By: Victor Oluwasegun, Abuja
The House of Representatives Committee on Ecological Fund has threatened to remove the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, and the North East Development Commission, NEDC, from benefiting from the Ecological Funds should their attitude of accountability persists.
The Chairman of the Committee, Ibrahim Ayokunle Isiaka, made the pronouncement at the public hearing on a bill for an act establishing the regulation of Ecological Funds to address Nigeria’s Ecological challenges particularly, erosion, landslide, desertification, floods, oil spillage, drought etc. and for other related matters.”
He said: “Curiously enough, Agencies like NEMA and NEDC have refused to 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 have not only the option of invoking the necessary Constitutional Provision, but proceed forthwith, to suspend the Agencies from assessing any Fund from the Ecological Funds. ”
He said the Bill “seeks to provide Oxygen/Life, insulate and crave space for effective utilization of the Fund and it will not in any way, vitiate or alter the already established structure, both Line and Staff.”
Speaking further, Isiaka said: “The EFO currently headed the Permanent Secretary: Dr. Habibat Lawal was established in 1985 as one of the Offices under the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF-Mr. Boss Mustapha). This Office collates proposed projects, requests from individuals, groups and States for FGN’s intervention upon approval of Mr. President.”
The lawmaker said the days when the fund was regarded as for free meals are over.
“Therefore, let me be quick to observe that under the current administration there is a paradigm shift in the already belief that Ecological Fund is a slush fund for a “free meal” I commend the Ecological Fund Office (EFO) for their efficiencies and changing this narrative, while we strive to crave space for more funding and effective utilization.
“Just a few days back, the Committee on oversight, visited the riverine area of Emadike, Ogbia Local Government of Bayelsa State and we are proud of the giant strides made so far, by the Ecological Fund Office.”
However, The Federal Government has opposed a bill saying it will infringe on Mr. President’s power to use the Fund for emergencies if he has to revert to the national assembly for appropriation and approval.
The SGF, Boss Mustapha who was represented at the hearing by Mr. Igwe Clinton, Director Pollution Control, explained that the bill 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.
Mustapha explained that the establishment of a Governing Council in the Bill is a replication of the erstwhile bogus National Council on Ecological Problems (NCEP), the large number of membership makes the project selection, procurement and execution of projects cumbersome and problematic.
According to him, the bill as proposed will replace the emergency and interventionist posture of the Ecological Fund Office as presently constituted adding that by implication, it will slow down the quick response in dealing with erosion problems in Nigeria.
Boss Mustapha noted that 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.