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Drained, duped and dumped

Published by The Nation on Thu, 16 Jul 2015

Federal Government should probe alleged exploitation of youths engaged under the SURE-P/FERMA project and punish the scammersBeneficiaries of the Subsidy Reinvestment Programme (SURE-P) who were officially engaged for community services have been telling tales of woe of how the Federal Government agency exploited their status as unemployed youth to dupe them, under the guise of bringing their sorry situation as unemployed youths under control.In the aftermath of the protests against mindless hike of prices of petroleum products in January 2012, the Federal Government had set up SURE-P as a palliative programme. The youths were therefore lured into employment by the programme shortly after, ostensibly to provide services such as sweeping, cleaning of gutters, traffic control and maintenance of government properties in all states of the federation and the federal capital city, Abuja. In the process, they said they had to pay various sums of money, in some cases amounting to N150,000 to some chieftains of the former ruling political party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).Three years after they were engaged, some are being owed several months salaries. The worst exploited are those in Lagos. They claim not to have been paid at all for the three years they have been reporting for duty. They told journalists during their protest last week that the money they borrowed to pick up the forms and uniforms only deepened their woes as creditors have been tugging at their shirts and skirts.This is not how a country should treat its citizens, especially the underprivileged. The state is expected to wipe away, not induce tears. We call on the Buhari administration to probe the claims of the participants. In some states, accounts were allegedly opened for them by the National Directorate of Employment. This should be speedily investigated. How many such people were engaged' Were they given letters of employment and for how many months was money released for the project' If the participants paid for forms and uniforms, into what account was the money paid and how many received the uniforms'The beneficiaries also claim that as much as N350,000 might have been released on the orders of former President Goodluck Jonathan for each of them. It should not be difficult to trace such disbursements as there should be records in the appropriate government ministry or agency ,and where it was diverted by those who considered themselves high-heeled, they should be arrested, prosecuted and adequately punished. Nigeria is not a banana republic where anyone should get away with murder.It is bad enough that in Lagos State, they were converted to political thugs and made to do the bidding of the PDP. Alongside the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) operatives, the recruits were unleashed on innocent residents of Lagos during the last general elections. They were given paramilitary training which made some of the operatives to lose their pregnancies. This should not be happening in a republic governed by law. The perpetrators should be exposed and brought to book.Under the Obasanjo administration, the former Minister ofWorks, Mr. Segun Ogunlewe, used the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) for similar purpose by recruiting young Nigerians who were used as thugs to harass innocent citizens on federal roads.It is incredible that some people engaged by the Federal Government could be made to go without salaries for 36 months. This matter should not be swept under the carpet like the National Immigration Service employment scam that claimed the lives of many after they had been conned into purchasing forms. Till date, no one has been punished for that tragedy.The police, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission should be made to conduct a forensic investigation into the matter and a report submitted within a month. Those found to have been so duped should be paid forthwith, even if the project would be cancelled and participants formally disengaged.The post Drained, duped and dumped appeared first on The Nation.]]>
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