The perceived failure of the SURE-P to translate to jobs as promised, has touched off at all states and Abuja
An ambitious pledge by the Minister of State for Federal Capital Territory, Olajumoke Akinjide, of “massive” recruitment before year ending, has turned out an elaborate deception, with just days away from December 31, 2012.
New slots of about 10,000 jobs were to be provided for Abuja under the federal government subsidy reinvestment programme, the minister had said.
But days to the year’s close, the openings are nowhere near reality. Neither the advertisement, registration, pre-selection calls, nor recruitment tests have taken place, PREMIUM TIMES has found.
Weeks of inquiries have proven the idea of preliminary registration for the jobs as Ms. Akinjide announced separately in August and November, to not only be a ruse, but a subject unknown to several officials of the FCT administration. One official said the selection had been concluded since March.
The contradictions come as the intervention programme, the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme, SURE-P, faces mounting criticisms over its failure to deliver on proposed projects, with critics dismissing the initiative as a drain pipe that squanders badly needed funds, while unemployment, which it was partly meant to address nationwide, escalates.
If anything, the inconsistencies at the Abuja ministry point to the indifference authorities accord a pressing national need as jobs creation, which are often eagerly promised by officials, but hardly delivered.
Ms. Akinjide gave her promise as a passing remark while addressing two women groups in August and November.
“There will be massive employment before the end of this year and we have started registration of unemployed women and youth in the FCT,” the minister said in a remark to the National Council for Women Societies, Abuja chapter, who visited her office on November 13.
Applicants were to be “be employed into different fields and also vocation acquisition programmes,” of the SURE-P plan, the minister said.
To demonstrate seriousness, Ms. Akinjide advised interested women and youth to register with the FCT Social Development Secretariat as of November.
Repeated visits to the office and contacts to other arms of the FCT administration supposedly responsible for the “recruitment” since November have proven no such job drives exist, and officials have consistently denied knowledge of any job-related registration.
At various units of the FCT Secretariat at Garki, Abuja, a week after the minister’s promise, all key officials spoken to said they were unaware of the plans. PREMIUM TIMES also observed no registration took place.
“As you can see, there is nothing like that going on, maybe you could get further clarification from the minister’s office,” one official said on anonymity, fearing sanctions if he were identified.
Despite the apparent absence of the exercise, a spokesperson for the minister, Oluyinka Akintunde, insisted the plan was afoot.
Mr. Akintunde denied the minister had misled the unemployed by announcing a non-existent exercise, possibly as a passing political remark. He said as part of the SURE-P, the programme was being administered by a central presidential task team.
He also said the plan was targeted at the grassroots and the recruitment was meant to done on the basis of electoral Wards.
“There are provisions made for these things, and there are people working on them,” Mr. Akintunde insisted. “The minister did not lie.”
Yet, he provided no verifiable detail about where the listings were actually done, and no explanation was given as to why, if the registration existed elsewhere, Ms. Akinjide had given a different venue.
Again, the exercise existed nowhere, as PREMIUM TIMES found none ongoing within Abuja as the minister claimed.
At one of the FCT units our reporters were referred to for clarification, an official who spoke under anonymity said the so called grassroots registrations had been completed since March, and 15,000-more than the 10,000 required- were captured.
“We even had excess application,” the staff said.
Rosy initiative, fat budget, no delivery
At least 370,000 jobs are to be created under the SURE-P, with each state and Abuja providing 10,000 in partnership with the federal government.
A second component of the programme is tagged the Graduate Internship Scheme, GIS, designed to enhance the employability of another 100,000 unemployed graduates across the federation. That will involve internship placements with interested companies.
A new website has recently been dedicated for registration into the GIS.
But the 470,000 total slots, a potentially significant figure for an ever-soaring unemployment rate, have barely taken off even at the state level, months after the SURE-P was created.
The programme’s dismal performance, despite its huge multibillion budget, recently alarmed federal lawmakers.
At a budget meeting a fortnight ago, the National Assembly joint committee on petroleum downstream, declared the programme a scam that has failed to keep any of its promises of job creation, and accused Christopher Kolade-led SURE-P committee of reckless spending.
The lawmakers accused the subsidy committee of duplicating projects with ministries, and defrauding the nation by making double payments for projects also financed by the ministries.
Most shocking, the National Assembly committee found out how the SURE-P committee claimed spending N2.2 billion on “secretariat services” and another N75 million on travels between July and October.
Another N27 billion was also spent on “Public Works for Youths”, and N8.9bn for the purchase of 800 buses. Details of how the monies were allocated were not provided to the lawmakers.
“The SURE-P funds should not be seen as crude oil money which everybody is sharing,” Magnus Abe, the Chairman of the Senate Downstream Petroleum Committee warned as the committee pressed for more information.
For 2013, SURE-P is to spend N273.52 billion.
At a separate meeting, Mr. Kolade claimed the amount involved with office administration was N1 billion and not N2.2 billion as earlier stated. He knocked off criticisms trailing the committee’s failings by declaring he will not quit.
“I will not quit, if you attack me, I will defend myself. The National Assembly and the SURE-P Committee and everybody are supposed to be working for Nigerians not individuals,” he was quoted as saying at a media luncheon in Lagos.
Across the states, the confusion has played out, with barely any state releasing provable data of how much of the 10,000 jobs have been in the months that SURE-P existed.
PREMIUM TIMES’ attention was first drawn to Ms. Akinjide’s bogus job announcement for Abuja, after early responders to her notice of registration alerted that no such exercise was taking place at the designated venue.
Reporters, who visited the secretariat and the FCT head office at Area 11 repeatedly, confirmed same to be true.