Day SURE-P Officials Protested In Lagos Over Unpaid Salaries | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Day SURE-P Officials Protested In Lagos Over Unpaid Salaries

Posted: May 9, 2015 at 8:40 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Akinwunmi King,  Lagos

 

When the Subsidy Re-Investment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P) was set up by the Federal Government of Nigeria, part of its aims, apart from provision of infrastructure, was to provide jobs for the unemployed youths in the country.

SUREP protesters

SUREP protesters

The reduction of the fuel subsidy by the Federal Government in January 2012, as a deliberate policy aimed at conserving and maximising the oil wealth of Nigeria, generated cries of discontent, fear and worry amongst Nigerians which led to a national strike. In response to the cries of Nigerians, the President came up with the initiative called SURE-P, aimed at reinvesting the Federal Government’s share of the savings arising from the reduction of subsidies on petroleum products into programmes and initiatives that would go a long way to ease the pain of subsidy removal and create a better life for Nigerians.

Sure-P idea, therefore ensures that the Federal Government’s part of the savings from fuel subsidy removal or reduction is applied on critical infrastructure projects and social safety net programmes that will directly ameliorate the sufferings of Nigerians and mitigate the impact of subsidy removal.

SURE-P’s vision as posted on its website read “Our Committee will offer probity, transparency and accountability. We are confident that our creator will bless our efforts as we seek to play our part in showing the world that Nigerian can, indeed live up to their image as good people, citizens of a great nation… Nothing less will be acceptable. Indeed Nigeria deserves nothing less.”

In November 2013, the Federal Government through SURE-P approved the sum of N15 billion for the payment of allowances to 50,000 unemployed graduates expected to be employed under the Graduate Internship Scheme (GIS) of the programme.

Head of Operations of GIS, Akubo Adegbe, then, disclosed that each of the successful graduates would earn a monthly stipend of N25, 000 under the programme. According to him, the graduates would be attached to available firms, non-governmental organisations and some selected government agencies for a one year internship in the state, adding that the scheme was aimed at availing participants with requisite experience in their various disciplines preparatory to securing jobs.

In November 2013, the pioneer chairman of SURE-P, Christopher Kolade resigned out of frustration by the spate of rumours trailing his tenure as the chairman despite his efforts to educate Nigerians on the true position of things.

According to a source, Kolade, who is a former chairman of Cadbury and former Nigeria’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, feels he has been ‘messed up’ and should take his leave.

Kolade’s grouse was hinged on the negation of his terms of accepting the job in the first place, which is non-interference in operational implementation and in reporting structure.

Sources also claimed that Kolade was frustrated by the continuous political interference in his operations by the Vice President, Namadi Sambo. “Dr. Kolade thinks that the vice president has become the key interfering mechanism in the sure-p mandate at this point,” a source said.

It was learnt that Sambo got himself into the mix through a mechanism he helped engineer, called the State Implementation Committee (SIC); designed to recruit 5000 unemployed graduates in each state.

One of the mandates of the SURE-P is to create jobs for thousands of Nigerians across the country. While the SURE-P board favoured the National Directorate of Employment (NDE), as a recruiting body, the vice president favoured the creation of the so called SIC.

In no time, the SIC became a drain pipe for recruiting all forms of political associates and passing easy money to them, a source also said.

In Lagos State, when the SURE-P began recruitment of unemployed youths, there were hopes that a certain percentage of the huge unemployed ones will get means of livelihood. But when the recruitment process began, these set of youths who applied to get employment under the scheme, were made to go through hell.

Listening to some of graduates narrate their ordeal in the hands of the management of the programme in Lagos, one will definitely feel so bad, going by the trauma and hardship these innocent job seekers were made to go through in the last two years. And despite their terrible experiences, none of them was given employment letter let alone salary.

The management of SURE-P in Lagos led by a top politician named Abdul Razak Rafiu Otto, has made life miserable for the graduates who had high hopes of getting employed through President Jonathan’s SURE-P initiative, is alleged to have been extorting money from applicants through different means.

At a point, the Lagos State government raised an alarm when some of these youths were given black uniforms under the guise of Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) Task Force and were asked to take over federal roads in the state. Their appearance on the roads led to clashes between them and men of the Nigeria Police Force and the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA).

It would be recalled that these youths were seen sometimes last year and early this year besieging an office by the old Toll Gate close to 7up Bottling Company along the Lagos Ibadan Expressway on daily basis. These job seekers converge everyday to either process their employment or training under the SURE-P/FERMA programme. Some of these youths were allegedly used by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) before and during the just concluded general elections.

They were, however, disappointed after the elections as nobody was saying anything about getting them the jobs that were promised. On Monday, some of them gathered together and took to the streets to protest against what they described as fraud and injustice against them.

Staging their protest at the office of the National Human Right Commission (NHRC) located in Oshodi area of Lagos, some of the females amongst them revealed how they lost their pregnancies during outfit’s para-military trainings they were subjected to by those in charge of SURE-P. They also accused the Lagos State coordinator of the programme of owing them three years salaries running into millions of naira.

They alleged that their National officers and chieftains of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in Lagos were responsible for subjecting them to such dehumanising condition and extorting money from them.

According to them, the management used the SURE-P/FERMA job to exploit desperate job seekers for their selfish political gains.

Displaying placards with different inscriptions on it, sang and chanted solidarity songs also alleging that they were mandated to pay outrageous sums before they were employed for the job, adding that three years after employment and resumption of duties they are yet to be paid a dime.

They alleged that at the commencement of the programme in 2013, applicants were made to pay the sum of N32,500 each for uniform while additional N5,000 was paid for the procurement of the SURE-P forms.

They alleged further that the forms were picked at the residence of PDP Chieftain, Chief Bode George, with a promise that they would be trained in recognised institutions in the country.

They also lamented that till date, no form of training had been organised for them but instead, were used for political rallies whenever any prominent government official was in the state in the build up to the last general elections.

The angry protesters said the whole recruitment exercise was a fraud, adding that they were just exploited by some people in the name of Federal Government project.

They, however, vowed to continue their protest till the Presidency pays them the arrears of their salaries for three years.

According to the coordinator of the protest, Kayode Aderibigbe, “we heard from a source within the presidency that Chief Bode George told President Goodluck Jonathan that he paid us N350, 000 each. This is big lie. We have not been paid a dime for the three years that we have worked. We have over 70,000 staffs and they owe us more than N350, 000 so I don’t know where he got that figure from.

“We ought to have had this protest on the eve of the governorship election, but because they knew it will negatively affect the chances of the PDP at the polls, they called us and begged that we should shelve it. We went to their office on the Friday before the election as earlier scheduled and we waited till 7pm and they refused to show up and address us.

“We already wrote all the appropriate authorities on this ugly development including the Police, ICPC, EFCC, our lawyer and others and they advised that we embark on the protest hence our money will not be paid,” he said.