11 May 2015, Abuja – Worried that it may not survive the expected general restructuring of government outfits, the secretariat of the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P), has embarked on a hastened wind down of its programmes and activities towards the May 29 hand over to a new administration to be headed by Maj Gen Muhammadu Buhari (rtd).
Consequently, the SURE-P chairman, Dr. Ishaya Dare Akau, has approved massive sack and disengagement of its staff last week.
According to a letter obtained by a national daily which was signed by the Head of Administration, SURE-P, Olusoji Adeniran, and dated April 28, 2015, the staff were informed that their services would no longer be required since the programme is coming to an end.
The first paragraph of the letter read: “As you are already aware the mandate of SURE-P Committee ends in May 2015. Towards this end, the secretariat has commenced it’s winding down activities which includes disengagement of staff amongst others.”
This did not however go down well with most of the disengaged staff who expressed shock and disappointment that they were not duly informed before being served a backdated letter.
According some of those who spoke to THISDAY on the condition of anonymity, the new chairman, Dr. Akau, since his resumption of office in early March, has not been officially introduced to staff members in a meeting or anything of the sort.
“Without his large entourage, he would pass unnoticed through the secretariat’s corridors,” the source noted.
According to them: “SURE-P Committee Members’ tenure expired February 20, 2015 and they unilaterally decided to disengage the secretariat staff as well. Selflessness and love for humanity should have prompted them to make plans for the staff members who have given years of committed dedication to see to the actualisation of the SURE-P mandate.
“The plan would have been to discuss with President Goodluck Jonathan ; who is their boss, by the way; and ask a very simple heartfelt question – “Is SURE-P closing down? Should we put plans in place for staff members to be placed in other agencies to avoid unemployment?”
“But no, they went ahead to draw up disengagement letters to several staff members in the hope of issuing the same to the rest by May 29, 2015.
“To them, the Buhari administration would not want to continue the SURE-P, so it should be scrapped.
“It’s interesting to note that staff members have not been paid monthly wages since February 2015, with the letters of disengagement stating they will be paid ‘soonest.’”
However, the secretariat was said to have claimed that lack of funds was the reason behind the lack of payments, “while committee members are feeding fat with monthly sitting allowances and ridiculous ‘accommodation allowances’ for 2015, whereas their tenure expired back on February 20 (according to their appointment letters issued by President Goodluck Jonathan back in February 2012.
“It’s worthy to note that wages for all SURE-P staff amounts to N13million monthly. So SURE-P does not have a mere N13million to pay salaries, while Secretariat funds brought forward from 2014 was N200m? It begs the question- where are the funds?”, one of the aggrieved staff asked.
Findings revealed that in defiance of labour laws by the Secretariat, staff members suffered on many levels, apart from lack of payment of wages for months.
The findings further revealed that the ‘disengaged’ staff were not given a month’s notice of disengagement, so they are entitled to a month’s salary in-lieu.
“Sadly, former staff members who have given years of productive service to the nation through SURE-P have suddenly been rendered jobless. It is worthy of note that all the ‘disengaged’ staff members are in their 20s and 30s.
According to the administrative arrangement, the civil servants were seconded to the SURE-P Secretariat from their various ministries. These one are not in the SURE-P pay-roll, but they call the shots. They run the Performance & Operations Unit (Headed by the Coordinator, they are in charge of coordinating all SURE-P projects, as regards interface with contractors and dealing with all the bureaucratic matters involved.
*Senator Iroegbu – Thisday