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SURE-P: Petroleum Ministry Has Something to Hide, Says Senate Panel

The Senate Ad hoc Committee on the Subsidy Reinvestment Empowerment Programme (SURE-P) yesterday read a riot act to the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, accusing her and the ministry of shady deals in the administration of SURE-P funds.
 
This came as the Committee on Power, Steel Development and Metallurgy equally queried the controversial N3.85 billion management contract awarded by the federal government to a Canadian firm, Manitoba.
 
The Chairman of the committee, Senator Abdul Ningi, accused the minister of gross disregard to various invitations from the committee, saying she had continued to behave as if she is above the law.
 
Ningi also alleged that from available records at the committee's disposal, there is a range of inconsistencies in the account of SURE-P funds as presented by the ministry, insinuating that the situation is part of the reason the minister has continued to stay away.
 
He threatened that Senate would take a decisive action against her and the ministry in no distant time. 
 
"I thought we have waited patiently, graciously for the minister. I think that the Ministry of Petroleum Resources is the foundation of SURE -P and we see that they have something to hide and we strongly believe that the documentation that we have received from the Ministry Petroleum Resources, embarrasses us as a committee.
 
"Simple arithmetic and statistics is found all through their presentation. There are various contradictions of the statistics provided. When we found out, we said the programme was not being run transparently enough for Nigerians to believe that this is a programme that comes as  democracy dividend.
 
Meanwhile, the Committee on Power, Steel Development and Metallurgy also expressed displeasure over perceived handling of N16 billion rural electrification project.
 
According to the terms of agreement with Manitoba, the firm would serve as the manager of Electricity Transmission Company of Nigeria (ETCN), one of the successor companies of the unbundled Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).
 
At a meeting with the Minister of Power, Professor Chinedu Nebo,  and management of Manitoba yesterday, the committee accused the power minister of failing to provide contract papers on the $24 million contract that is expected to run for three years.
The panel also asked Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Manitoba, Don Priestman, who was also present at the meeting to provide comprehensive list  of Nigerian companies involved in the contract to the committee today.
 
Also Speaking on the matter, Senator Chris Ngige who said the $24 million Manitoba deal was meant to improve electricity transmission in Nigeria, regretted that the deal has not translated to availability of power supply in various households.
But Manitoba's CEO submitted that the situation "cannot be turned around overnight," adding that "there are no magic wand to do that."
 
The panel also queried perceived failure to disburse N16 billion approved for Rural Electrification Agency (REA) meant for electrification projects across rural communities in Nigeria in accordance with provisions of the Electric Sector Reforms Act (EPSR 2005).
 
Against this background, Aduda threatened to lead the campaign for the sack of REA Managing Director, Kenneth Achugbu, over alleged non-implementation of rural electrification projects which he said had suffered a series of setback including N5.2 billion scam that led to its initial closure in 2009.
 
But Nebo told the panel that a little over N6 billion of the approved N16 billion had been released to REA, with a promise that the balance would be released this month.
He also said another $1.7 billion expected to be realised from the sale of National Integrated Power Plants (NIPP) would be diverted to strengthen Nigeria's electricity transmission capacity.
 
He argued that the sale of power plants by the federal government was transparent and in observance of best practices as he described the current power privatisation exercise as the "largest in Africa" and "the biggest in the world."

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