The Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) has begun a probe into the activities of directors and senior officials of the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme.
It was learnt that the ICPC has frozen the accounts of some of the officials while some vehicles had been seized from them.
SURE-P was set up by the government of former President Goodluck Jonathan in February 2012 after nationwide protests followed the hike in the prices of petroleum products. The programme was scrapped by President Muhammadu Buhari in November last year.
The SURE-P was mandated to convert saved fuel subsidy money to jobs, roads and other people-oriented programmes but became political during the build-up to the 2015 elections.
A source in the ICPC told our correspondent on Wednesday that the probe started after the commission received information that huge funds were embezzled by the officials.
The source added, “We have frozen the bank accounts of some of the officials while we have started seizing some vehicles from them. Our plan is to seize about 200. Presently, we have seized about 30.” Our correspondent, who visited the ICPC on Wednesday, counted about 34 vehicles parked on the premises of the commission.
Some of the vehicles included Sport Utility Vehicles, Hilux vans, salon cars and ambulances. Our correspondent learnt that the probe was in connection with a N3bn fraud allegedly involving the Federal Ministry of Finance and the SURE-P Graduate Internship Scheme. The money, it was learnt, was meant for the payment of the participants.
It was gathered that the money was meant to pay the allowances of 17,500 participants for eight months, which never got to them. The SURE-P GIS is a component of the SURE-P domiciled in the Federal Ministry of Finance.
The immediate-past Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance, Mrs. Anastasia Nwobiala, is already in court over the Nigeria Immigration recruitment scam, which led to the death of about 20 graduate applicants.
Also, about N4.9bn was said to have been extorted from 51,000 applicants, recruited as Federal Task Force officers for the protection of the SURE-P/Federal Road Maintenance Agency projects during the build-up to the last elections.
The aggrieved employees, in a petition, said they were forced to purchase the FTF forms, which were supposed to be free at the rate N30,000 each despite their impoverished situation, only to be employed, used and abandoned.
The petition reads in part, “We wish to cry out and seek for your urgent help over the fraudulent extortion from us and dehumanisation of our lives under the SURE-P/FERMA employment programme, named Federal Task Force by the above-listed names and other officers (Directors) on the following pretences and tricks.
“We were recruited and employed for the past three years without any training allowances; no salary and other allowances were paid to us.
“We were mandated to pay for the Presidency SURE-P/FERMA Task Force forms. “We bought the forms with inscription ‘NOT FOR SALE’ boldly written on it at an average amount of N30,000 each.” Some of the task force commanders have since fled the country.
A former Chairman of SURE-P, Christopher Kolade, had said last year that he resigned his position in 2013 because its operations were becoming tainted with corruption and politics, thereby losing its credibility.
He said some officials of the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan were practising “something that was lower than the transparency” expected of an interventionist agency like SURE-P.
He had stated, “When I discovered that there were individuals in the system that were practising something that was lower than the transparency that we went in with, I raised the issues; and I discovered that political affiliations and things made this difficult.”
The former SURE-P boss cited an instance when the agency decided to employ 5,000 youths from every state of the federation. According to him, when it commenced, he informed the Presidency that the arrangement it adopted was not acceptable but he was overruled.
When contacted, the spokesperson for the ICPC, Mrs. Rasheedat Okoduwa, said she could not comment on the matter.