30th October, 2013
The Senate Ad hoc Committee on SURE-P on Wednesday in Abuja threatened zero appropriation for the programme if funds already allocated to it were not properly accounted for.
The committee issued the threat following the failure of the Minister of Works, Chief Mike Onolememen, to appear before it to account for the N30 billion allocated to the ministry.
Members of the committee were kept waiting for over an hour after sending an invitation to the ministry without any feedback.
The Chairman of the committee, Sen. Abdul Ningi (PDP-Bauchi), said the incident was an attempt to undermine the committee and would not be condoned.
Ningi, who is the Senate Deputy Majority Leader, warned that immediate action would be taken should there be a repeat of such incident.
He said the minister’s action demonstrated “the height of non-chalance’’ that speaks poorly of the quality of the appointee.
He said: “for us as a committee, we will not take it, we will not condone it. This is a show of lawlessness and crass ignorance of the law.
“A minister of this government cannot refuse to appear before any committee of the National Assembly, talk less of the Senate committee that is saddled with the responsibility of unfolding a programme that is not clear to Nigerians.
“We will take every available legal instrument in dealing with them. If they cannot come and answer on a laudable programme such as SURE-P, then certainly, they are trying to undermine this government.
“They are also trying to undermine the president and the National Assembly,’’ he said.
Ningi said the decision of the committee to invite the minister was “to come and give a rundown of the ministry’s activities, challenges and achievements’’.
The chairman said that several Nigerians were asking questions about the programme yet the minister was shrouding its activities in “secrecy’’.
“And it is clear that a strong message must be sent to the president. We can refuse to appropriate a single kobo to this programme. But before we do that there are available options that can be taken in making sure that any public officer who is required by a committee must appear.
“I will repeat this, this is no longer business as usual, people must be accountable and they must be responsible for their actions.
“Any minister who refuses to show his face, we will take the necessary legal actions against him,’’ he warned.
Ningi, however, gave the minister another opportunity to appear before the committee.