resistance when he raised the issues as he was overruled by some powerful forces within the administration.

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