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FG, States shared N500bn SURE-P funds – Okonjo-Iweala replies Amaechi

By The Citizen

The Ministry of Finance yesterday debunked claims by the Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, that the sum of N500bn was missing from the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme Account (SURE-P).

The ministry also disclosed that Rivers State received N56.2 billion in the nine-month period ended September 30 from the disbursed Excess Crude Accounts (ECA).

Presenting an updated statement on shared funds to the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), the finance ministry pointed out that Rivers State got N56.2 billion, the second highest share among states. 'Rivers State received N56.2 billion, the second highest share among the states, for January to September 2013 from the Excess Crude Account.

This amount includes N43 billion for shortfalls plus N12 billion released for SURE-P. 'In fact, earlier this month (November 2013) Rivers State along with other states, benefitted from the sharing of $1 billion from the ECA to augment the allocations.

'It is therefore curious that Governor Amaechi seems not to know the whereabouts of the N56.2 billion which Rivers State has received from the ECA this year,' the ministry claimed.

The ministry also disclosed that the funds 'went for the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme, SURE-P, payments and the balance for subsidy payments to oil marketers'.

On the allegation by Amaechi that the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala, refused to sign the African Development Bank, ADB, loan for a water project in the state, the ministry said contrary to the claim, the loan in question had been appraised but it was yet to be negotiated.

It explained that before the minister could sign it, it had to go through the negotiation process and be considered and cleared by both the Board of the ADB and the Federal Executive Council, FEC, adding that the issue of the minister refusing to sign it simply did not arise.

Amaechi, who is the chairman of the Nigerian Governors' Forum, NGF, had alleged the disappearance of $5 billion from the ECA and asked Nigerians to seek explanations from the relevant ministries or agencies managing the fund. The governor, who made the allegations at a retreat organised by the NGF in Sokoto, said it was disturbing to discover that the ECA, which had a balance of $9 billion in January, had dwindled to a mere $4 billion without explanation by the Federal Government.

The SURE-P fund has been a subject of controversy since last Monday when the Senate Committee said N500bn of the fund could not be accounted for by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).