*Some of the officials named
*Reps commend ICPC for silent but efficient work
By Sandra Onyekwere
At the last count, 103 vehicles worth well over N450 million have been recovered by the Independent Corrupt and other related offences Commission (ICPC) in the last six months from senior government officials who made away with them after the Buhari administration gave notice to wind down the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme, better known as the SURE-P.
Amongst the brands of vehicles recovered by the ICPC includes luxury Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs), meant for ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), which received billions from the SURE-P scheme for infrastructure development and provision of services.
Some of the affected MDAs include the Federal Ministry of Environment, Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity, Federal Ministry of Information, the Water Quality Control and Irrigation and Drainage units of the Federal Ministry of Water Resources, Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA), and the Child/Maternal Health department of the Federal Ministry of Health.
Checks by www.gongnews.net showed that most of the vehicles, which included luxury brands like an armoured Land Cruiser, Nissan Armada, Peugeot 508, Audi Q7, Audi A6 and several Prado jeeps, were not registered in government name but in the name of the directors who eventually took them away.
Deeper investigations showed that when many MDAs received funds from SURE-P during the Goodluck Jonathan administration, they all bought project vehicles, ostensibly to facilitate implementation of the projects envisioned to be delivered.
However, the snag is that the funds did not come from the MDAs’ allocations, assets such as project vehicles bought with SURE-P resources were never recorded in the MDAs’ Assets Register.
Rather, in most cases, senior officials who coordinated or supervised SURE-P funded projects connived with contractors to purchase such vehicles in their private names.
Thus, the vehicles were used as project vehicles for a while, while many of the officials appropriated many of the vehicles to themselves even before the intervention fund was wound down.
When the Muhammadu Buhari administration took over in May 2015 and announced that it would wind down the programme, the remaining vehicles disappeared. They were reportedly taken away by the government officials.
For instance, the former Secretary, SURE-P, Nze Akachukwu Nwankpo, took away a white bulletproof Toyota Land Cruiser jeep worth N36 million which was recovered from him in March 2016.
Curiously, the vehicle was not registered in anybody’s name – not even in SURE-P name or even his own – and carried no plate number. It was also not registered in the assets register of SURE – P, which provided the funds for its purchase.
In another outrageous case, a senior official of the Water Quality Control department of the Federal ministry of Water Resources, Samuel Ome, made away with 13 vehicles including two Prado jeeps, three Toyota Avensis cars, two Rav 4 jeeps and three Toyota Hilux vans. He alone made away with vehicles worth N51.5 million.
But it was not only Ome who benefitted from the bazaar as the SURE=P funds were evidently turned into a carnival for ministry officials. In the same water resources ministry, the former director, Irrigation and Drainage, (now retired), Joe Kwanachi, took for himself four vehicles, including a Toyota Land Cruiser, an Audi A6, Nissan Armada and Ford Edge, all SUVs worth N28 million.
The former director of Dams in the department, now retired, Emmanuel Adamu, took home an Audi Q7 and a Hilux van. Yet another retired director in the Water Quality and Control department, Agada Obioha, took home three vehicles – a Prado jeep, Hilux van and Corolla car. In all, officials of the Federal Ministry of Water Resources made away with about 40 vehicles, property of the Federal Government.
A breakdown shows that 14 vehicles were recovered from officials of FERMA, 13 from officials of the Federal Health ministry, 15 from the federal labour ministry, a Lincoln Navigator jeep from the National Progressive Movement Party, three vehicles from the federal information ministry and an unspecified number from officials of the defunct SURE-P. 40 of the vehicles were recovered from officials who had retired from service.
Of the 103 vehicles so far recovered, 95 are parked at the headquarters of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, ICPC, while eight are in the commission’s offices in Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Kogi and Rivers states.
It was gathered that there are still many more SURE – P vehicles in the hands of government officials, many of them retired, and the ICPC is still working to recover them.
A source at the ICPC said that apart from vehicles, the commission is also trying to recover other assets and SURE P funds illegally appropriated by government officials and agencies.
The source said so far this effort has led to the recovery of about N108 million from an agency in the health sector.
The SURE P initiative was started in February 2012 by the Jonathan government as an intervention fund following the partial removal of subsidy on petroleum products.
The SURE P committee, headed by Christopher Kolade, was inaugurated on February 13, 2012 to manage and reinvest the federal government’s 41% share of the savings from the removal of the subsidy on petroleum products.
In the three years between 2012 and 2014, SURE P got budgetary provisions of about N628 billion (N180 billion in 2012, N180 billion in 2013 and N268 in 2014).
Last week, the House of Representatives Committee on Anti – Corruption on a visit to the ICPC headquarters in Abuja inspected 95 of the recovered vehicles parked at the commission’s office.
Chairman of the committee, Akinloye Azeez Babajide, commended the ICPC for its efforts at fighting corruption and for fostering a good image for Nigeria through its preventive initiatives against corruption.
Babajide who expressed satisfaction with the activities of ICPC said that it was important for the achievements of the commission to be made public as a lot of people had the mindset that it was not doing much.
Meanwhile, it is not yet known if the ICPC will prosecute the alleged pilferers of the properties belonging to the Federal Government. Given the magnitude of stealing involved, they derserve to be prosecuted.