On Thursday President Goodluck Jonathan appealed to members of the National Assembly to expedite action on the 2014 Appropriation Bill in order to enable his administration to deliver dividends of democracy to the people. During a stakeholders’ forum of the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme held inside the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Jonathan made this appeal.
On Wednesday when the bill entered the second day of debate by the Senators, senators from both political parties had described the document as anti-people. They chided the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, for the way the bill was packaged and therefor called for its review. It will be recalled that the APC had last week directed its members in the National Assembly to block the passage of the bill and the screening of ministerial nominees as well as the Chief of Defence Staff and service chiefs. However, the CDS and the service chiefs were cleared on Thursday by the upper arm of the National Assembly. Represented at the SURE-P stakeholders forum by the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chief Emeka Wogu, Jonathan told the Chairman of SURE-P, to carry out assignment pleading with his colleagues on his behalf. “Let me appeal to Senator Ningi who chairs the Senate committee on SURE-P to please help urge his colleagues in the National Assembly to expedite consideration of the 2014 budget which is currently before them in order for us to continue to deliver dividends of democracy to our people.” He said. He reiterated his administrations determination to continue to improve the country’s infrastructural needs, while saying that the SURE-P had since its inception in 2012 become a critical unit of his administration’s transformation agenda, the President disclosed that over 190,000 youths had so far been employed in various categories. He further stated that the programme had also intervened massively in railway, road construction and health sectors. The Director-General of the Budget Office, Dr. Bright Okogu, put the Federal Government’s share of the SURE-P’s fund at N180bn per annum.
Earlier, Idris Wada, Governor of Kogi State, had thanked the Federal Governmentfor introducing SURE-P, saying its footprints were all over the place in many parts of the country. He further stated “In Kogi State, our first focus was on youth employment and empowerement. The firs target was school drop outs. So far, we have trained about 6,000 youths. We started with 500 youths per quarter who were trained at the NYSC orientation camp. They were taught various types of orientation. We have also used the fund for rural roads”
The governor however appealed for an increase in the amount accruable to states under the programme. The acting Chairman of SURE-P, Gen. Martin-Luther Agwai, agreed that there were challenges in the implementation of the SURE-P’s programmes. He explained that the forum was organized to review past operations to assist the programme achieve its mandate. Menahwile, the House of Representatives on Thursday blamed its failure to debate the 2014 budget this week on the ongoing review of the 1999 Constitution.
It said much of the week was devoted to voting on 19 new clauses proposed by the House to be added to the constitution. The spokesmanfor the House, Mr. Zakari Mohammed, said, “We said last week that the budget debate would be on this week. There was an adjustment because we now took the constitution first; all of Thursday was used to vote on the new clauses.” Mohammed dismissed speculations that tension between APC and PDP lawmakers over the control of the leadership of the House was the reason for their failure to debate the budget. He further dais, “I have heard people say we didn’t treat the budget because of disagreement between parties in the House. No, it was the constitution that delayed it; now that we have concluded voting today (Thursday), the budget will be up next week.” The Speaker of the House, Aminu Tambuwal, had during plenary announced that the debate on the general principles of the N4.6tn budget would start on Tuesday next week.