The House of Representatives Committee on Ecological Fund, on Wednesday, warned that the House would stop the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the North East Development Commission (NEDC) from benefitting from the ecological funds should their attitudes of unaccountability continues.
The Chairman of the committee, Rep Ibrahim Ayokunle Isiaka, disclosed this in Abuja while speaking at a public hearing on a Bill for an “Act To Establish The Regulation Of Ecological Funds To Address Nigeria’s Ecological Challenges And For Related Matters (HB 739).”
According to him, the ecological fund was an intervention fund set up by the Federal Government to address the multifarious ecological challenges across the country.
Isiaka added that the special fund was established in 1981 through the Federal Account Act, 1981 on the recommendation of the Okigbo Commission.
According to him, “States get 2 per cent of FG share of revenue while the Federal Government granted 2 per cent of its share of revenue allocation to states, therefore the 1.46 per cent FGN share of Ecology and Derivation was adjusted to 1 per cent till date.
The committee Chairman, however, stated that the fund had gone through modifications by Decree 36 of 1984 and 106, OF 1992, allocation of Federation Account Modification Order of 2002 to further modify the Act in 2014.
“The implication of the adjustment as approved by the then Mr President is that states and local governments are to intervene by utilising their share of the fund on ecological problems in their respective domains,” he added.
He said the Federal Government was to play a coordinating role to address deserving, critical and urgent ecological problems across the six geo-political zones of Nigeria.
According to him, “Curiously enough, agencies like NEMA and NEDC have refused till date, to respond to several appeals by the Committee requesting for the account of their respective shares from the ecological fund.
“Let them make no mistake that if by December 31, 2020, the two agencies still declined to comply, the committee shall not only have the option of invoking the necessary constitutional provision but proceed forthwith, to suspend the agencies from assessing any fund from the ecological funds.
“The total outflows distributed to Federal, States, FCT, 774 Local Government Areas and the Agencies of ‘government from Ecological Fund from January to September 2020 is N54,819,713,400.08,” he said.
The Chairman said other agencies accessing the fund were invited but most did not attend the public hearing.
He said the Committee would apply the same sanctions on organisations who refused to give an account of what they have been collecting from the fund.
The new bill titled: “A Bill to Establish the regulation of Ecological Funds, 2020,” states in its Part 2, section 7, that a proposed council, “Shall take custody and monitor the ecological fund for the purposes of addressing any of the following challenges: erosion, landslide, desertification, floods, oil spillage, draught and any other environmental challenges that may arise in the application of the fund.”
However Speaking at the Public hearing on the Bill, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Bob Muatapha, kicked against its provisions.
The SGF who spoke through, Mr Clinton Igwe, the Director of Pollution Control in his office argued that if passed into law, the Act, would breach the president’s powers and slow the functions of the ecological fund.
He also rejected a proposal to create more units to manage the fund, stressing that it will bog down the administration of the fund, and create additional bottlenecks.
According to him “After a careful review of the document, I wish to respectfully bring to the attention of the Hon Chairman and members of the Committee on Ecological Fund, the observations of the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF), on the proposed bill as follows:
“The establishment of a Governing Council in the Bill is a replication of the erstwhile bogus National Council on Ecological Problems (NCEP), a large number of membership makes the project selection, procurement and execution of projects cumbersome and problematic.
“The Bill as proposed will replace the emergency/ interventionist posture of the Ecological Fund Office as presently constituted. This will by implication slow down the quick response in dealing with erosion problems in Nigeria.
“Over the years, the ecological fund has consistently been placed under the control of the President and disbursed through the EFO under the supervision of the SGF. The proposed bill will therefore negate the nature and original design of the Ecological Fund Office.
“The Ecological Fund as presently constituted is not subject to the process of appropriation by the National Assembly. This gives the President the much-needed flexibility to effectively and timeously respond to ecological emergencies the fund is created to address. If the bill is passed into law as proposed, it will impede on Mr President’s power to use the Fund for emergencies if it has to revert to the National Assembly for appropriation and approvals. It is not always feasible to predict emergencies, hence the inability to appropriate or budget for such disasters or ecological emergencies.
“ As the EFO is presently constituted, salaries and allowances of the staff are not paid from the Fund. Officers deployed to EFO are mainstream civil Servants who draw their emoluments from the Federal treasury. it is advisable to sustain less emphasis on recruitment of officers and payment of board members that could be a drain whittling down the impact of the fund on ecological interventions, by increasing Government’s overhead cost”.
He also disclosed to the committee, the percentages of the fund shared to the three tiers of government, as he warned against setting up a governing council administer the fund, instead of the President.
“Derivation and Ecology Fund is shared monthly among the three tiers of Government, with States and Local Governments receiving 0.72% and 0.60% respectively, while the Federal Government receives 1 per cent. The 1 per cent FGN Share of the Ecology Fund is exclusively for the Federal Government and at the mandate of Mr President. Therefore, the issue of appointing Governing Council members from each of the six geo-political zones of Nigeria does not apply.
“The Bill as presented will negatively politicise the operations of the Ecological Fund Office such as what has been the bane of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC),” he said.
He also warned that “The creation of an independent agency as the bill is seeking to do, will run contrary to the proposals of the Oransanye Committee on rationalization of Government Ministries and Extra Ministerial Departments as it would further add to the cost of governance.
He also advised that “The Bill as proposed, will be interfering with the mandates of other Federal Government Establishments such as National Emergency Management Agency, National oil Spill Detection and Response Agency and National Environmental Standards and Regulation Enforcement Agency as duplication of function.”