Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan casts his ballot in his ward at Otuoke, Bayelsa state, March 28, 2015.
Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan casts his ballot in his ward at Otuoke, Bayelsa state, March 28, 2015.

Nigeria’s senate has called on President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to immediately begin investigating former president Goodluck Jonathan’s government to recover stolen funds siphoned from poverty alleviation programs, including the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Program, or SURE-P.

The senate says the former government must account for funds spent in carrying out the SURE-P and other poverty alleviation programs.

This comes after the lawmaking body objected to the implementation of President Buhari’s campaign promise to give a N 5,000 [$25] monthly stipend to unemployed youth in a bid to alleviate their high unemployment rate.  

Christopher Kolade, former chairman of SURE-P, resigned from his position in 2013 saying the program lost its credibility due to corruption and political interference.

Graft allegations

Senator Shehu Sani, chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign and Local Debt, says there are indications some members of the previous administration used the poverty alleviation programs to enrich themselves.

“This has to do with reports on diversion and corruption that occurred during the last of President Goodluck Jonathan…So we felt that the best way to do justice to this is to probe the diversion and the corruption that took place, especially with such program called SURE-P, so that at least government would be able to retrieve monies that were stolen,” said Sani.

But senators from the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) dismissed the call for a probe, calling it a witch hunt. They argued that Buhari seems to be ill-prepared to resolve the country’s socio-economic challenges and would use the probe to divert attention from an inability to govern.

They also said the government should look forward instead of persecuting former officials.

Probe justification

Sani says the current administration promised Nigerians to weed out corruption and recover stolen public funds. The senate’s call for the probe, Sani says, is in line with that promise.

“This is not a witch hunt. It is simply about recovering our monies that were stolen. If you look at it the probe wasn’t such that we want to probe Jonathan from the first day and all aspect of his government, but what we are saying is that there are specific aspect of his government and programs of his government that were used as conduit pipe for siphoning public funds.”